Miles Starforth’s match analysis: Newcastle United 2 Stoke City 1

Christian Atsu (left) gets to the ball ahead of Stoke Citys Mame Biram Diouf to score the opening goal at St Jamess Park.
Christian Atsu (left) gets to the ball ahead of Stoke Citys Mame Biram Diouf to score the opening goal at St Jamess Park.

Jamaal Lascelles, fittingly, was the last man off the field.

Newcastle United’s captain lingered for a few more seconds after team-mate Joselu headed down the tunnel. Lascelles had had a few words for the striker, who should have scored against Stoke City, his former club.

Thanks to Lascelles’ second-half goal, United won 2-1.

And the defender applauded those fans still left inside the stadium before making his way to the dressing room.

Primal Scream’s “Movin’ On Up’, again fittingly, was playing over the PA system.

The victory, the club’s third in a row, had lifted the club up to fourth place. The result also meant that United had made their best start to a Premier League campaign since 2000-01, when Sir Bobby Robson was in charge. That season, the club finished 11th.

It’s still early days, but Rafa Benitez’s side are getting points on the board. There will be ups and downs, injuries and suspensions, over the coming months, but they already have nine points.

The team is almost a quarter of the way towards the 40-point safety mark.

Lascelles had, for the second week running, taken advantage of an opposition’s zonal marking system to head a goal.

Newcastle are making a habit out of winning matches, which isn’t easy in a Premier League awash with big-money signings.

Benitez, however, wasn’t getting carried away after the game. Nor was Lascelles. And nor were his team-mates.

Supporters will have been looking at the league table as they made their way home.

But Benitez – who had returned to the dugout after missing the Swansea City game six days earlier as he recovered from an operation – didn’t look.

“I haven’t seen the table and I don’t want to see the table, believe me,” said United’s manager.

Benitez allowed himself a few hours of relaxation on Saturday night before he turned his attention to Sunday’s game against Brighton and Hove Albion.

Still, the result felt significant. Newcastle, for the second home game in a row, had deservedly beaten an established Premier League team.

Stoke are a tough team and this was a tough game.

Yet United had matched them physically and created more chances after overcoming a difficult first 15 minutes.

A delightful right-wing cross from Matt Ritchie, delivered with his favoured left foot, led to the first goal, scored at the far post by Christian Atsu.

Rob Elliot kept out a shot from Xherdan Shaqiri at the other end of the pitch before two chances fell to Joselu, signed from Stoke for £5million last month.

The 27-year-old put the first one, created by a superb cross from Chancel Mbemba, wide. Jack Butland stopped the other effort.

Joselu – who didn’t do much else wrong in the game – also put a shot over the bar early in the second half.

Shaqiri forced another save from Elliot, and if Stoke were going to score a goal, it was going to have to come from the winger.

And so it turned out. Shaqiri placed a shot from outside the area between Elliot and his post in the 57th minute.

The visitors pushed for a second goal before Atsu went down under a challenge from Kurt Zouma. Referee Stuart Attwell didn’t point to the spot.

Lascelles was enraged. So too was St James’s Park, which came to life. Lascelles made his point to Attwell before meeting Ritchie’s corner with a powerful header, which went in off the underside of the crossbar.

Thanks to that goal, Newcastle moved on up. Again.