Hitman Dwight Gayle is determined to outgun Chris Wood in the race to top the Championship goalscoring charts, writes Liam Kennedy.
But, looking at the bigger picture, he is taking nothing for granted in Newcastle United’s promotion push, as Rafa Benitez’s Magpies prepare to take on Burton Albion at St James’s Park tomorrow.
Gayle netted his 22nd league goal of the campaign at the weekend, which was in fact his first strike on home turf since December 30.
That put him within two goals of the Leeds United striker, who has played a little under 1,000 more minutes in the second tier this campaign than Gayle.
The former Crystal Palace man, who missed a big chunk of January and February with hamstring troubles, says he has got Wood well within his sights.
When asked whether he wants to end the season as the second tier top dog, Gayle replied: “Yeah, there is no point in downplaying it.
“I have been injured and in and out of the team for the last few months now. For me, it was nice to get back playing, scoring a goal.
“I go into every game wanting to score. Hopefully, I can get a few more and hopefully the race is interesting.
“I set myself 20 at the start of the season. I have reached that. Now I have to try score as many as I can to help the team out.”
While the race to be top scorer heats up, so too has the bid to return to the Premier League.
Brighton kept pace with United in the automatic spots at the top by beating Blackburn, but Huddersfield were beaten late on by tomorrow’s foes Burton.
That result, coupled with the 2-1 home win over Wigan, meant that the gap between United and the Terriers, who are third, stretched to 10 points, with just seven games (eight for Huddersfield) to go.
Despite the healthy advantage, Gayle is taking nothing for granted.
“You can’t take anything for granted in this league,” he said.
“Huddersfield are a great team and they could easily go on a run where they don’t lose.
“We need to concentrate and pick up enough points to get promoted. It was a big win but not the best performance.”
“We know we can do a lot better playing wise but after the last few results we needed to get back on track and the three points were the most important thing.”
While on paper Burton at home is one of the kinder encounters on the fixture calendar, Gayle is expecting a battle when the Brewers rock up to St James’s tomorrow.
“We know that playing then away was one of the toughest games we played this season,” he said.
“I remember their two strikers were powerful. They caused us trouble, as well as being very resilient in defence.
“When we went there and won 2-1 it was a brilliant result.
“We know they will come here with everything to play for and will give us a tough game.”