Match report: Barnsley 0 Newcastle United 2

Dwight Gayle clips over Adam Davies to put Newcastle ahead at Oakwell
Dwight Gayle clips over Adam Davies to put Newcastle ahead at Oakwell
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Barnsley’s worrying run of form continued as they slipped to a fifth defeat in six matches courtesy of promotion favourites Newcastle United.

The big-spending visitors – who look odds-on to seal a swift return to the Premier League – prevailed in some style thanks to a second-half brace from Dwight Gayle.

Sam Winnall goes for goal with a free kick against Newcastle

Sam Winnall goes for goal with a free kick against Newcastle

While Barnsley put in a super collective shift - as they always do - Newcastle were rarely seriously threatened and in the end theirs was a comfortable fourth straight success in the second tier.

The hosts continue their tumble down the table after picking up just a single point from their last six games.

Boss Paul Heckingbottom had opted to make three changes to his starting line-up for the game against Rafa Benitez’s Magpies.

One of the alterations was enforced, with Josh Scowen suspended following his red card in the weekend’s home loss to Fulham, though that blow was softened slightly with skipper Conor Hourihane fit again, meaning he slotted back into the midfield.

The Reds’ other two changes came at the back. James Bree was drafted back in at Cole Kpekawa’s expense, while 22-year-old Adam Jackson was handed a debut in place of Angus MacDonald.

It proved to be a rather cagey opening quarter under the lights at a packed-out Oakwell.

Neither side fashioned a clear-cut opening in the opening 20 minutes, though Jonjo Shelvey’s dangerous in-swinging free-kick had to be frantically palmed away by the Reds’ ever-alert ‘keeper Adam Davies.

The hosts’ opening gambit came when Hourihane volleyed wide after latching on to Marley Watkins’ tidy knock-down.

Adam Hammill - looking dangerous once again down the Reds’ flank - was also denied by a smart stop from Magpies’ ‘keeper Karl Darlow.

The visitors went close in the 23rd minute.

Gayle met a sweeping cross from winger Matt Ritchie, only to then blast wildly over the top from 15 yards. The relieved gasps from the home sections told the story of that fluffed opportunity.

Just beyond the half-hour mark the Reds went close to gaining a breakthrough.

Hourihane lashed a free-kick effort into the Newcastle wall, but as the ball rebounded kindly into the path of the recalled Bree, the young defender hit a shot wide when he ought to have at least found the target.

Newcastle responded with a decent chance of their own, but again Davies was forced to come to the rescue, saving well to keep out Gayle’s well-hit free-kick.

Gayle was thwarted again minutes later, this time by a brilliantly-timed tackle from debutant Jackson as the visitors maintained the pressure.

Although the Reds had survived one or two scares in the opening 45 minutes, it remained goalless at the break.

The Reds fell behind just four minutes after the restart, and it proved a poor goal to give away again from the hosts’ point of view.

A loose ball in the Reds’ box wasn’t sufficiently cleared, allowing the lively former Crystal Palace front-man Gayle time to poke home.

It was a big blow to concede at such a crucial stage of the game, but the Reds deserve credit for the way they responded immediately.

It was Sam Morsy who threatened, flicking the ball inside a challenge before fizzing a shot a couple of feet wide.

The character that was missing from the Reds’ line-up during the second half against Fulham was now badly needed.

The expensively-assembled Magpies looked in control, and the goal had certainly added something of a collective spring in the team’s step.

However, Jackson went close for the dejected Reds as he glanced a header just past the outstretched arm of Darlow.

The game was up after 68 minutes, when man-of-the-moment Gayle doubled Newcastle’s lead.

He raced purposefully through to meet Ritchie’s through-ball, before neatly lobbing Davies - a goal which was greeted by near delirium by the 5,700 travelling fans.

Barnsley: Davies; Yiadom, Roberts, Jackson, Bree (Kpekawa, 84); Hammill (Bradshaw, 71), Morsy, Hourihane, Kent; Winnall, Watkins (Lee, 71). Subs not used: Townsend, MacDonald, Bird, Williams.

Newcastle: Darlow; Anita, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett; Shelvey, Hayden; Ritchie (Atsu, 82), Diame (Colback, 90), Gouffran; Gayle. Subs not used: Sels, Yedlin, Lazaar, Perez, Mitrovic.

Referee: Paul Tierney (Lancashire).

Att: 18,597