By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Managing Editor
At St. James' Park
Newcastle United 2 (Perez 45, 47)
Cheltenham Town 0
Ayoze Perez's first goals of the season secured Newcastle United's passage to the third round of the EFL Cup on Tuesday night.
The Spanish forward scored a brace - netting either side of half-time - as the Magpies eased to a 2-0 victory over League Two side Cheltenham Town at St. James' Park.
However, Perez broke the deadlock in added-on time, latching onto a loose ball inside the area and curling home a classy, first-time finish.
That settled any nerves and the lead was doubled just two minutes into the second period, as substitute Dwight Gayle pounced Easah Suliman's underhit backpass to race in on goal and square unselfishly for Perez to tap in.
Perez could have completed his hat-trick, while Vurnon Anita, Mohamed Diame and Jonjo Shelvey all threatened to add to the scoreline, but manager Rafa Benitez will be pleased that his side avoided an embarrassing upset to record their third victory in six days.
Newcastle will look to build on another positive result when they return to Sky Bet Championship action on Saturday, as high-flying Brighton & Hove Albion come to St. James' Park.
Jesus Gamez was making his Magpies debut and had the first shot of the evening with less than two minutes on the clock.
However, the former Atletico Madrid full-back's curling effort was too close to Robins keeper Russell Griffiths, who gathered comfortably.
Cheltenham responded and a spell of pressure ended with Karl Darlow having to dive full-length to his right to smother Harry Pell's low, 20-yard drive.
It wasn't long before United were back on the front foot, however, although Shelvey was unable to keep his long-range shot down after working a couple of yards of space for himself.
But the hosts' cause wasn't helped by losing two players to injury inside 14 first-half minutes. First, Rolando Aarons was stretchered off, to be replaced by Yoan Gouffran, and then Aleksandar Mitrovic - making his first appearance of the season - had to depart following a blow to the head, with Dwight Gayle coming on in his place.
Undeterred, Newcastle continued in search of the breakthrough and with the interval approaching Gouffran flashed a dangerous cross right through the six-yard box without a crucial touch, before Shelvey pulled the trigger from distance again, but with a similar result to his first effort.
However, they finally took the lead deep into four minutes of added-on time. When Gamez's drive was blocked, the ball fell perfectly to Perez, who stroked an shot into the far corner, past the despairing grasp of Griffiths.
Two minutes into the second half, Perez doubled his - and Newcastle's - advantage.
It was a gift for the former Tenerife forward as Easah Suliman's suicidal backpass was seized upon by Gayle who raced in on goal and, having drawn out Griffiths, squared for Perez to tap home.
The home side weren't done there though, and went in search of number three, with Hanley's towering header from a Jack Colback corner forcing Griffiths into a save.
On 62 minutes they were inches away from another goal, as Diame brilliantly slalomed in from the left in between a pair of Cheltenham defenders and then sent a shot under the body of Griffiths, only to see Daniel O'Shaughnessy hack clear from the goallines.
It was one-way traffic and substitute Vurnon Anita was next to try his luck, sending an angled header agonisingly the wrong side of the upright, juts before Perez dragged another effort off target.
With nine minutes remaining, Perez was presented with a glorious opportunity to complete his hat-trick. Fed by Shelvey, who had won possession near the halfway line, he raced into the penalty area but scooped his effort well over the bar.
But that miss was not to prove costly, as United cruised through the closing stages to complete a third victory in just six days.
Newcastle United (4-2-3-1): Karl Darlow; Jamie Sterry, Jamaal Lascelles, Grant Hanley, Jesus Gamez; Jonjo Shelvey, Jack Colback; Rolando Aarons (Yoan Gouffran 24), Mohamed Diame, Ayoze Perez; Aleksandar Mitrovic (Dwight Gayle 38) (Vurnon Anita 59)
Cheltenham Town (5-3-2): Russell Griffiths; Asa Hall, Easah Suliman (Jonny Smith 68), Danny Parslow (c), Daniel O'Shaughnessy, Jordan Cranston; James Dayton (Koby Arthur 68), Harry Pell, James Rowe; Billy Waters; Danny Wright (Amari Morgan-Smith 77)
Subs not used: Calum Kitscha, James Jennings, Danny Whitehead
Referee: Stephen Martin (Staffordshire)
Bookings: Newcastle United - none; Cheltenham Town - Rowe (51)