Newcastle 4 Reading 1
- Andy Madley
Newcastle United recorded their first win of the season with a 4-1 home victory over Reading on Wednesday
Summer signings Isaac Hayden and Matt Ritchie both scored their first goals for the Magpies, while fellow new arrival Dwight Gayle also bagged a brace in the Sky Bet Championship fixture at St. James' Park.
Hayden got the ball rolling midway through the first half, converting a loose ball after the Royals had failed to deal with Ritchie's free-kick, and it looked as though a comfortable night was in store for Rafa Benitez's side.
Reading hadn't looked at the script, however, and equalised on the stroke of half-time when Garath McCleary slotted home a penalty following Ciaran Clark's foul on John Swift
Undeterred, United edged back in front early in the second period through a spot-kick of their own - Ritchie finding the bottom corner after Yoan Gouffran was hauled down.
And Gayle got in on the act with a double in the closing stages, curling home a superb 25-yard free-kick before tapping in Hayden's delivery at the far post to complete the scoring.
Newcastle will now look to build on the morale-boosting win when they travel to Bristol City on Saturday.
United thought they had broken the deadlock with less than three minutes on the clock, as Ayoze Perez delivered from the right and Gayle diverted past Al-Habsi at the near post.
However, the summer signing had finished with his outstretched arm and after plenty of consultation between referee Andy Madley and his assistant, the goal was chalked off
The Magpies were in control and debutant Ciaran Clark was next to try his luck, meeting Jonjo Shelvey's corner with a powerful header that flew over the top.
But their pressure was finally rewarded when Hayden netted his first goal since his switch from Arsenal last month.
Ritchie's 20-yard free-kick was blocked but the Royals failed to clear their lines and after a bit of pinball in the area, Hayden swivelled and struck a low drive into the bottom corner past the despairing grasp of Al-Habsi.
The hosts almost doubled their advantage just past the hour mark. Again, it stemmed from a Ritchie set-piece - this time from the left. And again, Reading failed to deal with it, but Gouffran's perfectly-executed bicycle kick was just too close to Al-Habsi, who smothered well.
And United were almost paid to pay, twice in the space of 30 seconds. First, the Royals raced forward on the counter-attack, with Roy Beerens crashing a 20-yard curling strike against the crossbar, and then Sels made a good stop to keep out Williams.
Right on the stroke of half-time - for the third successive game - the Magpies conceded. It came via the penalty spot as Clark, stretching for a loose ball, felled Swift and Mr Madley had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, with McCleary doing the honours in sending Sels the wrong way.
That could have knocked the stuffing out of Newcastle but they made the perfect start to the second period, edging back in front less than five minutes after the restart.
It was another penalty, this time awarded when Gunter hauled down Gouffran off the ball at a corner. And Ritchie confidently tucked his spot-kick into the corner at the Gallowgate End to send 48,000 home fans into delirium.
From that point the game opened up somewhat and both sides got into good attacking positions without necessarily testing either goalkeeper.
However, that changed in the 66th minute when Al-Habsi was forced to rush off his line to thwart Hayden from close range. The midfielder had been the final part of an outstanding move down the right between Vurnon Anita and Ayoze Perez but was denied by a fine stop.
Al-Habsi could do nothing to prevent the Magpies' third goal soon after, though. When Hayden was fouled 25 yards out in a central area, it looked like something special would be needed from that range.
And Gayle stepped up to the task, curling a brilliant free-kick over the wall and perfectly into the top corner.
That put the result beyond any doubt but there was still time for one more goal as, with time running out, Hayden jinked into the box and saw his low cross find its way through to Gayle at the far post, giving the former Crystal Palace man one of the easiest tap-ins of his career.