Newcastle 2-0 Aston Villa: Toon return to the top of Sky Bet Championship
By Simeon Gholam
Last Updated: 21/02/17 6:45am
Newcastle returned to the top of the Sky Bet Championship with a 2-0 victory over Aston Villa at St James' Park on Monday night.
Yoan Gouffran prodded Newcastle in front just before the break and Henri Lansbury's 59th-minute own goal was enough to seal the win for Rafa Benitez's side, who moved a point back above Brighton.
It wasn't all good news for Newcastle, though, as top goalscorer Dwight Gayle was forced off in the first half with injury on his first start for more than a month.
For Villa, it was a fifth straight league defeat and a winless run in all competitions which now stretches back 10 games to their 2-1 win over Burton on Boxing Day. Steve Bruce's side, who lost a striker themselves late on through injury in Scott Hogan, stay 17th in the table, just six points above the drop zone.
Villa spurned a massive opportunity to take the lead after just five minutes. A ball into the box was headed on towards the far post by Hogan, but Birkir Bjarnason could only steer the ball wide from point-blank range after it had dropped over his shoulder.
Bruce's side continued to control the game for large spells, with much of the action taking place in Newcastle's defensive third of the pitch, but aside from a deflected Jonathan Kodjia strike that had to be tipped over by Karl Darlow, Villa created very little.
They paid for that lack of creativity after 42 minutes when Gouffran prodded Newcastle in front after Aleksandar Mitrovic - who had replaced the injured Gayle earlier in the half - nodded the ball down into the danger area and Villa failed to clear.
And just before the hour mark, Villa fell further behind in calamitous circumstances, as Jamaal Lascelles headed towards goal from a corner, before Lansbury's attempted clearance off the line eventually trickled in off the base of the post.
Darlow had a shocker in goal for Newcastle during their draw at Norwich last week, with his costly error in part to blame for them dropping two points at Carrow Road. But he was on hand to keep their lead at 2-0 as he rushed off his line after 65 minutes to deny Bjarnason. The Villa man had stolen in behind to find himself clean through with the ball at his feet, but he couldn't find a way past the Toon stopper.
But that was as close as Villa would come to a way back into the game, and their night got even worse late on as striker Hogan was forced off on a stretcher.