London (AFP) – A Matt Ritchie double propelled Newcastle back to the top of the English Championship as they strolled to a 4-0 win over bottom side Rotherham on Saturday.
Ritchie’s double plus goals from Ireland international Daryl Murphy and Ayoze Perez see the Magpies leapfrog Brighton — who beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 in an ill-tempered encounter on Friday — by a point.
The Seagulls though have a game in hand.
“We needed to win, we did it, we scored four goals, got a clean sheet, three points so it was job done,” said Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez.
“It was a good day. We are going in the right direction.”
Leeds missed the chance to keep the pressure on the top two as they lost 3-2 to Yorkshire rivals Barnsley, their first defeat in their last eight matches in all competitions.
Leeds’ New Zealand international striker Chris Wood took his tally for the season to 19 with a double.
However, goals from Tom Bradshaw, on-loan Liverpool winger Ryan Kent and a spectacular 25-yard freekick from Conor Hourihane — in probably his last game for Barnsley — gave the home side their fifth win in their last six league meetings with Leeds.
Huddersfield go above Leeds into third — nine points behind Newcastle — following a 2-0 win over Ipswich Town.
Ipswich manager Mick McCarthy is the longest-serving manager in England’s second tier — he assumed the reins in 2012 — but his job is under threat as this loss followed days after they were knocked out of the FA Cup by non-league Lincoln.
Derby bounced back from their loss to Leeds last week with a thrilling 3-2 win over a Reading side that have lost form in recent weeks and slipped from third in the table to fifth.
Reading started brightly and took the lead through John Swift just after the quarter-hour mark — the first goal hosts Derby had conceded at home since September.
Derby, who had lost just twice in their last 12 games, levelled 10 minutes before half time as former England international striker Darren Bent struck with his sixth of the season.
Tom Ince gave the hosts the lead eight minutes into the second period and Will Hughes added a third 16 minutes from time. Reading struck back with Yakou Meite scoring 10 minutes from time.
Former Italy and Chelsea great Gianfranco Zola still awaits his first win as Birmingham manager after struggling Blackburn came back to draw 1-1, Danny Graham’s 11th of the season securing a share of the points.