Former Liverpool midfielder the key man for Newcastle, says Benitez

Jonjo Shelvey

Jonjo Shelvey

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Rafa Benitez says Jonjo Shelvey is the key to Newcastle United’s Championship promotion hopes this season.

Shelvey had a hand in all of the Tynesiders’ goals in Saturday’s 3-1 home win over Brentford.

Newcastle moved up to second place in the table ahead of tomorrow night’s game against Barnsley at Oakwell.

Dwight Gayle netted twice against the Londoners to take his goal tally for the season to nine, following Ciaran Clark’s opener.

But the stand-out performance came from former Liverpool midfielder Shelvey, who had revealed before the game that he had grown up this season under the guidance of United manager Benitez.

Benitez feels Shelvey’s ability to play a telling final ball could make all the difference this season with a goalscorer like Gayle in the team.

“We analyse the characteristics of our players, and we have a payer who can deliver the final pass in him,” said Shelvey.

“We have others like (Isaac) Hayden who can play in that position, but Jonjo is a player who is technically good and he plays well the team plays better.”

Benitez is confident that there is no complaceny in the magpies camp ahead of the game against 11th-placed Barnsley.

“We know that no game is easy, and the season won’t be easy and that’s the message we give to the players to be ready for every game,” said Benitez.

“We saw today that when we went 3-0 up, and the other team scored, they (Brentford) found a new energy. In some international games the opposition teams are easy, but not in this division.

“So you have to be sure that the players are concentrated.

“We didn’t have any over-confidence. We had chances to score a fourth (goal), so it wasn’t like we sat back because we had three or four chances at the end.

“There’s no danger of complacency. We are constantly pushing the players.”

Ayoze Perez impressed playing behind central striker Gayle, and he enthused: “I like playing in that position – that kind of position is the best for my game.

“That is where I feel most comfortable. We won, and everything is good. “Week by week, we are feeling more comfortable on the pitch.”

Newcastle: Darlow, Anita, Lascelles (Hanley 60), Clark, Dummett, Atsu (Yedlin 72), Shelvey, Colback, Gouffran (Lazaar 84), Perez, Gayle. Subs not used: Hayden, Diame, Sels, Mitrovic. Booked: Gouffran, Colback, Atsu. Goals: Clark 11, Gayle 16, 49.

Brentford: Bentley, Colin, Dean, Egan, Bjelland (Barbet 75), Yennaris (McCormack 78), Woods, Clarke, Macleod (KaiKai 64), Sawyers, Hogan. Subs not used: Saunders, McEachran, Bonham, Kerschbaumer. Booked: Dean, Sawyers, Woods. Goal: Hogan 52.

Att: 51,885. Ref: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire).