Newcastle United 6 Barnsley 1

IT says much about the ruthless, relentless efficiency of this Newcastle United side that the first thing discussed in the dressing room after this rout was the defensive blunders which led to Barnsley scoring a goal.

IT says much about the ruthless, relentless efficiency of this Newcastle United side that the first thing discussed in the dressing room after this rout was the defensive blunders which led to Barnsley scoring a goal.

The fact the goal came after the visitors had picked the ball out of their own net for the sixth time did not matter.

A clean sheet was the aim before the game for the defence and Danny Simpson’s mistake – as well as a lack of suitable cover for that mistake – had to be mentioned before the celebrations could begin.

As refreshing as it is to hear a squad striving for perfection, to have dwelled on that small aberration for long would have been churlish.

If it was a blot on the copy book, the rest of their afternoon’s work was impeccable.

Newcastle were simply brilliant, a beast which can no longer be contained by its Championship cage.

United, on this sort of form, have clearly outgrown their pen and surely it is only a matter of time before they are released back into the Premier League, where far more daunting predators lie in await.

That can all wait. For now, United supporters should savour this side. They are not quite the cavalier Entertainers of old, perhaps, but they can still play like them when they are in the mood.

From the moment Barnsley goalkeeper Luke Steele was sent off for fouling Peter Løvenkrands in the penalty area three minutes before half-time it was a case of how many Newcastle would win by, not if.

In the end it could have been ten, 11 perhaps. Every time the Magpies swept forward they looked like scoring.

The only person who had a tougher afternoon than Barnsley’s defence and substitute goalkeeper David Preece was the person responsible for selecting the man of the match.

Danny Guthrie got the nod, but it could so easily have been given to Løvenkrands or Jonás Gutiérrez.

For those who still believe there is no better sight in football than a winger running at, and beating his markers in ones and twos, time and time again, Gutiérrez would have got the nod. The Argentina international is looking every bit the international player reduced to the Championship.

Barnsley’s defenders never came close to working out how to play against him, and even when his partner-in-crime in Newcastle’s left-wing raiding party Jose Enrique limped off with another hamstring injury, Gutierrez ran wild.

The obvious highlight was a stunning strike, cutting in from the left, which crashed in off the underside of the crossbar for Newcastle’s fourth goal of the afternoon and the long-awaited unveiling of the Spiderman celebrations on Tyneside.

However, some of his running was just as eye-catching as the sight of a long-haired man shooting fake spider webs with a slightly sweaty wrestler’s mask on his face.

St James’ Park loved it, the gesture of presenting the mask to the injured Enrique drawing almost as big a cheer as the goal itself.

The feelgood factor is back and how many of us thought that would be the case last summer as the club teetered on the brink of financial and psychological meltdown.

There was another reminder from managing-director Derek Llambias in the matchday programme about the money owner Mike Ashley has put in to the club this season.

It was not so much a charm offensive as just an offensive from Llambias as he urged fans to stop chanting anti-Ashley songs.

It might have proven inflammatory – in a democratic society the right of protest is protected regardless of the rights and wrongs of the situation – but as long as Newcastle play like this nobody cares who owns the club.

Back to matters on the pitch, where the battle for United’s leading goalscorer continues as a fascinating sub-plot to the promotion-chasing story.

Kevin Nolan remains in front, just, scoring Newcastle’s sixth and his 13th of the season.

Løvenkrands had briefly shared the lead, with a penalty before half-time and then a well-placed header from a wonderful Andy Carroll cross which took him to 12 in just 15 starts – 25 appearances – this season.

Nolan and Løvenkrands were Joe Kinnear signings, but it was Kevin Keegan’s Danny Guthrie who pulled the strings in the centre of midfield.

The former Liverpool reserve has come on in leaps and bounds with regular first-team football and fully deserved his two goals here.

The first was a swerving shot through a crowd of bodies from the edge of the area, the second a vicious free-kick which failed to get a touch from Carroll before creeping into the far corner.

 
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