Burton Albion 1-2 Newcastle: Match Report
Newcastle go into Christmas top of the pile after edging out Burton
First-half goals from Dwight Gayle and Mohamed Diame ensured that Newcastle would sit atop the Sky Bet Championship standings at Christmas following a 2-1 win at Burton.
Gayle's 17th league goal of the season gave Newcastle an early advantage but any thoughts the visitors would cruise were put to bed when Lloyd Dyer equalised from close range to briefly quieten the travelling support at the Pirelli Stadium.
But Diame, who scored in the midweek victory at Wigan, netted what would prove to be the winner in the 34th minute as the Magpies enhanced their reputation as the best side on the road in this season's second tier.
Gayle showed a sublime touch inside the six-yard box to flick home Matt Ritchie's left-wing cross on the quarter of the hour mark after Jonjo Shelvey had cut the Brewers defence open with a superb pass out to the former Bournemouth winger and seemingly set the visitors on the way to another away day victory.
But Albion produced an equaliser just five minutes after going behind. John Brayford, pushed forward into a wing back role, exchanged passes on the right before crossing low to the back post for fellow wing back Dyer to score a simple finish.
Burton twice had shouts for penalties in the opening 45 minutes, Chris O'Grady went down under a challenge from Jamaal Lascelles whilst a snapshot from defender Kyle McFadzean appeared to hit a Newcastle hand.
Lucas Akins was inches away from giving the home side a surprise lead, with only a last ditch tackle from Paul Dummett denying him.
Newcastle roused themselves and regained the lead as Diame outmuscled Damien McCrory on the edge of the box before finishing with aplomb, low into the bottom corner, from just inside the box.
Ritchie almost made it three just after the hour mark cutting inside onto his weaker right foot with John Mousinho in the right place to block his effort.
Akins spurned a great chance to equalise with fifteen minutes to go, skying his shot from Dyer's cut back from twelve yards out.
Substitute Jamie Ward lashed a low shot inches wide of Karl Darlow's upright shortly after coming on as the home side continued to look the more likely to grab the next goal.
And it was the Nottingham Forest loanee who almost caught the ex-Forest goalkeeper out with a fizzing drive, kept out by Darlow at his near post.
The two continued their late duel with Ward unleashing a late thunderbolt that Darlow awkwardly grasped at the second attempt as Burton produced a rousing finish.
But Albion go into Christmas just two points off the Championship drop zone in their first season at this level.