Newcastle 3 Reading 0
Shola Ameobi’s hat-trick handed caretaker boss Chris Hughton a first victory at St James’ Park as Newcastle continued their positive start to life in the Coca-Cola Championship.
The home-grown striker headed the opener eight minutes before the break and then powered home a second with 61 minutes gone to effectively seal what was just the Magpies’ second league win in 15 attempts.
Having been denied a third by Royals keeper Adam Federici, Ameobi made no mistake from the penalty spot 14 minutes later to cap a fine evening’s work.
He did so in front of reluctant owner Mike Ashley, who sat in the directors’ box alongside prospective buyer Barry Moat as Damien Duff closed in on a move to Fulham with chaos still reigning off the pitch at St James’.
Ashley took his seat in the Milburn Stand moments before the black and white faithful among a creditable crowd of 36,944 paid their own tribute to the late Bobby Robson.
But fans united in gratitude to a Tyneside legend soon turned their attention to Ashley, and the tone was markedly different.
Fortunately for him, there was enough going on on the pitch to keep the home fans interested as, after a low-key start in which defender Alexander Pearce powered a free header straight at keeper Steve Harper, the Magpies began to dominate.
They should have been in front with 13 minutes gone when Jonas Gutierrez ran on to Kevin Nolan’s through-ball to home in on Federici, but the Argentinian inexplicably failed to shoot and the attack ebbed away.
Andy Carroll looped a header on to the roof of the net seconds later, and Jonas forced the first real save of the game eight minutes before the break when he collected Jose Enrique’s return pass and shot.
But the opening goal arrived a minute later when Ameobi got his head to an Enrique cross and guided the ball past Federici.
Ameobi came close to a second five minutes after the restart when he beat the offside trap to run on to Carroll’s intelligent pass, but his shot flew agonisingly wide of the far post.
Only Jem Karacan’s last-ditch challenge prevented Joey Barton making it 2-0 on the hour after Ameobi had headed down another Enrique cross, but the second goal was only seconds away.
Kevin Nolan found Ryan Taylor wide on the right and his cross was expertly headed home by Ameobi at the far post.
The striker was denied a headed hat-trick by Federici’s fine 69th-minute save, but he completed his treble 15 minutes from time when, after Shane Long had handled in the area, he converted the resulting penalty.