Ameobi hat-trick but fog still on the Tyne

Newcastle United 3 Reading 0
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The Independent Football

And the definitive news just in from Newcastle United... Mike Ashley will sell the club this week. Or perhaps he might not. But rest assured it will be one or the other. Probably.

Amid the fog on the Tyne, football returned to St James' Park. And boy, was it welcome. With open arms in the case of Shola Ameobi, who dedicated a first career hat-trick to the late Sir Bobby Robson.

Given their relegation in May, Newcastle were at last afforded an opportunity to start putting the record straight and provide a much-needed distraction from the maelstrom of rumour and half-truths that has become with the owner's depressingly protracted attempt to relinquish control. Victory, only the second of the year in front of their own supporters, was sealed courtesy of Ameobi, one of several Newcastle players to find their level in the Championship.

A fine diving header from Ryan Taylor's cross beat Adam Federici to double the advantage just after the hour, before the Reading goalkeeper was sent the wrong way from the penalty spot with 15 minutes left after Shane Long's handball.

"If there's the takeover which everybody's hoping for, a new manager will be put in place," said Chris Hughton, reflecting on only his second victory in 10 games in caretaker charge. "Until that happens I'll continue to do the job as best I can."

Sat next to his potential successor Barry Moat, the Geordie businessman who remains confident of pushing through a takeover deal, Ashley duly took his place in the posh seats. He was met with a frosty response from Newcastle supporters, who dutifully showed up in greater numbers than the pre-match warnings of a sub-30,000 turn out. When the majority rose at the exhortation to "stand up if you hate Ashley" there could be no mistaking the view from the stands. The subject of the derision responded with a comical grin.

Newcastle's first-half forays were similarly slapstick, Jonas Gutierrez losing his footing when clean through, before Andy Carroll and Joey Barton, Newcastle's only change for the Fulham-bound Damien Duff, fell over each other in their haste to dispatch the loose ball.

Gutierrez forced Federici to save from a narrow angle but seven minutes before the break, Jose Enrique was allowed time to send over a measured centre from the left. Ameobi, stealing in between two defenders, headed the ball into the bottom corner from eight yards.

The visitors were neat, but untidy in front of goal. They were incisive in the middle-third, indecisive in the final one. They have now lost on all seven visits to St James' Park. "It looked only a matter of time until we scored," manager Brendan Rodgers reflected. "We're disappointed with all three goals but I was encouraged by a lot of other things."