By Harry Sykes

Rafael Benitez has claimed the key to the turnaround in the form of Jonjo Shelvey is his improved fitness.

Shelvey has been a key figure in Newcastle’s run of four consecutive league victories and was hailed as a “genius” by Sky Sport pundit Ian Holloway for his sensational free-kick against Brighton a fortnight ago.

Newcastle manager Benitez admitted at a media conference on Monday that Shelvey is “playing better” and adjusting to the demands placed on him in central midfield.

The January signing from Swansea was often a substitute towards the end of last season and started on the bench in two of the Magpies’ seven matches in all competitions.

“He worked very hard in the summer to be fit,” Benitez said of Shelvey, as quoted by the personal Twitter account of Chronicle journalist Lee Ryder. “Now he has confidence and is playing better. Little by little he is learning.”

Ex-QPR and Crystal Palace manager Holloway was blown away by Shelvey after his sensational free-kick secured a comfortable 2-0 win for Newcastle before the international break.

The former Liverpool and Swansea midfielder took full advantage of an opportunity from 25 yards by bending a magnificent free-kick around the wall and into the net.

“This lad’s a genius, he just needs a bit of love,” Sky Sports pundit Holloway said in the aftermath of the clash live on the station. “Look at this free-kick, you don’t save those.

“Shelvey can do it all. He went to Liverpool at 17 and didn’t really get a go. He just needs a manager to believe in him.”

Newcastle have climbed to second in the Championship on the back of a run of four consecutive league wins.

They travel to QPR on Tuesday night as they aim to make it six victories in a row in all competitions.

In other Newcastle news, watch as this loanee scores a sublime solo goal to give his new side a win.