Mike Williamson

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

Thursday night's hard-fought 1-0 win over Atromitos gave Newcastle a 2-1 aggregate victory over the Greek side and secured their place in the group stages of this season's Europa League.

And although the narrow margin of the result meant a few nervous moments for the Magpies as the visitors did their best to level the tie and force extra-time, defender Mike Williamson insisted that ensuring United's name is in the hat for Friday's draw was key.

The centre-back played in both legs of the fourth qualifying round, skippering the side in Athens before forming a solid partnership with Fabricio Coloccini in the home match which ultimately proved decisive.

Haris Vuckic's first-half goal was enough and, although Alan Pardew's side had opportunities to add to their lead, there was a sense of relief when referee Stephan Studer blew the final whistle.

Newcastle's European adventure can now start in earnest and Williamson told nufc.co.uk: "That was obviously the most important thing.

"We're into the group stage now and we'll look forward to some more great ties. They made it hard but we came through it with a clean sheet, so happy days.

"They've got some good players and they made it difficult. They've got some technical players and they caused problems but all the lads defended well.

"And we could have had a few more goals, which would have made it a bit easier. But it's nice to have a clean sheet and we knew coming into the game that if we had a clean sheet, we'd go through."

The draw for the group stages will be made at Friday lunchtime, meaning most of United's players will watch it on television at the training ground as they prepare for Sunday's Barclays Premier League match with Aston Villa.

And Williamson admitted that he's looking forward to finding out who Newcastle will face in the competition.

"It'll be interesting to see where we're going," he said. "We'll just enjoy tonight then watch the draw and go from there and get ready for the next game.

"It's a quick turnaround. We've got Aston Villa on Sunday, so that's our main aim. We want three points on Sunday. That's our priority."

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