Matt'll do nicely
Written by Tom Easterby
Matchwinner Matt Ritchie feels his crucial goal in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Wigan Athletic came at the perfect time for Newcastle United.
The Magpies had taken a first half lead courtesy of leading goalscorer Dwight Gayle’s 22nd strike of the season, but Michael Jacobs’ delicate finish drew the Latics level five minutes after the break.
Rafa Benitez’s side responded quickly, though, and Scotland winger Ritchie’s 14th of the campaign – headed in after his initial shot had come back off the post – won it for the hosts just seven minutes later.
“It was a big win for us,” the 27-year-old told nufc.co.uk. “I thought the performance was good at times, a little bit scrappy, but again – I’ve said it many times this season – there’s no easy games in this league.
“They put up a real fight, but I thought we saw the game out and took our chance in the second half.
“I had a good chance that I probably should have done better with, and that might have put them out of sight, but we saw the game out really well.
“It was a good three points, and that’s the most important thing.”
Ritchie’s delight after he nodded home the winner was evident, as he ran over to celebrate in front of the jubilant United faithful.
And he admitted that he enjoyed seeing his effort find the target on an afternoon where Newcastle had to dig in to overcome Graham Barrow’s stubborn side.
“I was delighted – anything to help the team now is majorly important,” said Ritchie. “I was really pleased with the goal.
“I’d say I wasn’t having the tidiest of performances and I was a little bit frustrated with myself, so I was delighted to see that one go in.
“It’s nice. Confidence is high after the win today, and we’ll recover and go again against Burton on Wednesday.”
The result leaves United one point clear of Brighton and Hove Albion at the top of the Sky Bet Championship table, and ten points clear of third-placed Huddersfield Town, who were beaten 1-0 at home to Burton Albion.
Benitez’s men welcome the Brewers to St. James’ Park on Wednesday night, and Ritchie – who has experience of the hectic second tier end-of-season run-in from his Bournemouth days – believes his side must concentrate only on themselves as they begin the most important month of the campaign.
“Honestly, I think that we just have to concentrate on ourselves,” he said. “We’ve got seven games left, and we have to keep winning.
“We’ve got Burton on Wednesday night and that’s the most important one now. It’s a cliché, but we have to take each one as it comes, and every one’s a cup final now.
“You’ve just got to have the desire to get over the line. We’ve worked hard to get into this position, we just need to continue to work hard, stay focussed and keep the same mentality that we have done throughout the season, because we’re in a great position at the top of the league.”
“I’d say I wasn’t having the tidiest of performances and I was a little bit frustrated with myself, so I was delighted to see that one go in."