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‘We’d worked on it in training’ – Ritchie on Shelvey strike

Written by Rory Mitchinson

Matt Ritchie has revealed that he and his Newcastle United teammates had rehearsed the routine which led to Jonjo Shelvey’s superb opening goal against Fulham on Sunday.

Shelvey broke the deadlock at Craven Cottage after receiving Ritchie’s corner on the edge of the penalty area before rifling the ball past goalkeeper Sergio Rico with a thunderous right-footed shot.

Ayoze Pérez swiftly doubled United’s advantage before another Ritchie corner led to their third, with Fabian Schär nodding home at the far post.

Salomón Rondón rounded off the scoring for the Magpies in the final minute of normal time, though it was Shelvey’s thunderbolt which was to garner the bulk of the acclaim, with Fulham boss Scott Parker – a former United player himself – describing the goal as “world class”.

“We worked on it on Saturday in training,” Ritchie told nufc.co.uk. “There was a lot of space on the edge of the box and we managed to exploit it. Everyone knows the quality Jonjo’s got, so it was good to see it come off.

“We work on set-pieces a lot, and we haven’t really had that much success this season. But we’ve had two today so we’re happy with that.”

Already-relegated Fulham enjoyed 68 per cent of possession during the clash but registered just two shots on target – a third of Newcastle’s figure.

United’s first two goals were just two minutes apart – their quickest one after the other in a Premier League game all season – and Ritchie acknowledged that the Magpies felt largely in control after seizing the initiative early on.

“To score twice so early I thought was nice – we were two up in 12 minutes I think it was, and we never really looked back,” he said. “They had some spells in the first half where they were dangerous, with a couple of crosses coming into the box, but we defended them well.

“The third goal was so important. It was brilliant – it killed the game. 3-0 made it really difficult and we managed to see it out really well from there.”

With AFC Bournemouth losing to Crystal Palace on the final day of the campaign, United overtook the Cherries with victory at Craven Cottage to register a 13th-place finish in the Premier League.

That, in Ritchie’s view, represented a good season’s work, with the wide-man particularly complimentary of the Magpies’ form since the turn of the year.

“I think the second half of the season we’ve been brilliant – as we were last season,” he said. “Obviously there were a few additions to the team in January, and I think (Salomón) Rondón has made a huge difference to us – not just his goals, but the way we can get up the pitch with him. The second half of the season has been really good.

“I think to compete with the top six is difficult, so that’s unrealistic. As I’ve said before, the teams below the top eight are in a league of their own. To finish 13th is fantastic and hopefully we can keep building.”

"We worked on it on Saturday in training. There was a lot of space on the edge of the box and we managed to exploit it. Everyone knows the quality Jonjo’s got, so it was good to see it come off."

Matt Ritchie

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