Date: 3rd April 2017 at 8:23am
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Manager Rafa Benitez has said Newcastle United simply have to focus on ourselves in the Championship run in following victory over Wigan Athletic at the weekend.

Hosting the side at St James’ Park for the weekend’s action, goals from Dwight Gayle and Matt Ritchie gave us the two one victory and kept us one point ahead of Brighton at the top of the table, and Benitez was clear what the side needed to continue doing in the games that remain.

Speaking to the Chronicle in his post game press conference, Benitez was adamant we needed to keep things simple to ensure we didn’t ‘suffer’ across the final matches of the year.

‘The situation now is we are so close that everybody knows we must do well and not suffer. But we have to be sure we recover quickly and change two or three little things that we can work on. Hopefully we can do better against Burton and win the game.’

With him after improvements on the Wigan showing, he went on to say.

‘I would like to score five goals and be amazing, but at the moment we showed character, good reaction and personality to manage the situation. We can improve on a lot of things, but we do a lot of things well. But when you see Huddersfield losing or Brighton winning 1-0 it shows it is not easy. We need a little more composure on the ball in the final third and then we will score more than we need.’

With Gayle getting on the scoresheet again, the Shields Gazette have Benitez saying that he thinks our leading goalscorer is getting better and sharper with every training session at the moment so the fact he sits on 22 for the season and only two goals behind Leeds United’s Chris Wood in the Championship scoring charts, that title could well be his despite his hamstring issue in January.

‘He`s getting better with every training session. You need match fitness. He`s improving. The more he trains in the coming weeks, he`ll get even better.’

He added about the game that he knew our winning mentality would give us an advantage, especially this month with games thick and fast.

‘I Keep saying it`s a mini-league, and we have three points in this mini league. Hopefully, we can carry on. We`ve started it well this month. We have to concentrate on the next game to get a result. It`ll be easier to talk about the gap if we can win the next game, but we concentrate on one game at a time. Ten points is good.’

With pressure on all sides when it comes to the automatic places, Benitez went on to say that all sides would feel it, so it was about handling it sensible and better than the others.

‘We`re talking all the time about what to do. You can see Brighton have problems. Huddersfield have problems to win easily. You can feel the pressure like everyone else. I said about Huddersfield feeling the pressure.’

Adding.

‘If you analyse the players we had last season in the end we were relegated, so these players don`t have that experience of being at the top. The players we`ve bought haven`t won trophies. We`ve been top all season more or less. It`s not easy, and that`s the point. People are saying these players have come from the Premier League. Yes, but not from the top of the table or ones winning the league. These players were in the middle or the bottom of the table so we had to create an attitude where they play with confidence and winning mentality, which helps in games like this.’

Matt Ritchie also came in for particular praise following the game.

‘Out of all the players we were talking about, he was the most clear that he wanted to come here. For him, Newcastle was a massive club in a massive city, and he was talking about the fans and the stadium. From day one, he was very excited about the move. Clearly, he wanted to come.’

Benitez went on to say that desire to come to the club has been shown by his attitude and performance levels in games since as he’s now a key member of the squad.

‘That passion can be seen in every game. You can see he`s running all the time. Sometimes, we tell him to stop, because he`s putting so much effort into it. I prefer this kind of player, the one you have to ask to back off rather than work harder. He`s an example to his team mates with his attitude and ability.’

As for his showing against Wigan more specifically, Benitez tried to wind the praise in a touch because he stuck to the fact it was a team game.

‘I don`t like to talk too much about individuals, and it was very much a team effort. He`s someone who puts a lot of work into every game. He`s always a threat and a problem for other teams. I`m really pleased with his character, because it`s fundamental to the way we want to play. When you play these kind of games under pressure you`re looking for that kind of player.’

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