Benitez Will Take Birmingham Point
Manager Rafa Benitez has said that Newcastle United will take the point from the Birmingham City clash, but he was not happy with the referee wrongly ruling out what otherwise would've been Matt Ritchie's winner.
Hosting Birmingham at St James' Park for the tie, the game finished scoreless despite Newcastle dominating chances and possession - only three on target though across the 90 - but with the weekend transpiring that both Huddersfield and Brighton had lost it remains another point on the tally.
Speaking to Sky Sports Benitez refused to be too downbeat as he met with the media following the game.
'People may expect us to win every away game but this was a valuable away point. It is important to learn how to manage games and we are in a better position after every match. We maintained a high tempo as we were aware of how Birmingham could play in these circumstances. There are still eight matches to be played and as Huddersfield lost we are now in a better position than we were before the game.'
He went on to say.
'We have seen this kind performance several times. We did well with all the problems we have at the moment. We had control of the game and we had some good chances. We also scored what I thought was a good goal. We didn't take our chances as their goalkeeper made several fine saves to keep Birmingham in the game.'
With Jonjo Shelvey missing out on the start for this one, the Chronicle have Benitez explaining.
'Jonjo had a high fever yesterday and the doctor told me this morning he wasn`t too sure whether he could start. I decided it would be better to try to manage the game with fresher legs and players who had trained, and then with him it was a case of maybe trying to change something by playing him in the last 15 minutes.'
Adding about the game and concerns expressed in the media.
'We have experience and we are playing with confidence but there is still eight games to go. We have one more point than before, and Huddersfield lost, it`s one less game and one more point. So it`s a better position than before the game but we`re still not very happy because we could have got three points.'
With the international break for March now upon us, Benitez also knew that this period of downtime was perfect to get the players recharged and also for Dwight Gayle to get back into his previous goalscoring form.
With his hamstring issue clearly effecting his form in front of the net, Benitez knows he can't be criticised for his efforts so far this year, but if we can get him back to his best for the remaining matches then clearly that will be a huge benefit to us.
'We have seen how important he is to us right through the season. We have competition up front and that can only be positive. It is in the international break now and that gives us an opportunity to improve the fitness of some players. I can only see that as a positive.'
As for the disallowed goal on the evening, the Shields Gazette have him saying.
'We had a goal, and I have seen the replay, disallowed when it should have been a goal. We were doing really well. They had a couple of counter attacks that could have been dangerous for us. And when they are in a difficult position you can understand why it is hard for them to play in the way they want to play, but we did what we had to do. We controlled the game little by little and created chances, but we weren`t able to take them because their keeper did well. It`s one more point though, and one less game.'