"The fans have been amazing for me all year and I'm
happy if they continue singing my name, but also supporting the players. If
the players win I win, and if the players win the fans win.
"It was important they realised that
they can make the difference in a game like this. From the start they were
ready to back the team and cheer the players.
"The players responded to it. We
started the game well and the fans were happy with that. You could feel the
atmosphere when we scored the goal and the fans know the players will run a
little bit more if they can feel this support and this atmosphere.
"We played good football for a while
and every three points is important. It doesn't matter how you get them.
"In the end we had to defend really well against a really good team to
get the points that we deserved."
"He was turning and itís not easy. You canít say the
goal was open and there were no players around. He was turning and itís not
easy to know exactly.
"The main thing was we created chances - we had players there and we are
creating, if we are creating chances eventually we will take them.Ē
"He was making a difference,
he was doing really well. After (Isaac Hayden went off injured), we
lost a bit of this control, because in these areas he was a threat.
"We needed to manage (it). It was a decision we had to make during
the game. We had to do it."
"Itís his ankle - he tried to be fit.
We knew that we had one less day to recover and we would maybe have some
problems with players, but he did really well.
"He was the only one before the game that he could be a risk with his
fitness and also his ankle."
"Heís fine, heís just had a little bit of discomfort in his groin. We
also wanted to protect him and Grant (Hanley) was training well.
"Weíre happy, because in the end we gave an opportunity to Hanley and
Matt Ritchie's deflected shot put
Newcastle back on top of the Championship but once again it was a nervy
final few minutes at St. James' Park on Saturday.
Conceding in the final seconds of Wednesday's home game against QPR cost
United victory and former manager Steve McClaren almost saw his Rams side
snatch a point following a frantic final five minutes.
DeAndre Yedlin was the hero with a goal line header to deny ex-mackem Darren Bent
deep into added time, seconds after the Rams had claimed a penalty when Jamaal Lascelles
tangled in his own area with visiting 'keeper Scott Carson.
TV replays showed that Carson - who had avoided punishment after rushing from
his box to upend Ayoze Perez moments earlier - actually wrestled Lascelles to
the ground rather than vice versa, and thankfully another bumbling oaf of a
referee called it correctly.
Following a tumultuous week, a sold-out SJP roared the team on to the
field and continued vocal backing of players and their manager throughout a first
half that Newcastle totally dominated.
Newcastle made three changes; Lascelles, Perez and Daryl Murphy dropping down to
the bench in favour of Grant Hanley, Mo Diame and
Responding to the backing from the stands and given every encouragement by a
circumspect Derby side, United attacked almost at will, but their shots were either
lacking power, direction - or both.
That changed on 27 minutes though, as Ritchie advanced down the right and
played a pass infield that Mitrovic chested down and laid off to Diame.
Making his first start since returning from African Nations Cup duty, Diame
returned the ball to Mitro and his lay-off saw Ritchie thump a left-footed
shot from the edge of the box, deflecting off Bradley Johnson and looping
past Carson in the Leazes End goal.
A second goal should have followed soon after when Jonjo Shelvey picked out
Isaac Hayden's run and his pullback for Diame saw him volley powerfully
towards Carson from 12 yards.
Into the second period and the Magpies soon missed a further opportunity to
put daylight between themselves and the visitors; Mitrovic screwing his 48th
minute shot wide from close range after Ritchie had nodded Paul Dummett's left
wing centre into the Serb's path.
Hayden's enforced replacement soon after - and a lack of central midfield
options on the bench - would affect United's forward flow though and they
clearly lost the initiative as Perez arrived and Diame dropped back.
Perez almost made amends for his wastefulness in midweek when latching to a
quickly-taken Shelvey free kick just after the hour mark - only for Richard
Keogh to intervene and block his goalbound shot.
McClaren's side had barely tested Karl Darlow, but the closing stages saw them
enjoy their best period - Tom Ince somehow slicing his 80th
minute effort wide of the target when an equaliser seemed inevitable. Ikechi Anya then almost reached a cross from
fellow substitute Abdoul Camara, Darlow relieved to see his attempted block hit Anya
and bounce out of play.
Crucially the home fans stuck with their team and were almost rewarded with a
breakaway second goal in the third minute of added time; Perez set away by
Shelvey and galloping forward before shooting from 40 yards as Carson rushed
upfield to deliberately collide with him.
With no assistance from his assistant, referee Darren Bond gave United a
corner for the deflection off a recovering defender that sent Perez's effort
wide - totally ignoring the blatant foul by Carson. Incredible.
Then came the late drama in Newcastle's area, with a chorus of The Blaydon
Races echoing around before the final whistle sounded amid great jubilation.
Benitez took to the field to congratulate his players, acknowledge the crowd
and berate the officials - seemingly for Carson's attempt at winning a penalty
rather than the fact he was still on the pitch at all.
A long way from the greatest 90 minutes we'll play this season, sharper
opponents could well have brought this Geordie love-fest crashing around our
ears. This was a victory by the narrowest of margins.
But none of that mattered at full time, with a joint effort from those on and
off the field seeing us over the line on what was a hugely enjoyable
A demanding away schedule in the coming weeks will provide a thorough
examination of our character and resolve, but today was a day of positives -
not least the encouraging news about Dwight Gayle's fitness.