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Season 2016-17
Preston North End (h) Championship

Monday 24th April 2017, 7.45pm
Live on Sky Sports

 St. James' Park

Conditions: momentous

Newcastle United

Preston North End

4 - 1




7 mins Jonjo Shelvey's flag kick from firebomb corner was nodded on across the six yard box by Jamaal Lascelles and landed nicely for Ayoze Perez to bundle in from close range at the far post via his elbow. Ciaran Clark was also loitering for scraps, having pushed past daydreaming defender Tyias Browning. 1-0

14 mins A centre from the Newcastle left by Paul Dummett dropped to Aleksandar Mitrovic in the box but his unconvincing attempt at winning a penalty by going to ground was ignored and PNE advanced upfield at speed after the ball was played out to Jordan Hugill on halfway.

The former Gateshead loanee advanced into space and released Tom Barkhuizen down the left, who too advantage of lax covering by Vurnon Anita to pick out Hugill as he got in front of Clark to divert the ball past Rob Elliot in the Gallowgate End goal from 10 yards out. 1-1

45 mins Aidan McGeady let the ball run away from him in a central position just inside the United half and Issac Hayden led the charge upfield in a three v two break. With Mitrovic out to his right and Christian Atsu with clearer sight of goal to his left, Hayden's pass went out the Serbian - whose first touch was a ball that neatly bisected the two defenders and allowed the Ghanaian to thump home. 2-1

Half time: Toon 2 PNE 1 

65 mins Matt Ritchie swung in a corner that was helped on its way across the box by a PNE defender's head and allowed Perez to try his luck with a bicycle kick the goalkeeper blocked, although he succeeded only in placing it at Hayden's feet barely six yards out.

The former Arsenal midfielder's shot was out of Maxwell's reach but team mate Paul Gallagher decided to act as GK and pulled off a blatant two-handed block. An obvious penalty and red card, Ritchie's firm and low left-footed spot kick was placed into the bottom corner of the goal. 3-1

67 mins Yet another corner from Shelvey - this time from the Strawberry Corner - was dropped into the near post area and Hugill, whose attempted clearance failed to stop the ball's progress across the six yard area. Hitting the far post (and avoiding Daniel Johnson on that station) it rebounded back to Perez and entered the net from barely a yard out via his chest. 4-1

Full time: Toon 4 PNE 1

We Said



Rafa said:


"It feels really good. 

"I’m really proud of everyone because we knew it would be difficult at the beginning, when everyone was saying, ‘Rafa has no experience of the Championship and it will be tough’. 

"They were right, it was very difficult, but the commitment and hard work of the players every day, and the staff and everyone involved, and then the support of the fans, has made a massive difference. 

"It is a day we have to remember because it is not easy to go down, and then come straight back up first time.

"My feelings when I walked on the pitch were similar to what I have been feeling all year. The fans have been amazing with me, their loyalty and everything it means to being a top team like this, with the city behind you. 

"That is why I decided to stay, and now I am even happier than before that I made this decision. I am really proud and really pleased.

"Now is the time to enjoy what we have done. I am sure if we do the right things, we have to prepare everything to be strong enough for the Premier League. We have to wait and enjoy it, play another two games and see where we are.

Asked if he will be in charge next season: 

"You never know, that is football! 

"I am really pleased to be here, and really happy and proud for everything we have achieved. Hopefully, we can put in the foundations for something that will be a guarantee for the future.”

The returning Rob Elliot:

"He deserves every plaudit. It's been tough for him. He's come from Real Madrid to manage Newcastle in the Championship, expected to win the league, expected to go up without losing a game and it doesn't work like that.

"He's been brilliant. He's kept himself calm, he's kept the players calm. Being around the place, there is a much more positive atmosphere. When we have lost, we have bounced back straight away.

"But the biggest thing is the connection between the fans and the players and the manager - it is back again and hopefully we can just continue that because when we are all together and the club is moving in the right direction, the whole city can be really special on nights like Monday.

"Hopefully there are more of them to come.

"We were as surprised as everyone was when he came in. But he has brought passion to the club and pride back. And the commitment he showed to stay, that is the biggest thing. The fact that he stayed just shows not only the type of person he is, but the type of club we are.

"That Tottenham game, that for me was the start of the manager thinking, 'Well, look at this place and look at what we can be'. Hopefully he is here for a long, long time and we can reach those heights again. He deserves all the credit he gets."

They Said

PNE boss Simon Grayson said:

"It is a disappointing night, basic mistakes have cost us.

"We started the first five to ten minutes poorly – we expected them to come out because of what was at stake for them but we gave them a free opportunity from a set-piece.

"We get back into the game and kept possession and probably should have scored another.

"We had some good opportunities and limited them to set-pieces but then we gave the ball away sloppily on the stroke of half-time and it gives them a massive impetus for the second half.

"Again, in the second-half we did the basics wrong and if you do that you’re going to be punished by the opposition.

"You could sense the anxiety around the ground; Jordan led the line really well and Tom Barkhuizen was a constant threat down that left hand side. The midfield three was quite dominant and apart from a few set-pieces, they didn’t create too many opportunities.

"It felt like groundhog day when we went down to ten men last time.

"They needed that third goal and when we went down to ten men it was never going to be easy for us. From then on, it was making sure we didn’t shift too many goals.

"Again, all of the goals were preventable from a set-piece. They’ve not had to work hard enough and that’s a trait that we’ve had last month and that’s something we need to sort out.

"We knew it was going to be tough and that the crowd was going to be up for it but we needed to be up for that but we made it too easy for then.

"Huge congratulations to Rafa and his staff for getting promoted, they’re very worthy of that and we wish them well for the future.

"We’ve got to be better, there’s no two ways about it – we need to keep the ball better – we showed them too many opportunities.

"We don’t want to finish the season with a whimper because, for 98% of the season, apart from the last four games it’s been an outstanding effort.”


Newcastle celebrated promotion to the top flight for the sixth time in the post-war era:

April 24th 1948
(game 41 of 42) George Martin
drew 1-1 v Spurs @ White Hart Lane.

April 16th 1965 (game 39 of 42) Joe Harvey
won 2-0 v Bolton Wanderers @ SJP

May 7th 1984 (game 40 of 42) Arthur Cox
drew 2-2 v Huddersfield Town @ Leeds Road

May 4th 1993 (game 44 of 46) Kevin Keegan
won 2-0 v Grimsby Town @ Blundell Park

April 5th 2010 (game 40 of 46) Chris Hughton
(without playing) 

April 24th 2017
(game 44 of 46) Rafa Benitez
won 4-1 v Preston North End @ SJP

Rob Elliot
played his first senior club game since returning from serious injury - his last was the 1-1 Tyne-wear derby game at SJP in March 2016. 

Matt Ritchie
made it 12 league goals for the season (16 including both Cups), the best return of his club career, exceeding his 15 for Bournemouth in 14/15.

Ayoze Perez
converted his 10th and 11th goals of the season in all competitions - the first time he's reached double figures in a season for United. 

A seventh league double of the season was achieved by United, with Preston following on from Brighton, Rotherham, Brentford, Derby, Wigan and Burton.

NUFC - last ten Monday home games:

Apr 2017 Preston North End (h) won 4-1
Feb 2017 Aston Villa (h) won 2-0
Dec 2016 Sheffield Wednesday (h) lost 0-1
Dec 2012 Wigan (h) won 3-0
April 2012 Bolton (h) won 2-0
April 2010 Sheffield United (h) won 2-1
Mar 2010 Nottingham Forest (h) won 2-0
Jan 2010 West Brom (h) drew 2-2
Dec 2009 Derby (h) drew 0-0
Aug 2009 Leicester (h) won 1-0

PNE @ NUFC - last ten:

2016/17 won 4-1 Perez 2, Atsu, Ritchie
won 6-0 Mitro 2, Diame 2, Ritchie, Perez (LC)
won 3-0 Lovenkrands, Nolan, R.Taylor
1986/87 won 2-0 Roeder, Goddard (FAC)
1980/81 won 2-0 Harford 2
1979/80 drew 0-0
1978/79 won 4-3 Connolly, Withe, Shoulder, Barton
1964/65 won 5-2 McGarry 2, Cummings, Hilley, OG
1963/64 won 3-0 McGarry, Thomas, Burton
lost 2-4 Kirkman, Burton





Aided by favourable results in games involving rivals Huddersfield Town and Reading two days earlier, Newcastle completed the task of achieving a Premier League return at the first time of asking at Gallowgate on Monday night.

Ahead through an early goal from Ayoze Perez that went in via his elbow, celebrations were briefly put on hold when Preston quickly levelled through Jordan Hugill. That equaliser dampened spirits of home fans and players alike, but United went in 2-1 ahead at the break after Aleksandar Mitrovic set up Christian Atsu to shoot home with seconds left.

A handball on the goal line by Paul Gallagher to deny Isaac Hayden then led to a red card and a penalty midway through the second half, Matt Ritchie making it 3-1 from the penalty spot as his team mates studiously avoided any encroachment (apart from Mitro...).

Students of the "what goes around..." theory may recall that the same Paul Gallagher got away with fisting the ball into the net here in December 2003, handing Blackburn Rovers a 1-0 win.

The establishment of a two-goal cushion triggered an almighty roar of relief and a fourth home goal instantly arrived as Jonjo Shelvey's in-swinging corner rebounded off the far post and was deflected into the Gallowgate End goal via the shoulder of Perez.

Satisfaction rather than euphoria was the order of the day after the full time whistle and while the players were applauded as they saluted the fans, the biggest cheers were reserved for Rafa Benitez as he took to the field to acknowledge the backing he'd received. 

Is it a bird, is it a plane etc.


The possibility of snatching the title from Brighton still remains - and a record-breaking 14th away victory at Cardiff on Friday evening would leave United just one point behind the Seagulls.

Regardless of that however, tonight was a case of mission accomplished for Benitez, who arrived at a failing club barely 14 months ago. He may not have got here in time to avoid relegation, but he's managed to restore competence, commitment and belief in both the dressing room and the stands - a monumental achievement.

The worries now begin about budgets, control and the likelihood of the manager staying as a consequence, but for now the message is simple: United are back. 


Condolences to family and friends of Toon fan David Gaylor, who sadly passed away recently.

Page last updated 15 June, 2017