Long gone are the days of being unable to win points in tough matches for Newcastle United. Under Rafa Benitez the toon have thrived in the Championship and it showed as the Mags grinded out another win against 18th place Wigan Athletic.
The Magpies finally ended the curse of visiting the DW Stadium, nabbing their first three points from the away visit since 2011, with a clinical 2-0 victory.
The game itself was not pretty at times, especially as the clock counted down and Wigan tried their best to find an equaliser, but Benitez was eager to point out the positives. Namely, the vast improvement of Mo Diame who joined the Toon from Hull City at the beginning of the season. When quizzed about the man of the match, the boss said "we said last week he was working very hard. I was really pleased with the goal and his performance was the same,"
“He tried to do the things that the team needed but at the same time he scored a goal because it’s massive for his confidence" the manager added.
Flashback to last season where goal scoring was scarce and the Mags struggled to net more than once in a game, Benitez also highlighted the importance of Christian Atsu's goal as the pressure from the home side was amped up. Benitez said "We have had some games where we couldn’t score the second goal and we didn’t do it and we had problems,"
“When we scored the first goal we knew we’d need the second. It was difficult because they were pushing and crossing" he added.
On the performance, the Newcastle boss picked out parts of the team's performances that played a part in the run, he said “we were winning the second balls and it was important. We needed fresh legs to change the game and we did that."
Conditions not ideal
While addressing the game, the issue of playing conditions came to light. The Newcastle boss noted that the surface was not what the team was used to as he said “we tried to play well but the pitch wasn’t the best to pass the ball on the floor".
The manager further explained his point by looking to how it affected the players. "you could see that they needed to control the ball and it was more difficult. We try to play well and if we can, perfect as we’ll have more chances to win more games. If not we have to work hard.”
Benitez was not without praise following his comment on the team, he told the media "the team worked hard to get three points."
The main message from Rafa's reflection is that the team worked hard, as a unit which is how they grinded out two, excellent, goals and a clean sheet within a tough match.