Scotland winger Matt Ritchie delivers surprisingly blunt assessment of his Newcastle form

Matt Ritchie

Matt Ritchie

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Matt Ritchie says he needs to pull a goal out of his “magic hat” – as his form has dipped.

Ritchie was superb in the early part of Newcastle United’s Championship campaign.

Matt Ritchie

Matt Ritchie

But the winger, signed from Bournemouth in the summer, feels he “hasn’t been at the races” in recent weeks.

And the 27-year-old is looking to put that right against 17th-placed Nottingham Forest at the City Ground tonight – if selected.

United manager Rafa Benitez has been alternating between Ritchie and Christian Atsu, on a season-long loan from Chelsea.

“I was pleased with how I started,” said the Scotland international

I was pleased with how I started. I felt fresh and sharp. But in the last few weeks I’ve not been at the races.

Matt Ritchie

“I felt fresh and sharp, but in the last few weeks I’ve not been at the races.

“I’ve had a little bit of a dip in form. I’ve not quite been at the level I want to be. I’ll continue to work hard.

“I can still improve. I’m still learning different movements and new things under the manager.

“Hopefully, I’ll continue to improve under the manager.

“There’s certainly more to come from me.

“I’m certainly due a goal. That’s on my wishlist.”

Newcastle fans quickly took Ritchie to their hearts after his move to Tyneside and quickly coined a song in his honour including the refernce to a ‘magic hat’.

“I’ve said it many times – the fans are fantastic,” he said.

“The support away from home is second to none.

“It’s been a delight to be involved in that, and the song’s the icing on the cake.

“I need to pull a goal out of my magic hat!”

Championship leaders United take on Forest looking to put back-to-back defeats behind them.

Rafa Benitez’s side were knocked out of the EFL Cup by Hull City on Tuesday night.

The loss at the KCOM Stadium followed last weekend’s league defeat to Blackburn Rovers.

“We’re obviously disappointed with the (cup) result,” said Ritchie.

“We’ll look to get back to winning ways.

“It’s been an important couple of days.

“We had a great opportunity (to reach the semi-finals) on Tuesday, but it didn’t happen.

“It’s been an important few days to make sure we stay upbeat.

“We need to focus on the next one.”

Newcastle could go five points clear of second-placed Brighton and Hove Albion with a win over Forest, who have won their last two league matches.

However, Ritchie – who won promotion with Bournemouth the season before last – thinks it’s too early to be preoccupied with any one team.

“The league is so tight you can win two or three on the bounce and then your rivals are different,” he said.

“We are where we want to be at the top of the league and we need to make sure our performances are good.

“If your performances are good, then you will continue to pick up points.

“Everyone beats everyone. That’s why it is such a good league to watch and be involved in.

“It’s tough. Every game is a tough test.

“Forest have not got off to the best of starts, but are a massive test for us because they have good players. They will put up a fight, that’s for sure.

“It’s a massive football club and the squad they have got is very good.

“It’s going to be a tough game. It’s a big game, an important game.”