Matt Ritchie insists Newcastle United’s top-10 finish is in their own hands

Matt Ritchie
Matt Ritchie

Matt Ritchie scored the goal that secured Newcastle United’s Premier League status – but he’s not finished yet.

Ritchie’s winner against Arsenal at St James’s Park on Sunday took the club past Rafa Benitez’s 40-point target.

The result, 10th-placed Newcastle’s fourth successive victory, moved the club to within two points of Monday night’s opponents Everton.

Ritchie netted in the 68th minute after Ayoze Perez flicked the ball to him in space.

“It’s the best feeling in the world scoring a goal,” said Ritchie, who has scored in three of the club’s last four home games.

“It’s obviously a proud moment for myself but also the team. To score an important goal and help the team is a fantastic feeling.

“To have a significant role in three points is very good, and I’m delighted for that.

“Most importantly, as a team, we’ve put ourselves in a fantastic position where, if we apply ourselves as we have done over the last six weeks, we’ve got a real good opportunity of finishing in the top 10.

“That’s down to us now. We need to continue to perform as we have done.”

Early last month Benitez’s side found themselves in 16th place and on 29 points after a 2-0 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield.

United now have five games in which to consolidate their position in the top half of the table.

“Forty points at the start of the season was sort of the target that everyone looks for,” said the 28-year-old. “It’s a credit to everyone involved throughout the whole season.

“Even when results weren’t quite going our way, we were never rolled over or went down without a fight. It’s always been one-goal margins.

“We’ve been on the right side of those one-goal margins in the last six weeks or so. It’s been a really good time.

“Hopefully, we can continue that throughout the rest of the games. It’s been a really good feeling.”

Ritchie, signed from Bournemouth in 2016, was an influential player in the Championship last season.

The Scotland international scored 12 league goals in 2016-17, though he had to wait until February for his first goal this season.