Newcastle Utd 1 Derby County 0: Table’s of no interest to Magpie boss Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez
Rafa Benitez
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Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez says he is STILL not concerned about the Championship table.

The Magpies sit top of the table after beating Derby, while Brighton could only draw 3-3 at Brentford.

But Benitez has again insisted that he is not preoccupied with the table, despite pressure from Chris Hughton’s and the likes of Reading, Leeds and Huddersfield.

Instead, Benitez says all Newcastle – who next meet Wolves at Molineux on Saturday – must focus on is their next game. “I’m not really worried about the table,” said Benitez.

“It depends on us. If we carry on winning our games, we will be there. You cannot be watching when you have so many teams around now.

“Reading are doing well. Huddersfield are doing well. It’s not just Brighton. Leeds are doing well. You have to make sure you are doing your job.”

Victory over Steve McClaren’s Derby, thanks to Matt Ritchie’s 12th goal of the season was welcome, following an FA Cup exit at Oxford, the failure to land any deadline-day signings and a 2-2 midweek draw against QPR.

Newcastle fans showed their support for Benitez before, during and after the game. Asked if the victory – and backing – had been important to him, Benitez said: “I’m not thinking about me. I’m thinking about the fans and players.

“The players need to feel the support of the fans. The fans have to realise that we are here together.

“If everything is fine, everybody will enjoy it. They are crucial for us. They are key for players.”

Benitez had appealed for unity after the transfer window closed. “What we said is clear,” he said. “After the transfer window, we have to stick together.

“We keep working hard. We try to win games. Then we will have plenty of time to see what happens.”

Benitez is confident that Isaac Hayden will be fit to face Wolves, despite hobbling off with an ankle problem against the Rams.

“It’s his ankle,” said Benitez. “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.”

Captain Jamaal Lascelles was left out because of a groin problem, with Grant Hanley impressing alongside Ciaran Clark during a difficult second half.

Newcastle: Darlow, Yedlin, Hanley, Clark, Dummett, Ritchie, Shelvey, Hayden (Perez 49), Gouffran (Lascelles 90), Diame, Mitrovic (Ameobi 84). Subs not used: Lazaar, Elliot, Gamez, Murphy. Booked: Dummett, Ritchie. Goal: Ritchie 27.

Derby: Carson, Baird, Keogh, Pearce, Olsson, Butterfield, Johnson (Anya 76), Bryson (de Sart 46), Ince, Bent, Russell (Camara 64). Subs not used: Christie, Shackell, Vydra, Mitchell. Booked: de Sart.Att: 52,231. Ref: Darren Bond (Lancs).