Matt Ritchie: Newcastle need to improve on Premier League return

Matt Ritchie has warned Newcastle they have to be better as they prepare to return to Premier League action after he rescued their fledgling FA Cup adventure.

The 29-year-old midfielder got the Magpies out of jail with an 85th-minute penalty in a 1-1 draw to deny Sky Bet Championship Blackburn a third-round victory at St James’ Park, but later admitted the performance from a much-changed team had not been good enough.

Ritchie told NUFC TV: “I keep practising them. You never know when you’re going to get one and you need to be ready.

“I certainly felt the pressure, but I managed to put it in the bottom corner and I’m pleased with that. Hopefully that will get me off the mark now and (I can) get some more goals.

“But more importantly, the performance of the team, we need to make sure it improves and hopefully with that we can pick up more points.

“It was obviously not the best performance, but we showed good personality, a good reaction to going one down. It’s just frustrating the first half, we didn’t really get going.

“Second half, we conceded the goal and then we picked up a little bit, but still it was a disappointing performance and it’s good to still be in the competition.”

Skipper-for-the-night Ritchie was one of only three men who had started the midweek fixture against Manchester United to retain his place as Rafael Benitez used the depth of his squad, but ultimately saw his under-studies struggle to make an impression.

After a tepid first-half display, things took a turn for the worse when Bradley Dack headed the visitors in front, and it was not until substitute Ayoze Perez was sent tumbling in the box with five minutes remaining that Ritchie got his chance to save the day.

Ritchie said: “It certainly wasn’t one of my best games of the season but – as everyone knows – I always give 100 per cent.

“I’ll never shy away from the ball and if I make a mistake, I’ll keep getting on the ball and trying to do that.

“That’s my character, that’s me, so whether I’ve got an armband or not, it’s not important to me. It’s more the fact that as a team, we improve and keep trying to push forward and get better.”

As Benitez turned his attention to Saturday evening’s trip to Chelsea with the Magpies sitting just two points clear of the drop zone, opposite number Tony Mowbray was remaining philosophical.

He said: “Listen, we are where we are. We were in League One last year and Newcastle United are in the Premier League.

“It’s a great credit to this group of players, who just about all of them played in League One last year, that they can come here and give such a good account of themselves.”

Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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