Rafa Benitez delivers message to his Newcastle players

Rafa Benitez complains to referee Keith Stroud after last night's penalty controversy
Rafa Benitez complains to referee Keith Stroud after last night's penalty controversy

Rafa Benitez has challenged his Newcastle United side to carry on winning.

The club went top of the Championship again last night after beating Burton Albion 1-0 at St James’s Park, thanks to a Matt Ritchie goal.

And Newcastle remain 10 points ahead of third-placed Huddersfield Town – who have a game in hand – ahead of Saturday evening’s game against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.

The game was dominated by a first-half blunder from referee Keith Stroud, who, wrongly, didn’t order a penalty from Ritchie to be retaken after Dwight Gayle encroached into the box.

Benitez was furious at the decision at the time.

But after the game he was content to focus on the “positives”.

“For me, it was an important game, a fantastic goal from Matt Ritchie – a great goal,” said Benitez.

“There was workrate, a lot of positives. Unfortunately, we talk about the incident, but it is clear for everyone.”

Benitez is now focused on Newcastle’s remaining six games.

“We have a mini-league, we have won two already,” said the United manager.

“And if we can carry on winning games, it will be easier. It is important to enjoy (the Burton result), to stay a couple of days preparing and then be ready for the next one.”

Benitez was happy with his team’s attitude and application against Nigel Clough’s side.

“We knew that this team was difficult to break down and beat with a line of five at the back,” he said.

“It could be a free-kick, a long all counter-attack, which would be dangerous for us.

“We needed to make sure there was no mistake. We did it until the end and we couldn’t be relaxed.”