Rafa Benitez has surprising final say on Keith Stroud and Championship referees

Rafa Benitez and Keith Stroud, right

Rafa Benitez and Keith Stroud, right

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Rafa Benitez has defended referees in the wake of Keith Stroud's penalty blunder.

Stroud apologised after getting the rules wrong while officiating Newcastle United's 1-0 win over Burton Albion at St James's Park on Wednesday night.

The Bournemouth-based official awarded the visitors a free-kick after Dwight Gayle encroached into the penalty box before Matt Ritchie converted a first-half penalty.

Stroud – who consulted fourth official Tony Harrington before confirming his decision – should have ordered a retake.

Benitez and his coaching staff protested the decision along with Ritchie at the time, but United's manager was diplomatic after the game, which was decided by a second-half strike from Ritchie.

The win saw Newcastle return to the top of the Championship.

Matt Ritchie

Matt Ritchie

Speaking ahead of tomorrow's game against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough, Benitez said: "I said after the game that I don’t want to talk too much, because everybody would be talking about it.

"Now it’s even more important for me to concentrate on the next game. Six games are left and this is an important one, so I can’t be talking about what happened in the past.

"We haven’t had luck with some decisions this season, but hopefully we will have in the remaining games."

Benitez has been angered by a number of refereeing decisions this season, not least the decision of Steve Martin to send off Jonjo Shelvey and Paul Dummett at the City Ground in December.

On refereeing standards in the Championship, Benitez added: "To be a referee is very difficult. You can talk about professionals, but when you are in the middle and have to make a decision in seconds, you can be wrong.

"I have a lot of respect for referees. I see it’s not easy when I referee five-a-side games in training sessions and the players are always complaining.

"It is important to trust the referees, and hopefully everything will be fine now until the end of the season and we have no bad decision about which we can complain."