Rafa Benitez reacts to a welcome boost ahead of Newcastle’s visit to Brighton

Newcastle United's Matt Ritchie.
Newcastle United's Matt Ritchie.

Matt Ritchie is free to face Championship leaders Brighton and Hove Albion – after keeping control on the pitch.

Ritchie is a yellow card away from an automatic two-game ban.

He has experience and knew he had nine yellow cards, so he knew he had to have control.

Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez opted not to leave the winger out of his starting XI for Saturday’s game against Bristol City, which Newcastle drew 2-2, ahead of tomorrow night’s visit to the Amex Stadium.

And Ritchie successfully avoided a 10th booking in the fixture.

United manager Benitez said: “He has experience and knew he had nine yellow cards, so he knew he had to have control. I was pleased with him.”

Only Dwight Gayle has scored more goals than Ritchie this season.

The 27-year-old, signed from Bournemouth last summer, has scored 12 times this season.

Meanwhile, under-pressure City manager Lee Johnson told of his “pride” after the game.

The visitors – who had lost 10 of their previous 13 matches – took a deserved 2-0 lead, but were pegged back after the break by a Korey Smith own goal and a strike from Ciaran Clark.

“I’m very proud of the players, because this is a very difficult place to come – a Premier League club in waiting,” said Johnson.

“No doubt they will get promoted.”

“It’s not ideal to concede two when you are 2-0 up, but I will take the positives after a very difficult week.

“That’s the marker now. Not the result, but the attitude and the willingness to work for the team.”