Matt Ritchie explains his view on the FA Cup after keeping Newcastle in the competition

Matt Ritchie has admitted that an FA Cup replay was the last thing that he and his Newcastle United team-mates wanted.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 07 January, 2019, 05:00
Matt Ritchie.

Rafa Benitez’s side came from behind to draw 1-1 with Blackburn Rovers at St James’s Park on Saturday

Ritchie cancelled out Bradley Dack’s opener with a late penalty after Ayoze Perez was tripped in the box.

The strike was Ritchie’s first goal of the season.

“I’ve found chances hard to come by this season, and I haven’t scored the goals that I’d have wanted,” said the winger.

“I’m the penalty taker. I was last year, too, but we’ve barely had any, and when we had one last season I wasn’t on the pitch.

“I’m always practising, and was pleased with the opportunity and lucky enough I found the bottom corner.”

Blackburn had been the better team up to Dack’s goal.

Benitez’s substitutes helped Newcastle salvage a draw, but United’s manager admitted that a replay is an unwelcome distraction from the club’s Premier League campaign.

Asked if a replay was the worst-case scenario, Ritchie said: “I think the same.

“We’ve got a lot of tough games coming up in the league.

“We could have done with winning. It wasn’t to be and now we’ve got to try again to stay in this competition.

“We also have to start winning in the Premier League. Of course, a defeat would have been a big defeat. A draw is not the ideal result, but we knew they’re a good side who carry a threat, especially first half.

“Their goal made us ask questions of ourselves, and in the last 15 minutes or so, we certainly answered them. If the game had gone on much longer, we would have nicked another.”

The replay comes between Saturday’s game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and the January 19 home game against Cardiff City.

“That’s football,” said Ritchie.

“We were in the Championship, so we’re used to playing Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday not too long ago.

“Your body adapts to it. Personally, I’d rather play in every game.

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“I think any footballer would rather do that than train.

“The games come thick and fast for me and that’s fine. Obviously, the manager will look to use players as he has done today, but that’s what you have a 25 man squad before.”

Dack headed Blackburn into the lead in the 56th minute.

And Ritchie felt the team showed “character” to fight back.

“It was disappointing to go a goal behind, but we showed we had character,” said Ritchie.

“It wasn’t the result we wanted, but after going a goal down, we’ll take it.

“If the game had gone on any longer, I think we would have won.”

Benitez had made eight changes for the third-round tie.

United’s manager – who handed Florian Lejeune his comeback – had insisted ahead of the game that he would name a starting XI strong enough to win the game.

However, too many players looked short of confidence.

Ritchie, for his part, relishes every game he plays in the competition.

“Look, every pro wants to play every game he plays in and we’re no different,” said the winger.

“The FA Cup is such a special competition. As a kid, that was what I wanted to play in.

“I watched it all the time, the upsets, the cup final – that’s why football’s the best game in the world.

“I remember playing in the cup for Swindon. When you played Premier League teams, it’s an opportunity to express yourself.

“It’s played a huge part in my career.”