Dwight Gayle and Christian Atsu celebrate the ‘Matt Ritchie factor’ at Newcastle United

Praised: Matt Ritchie
Praised: Matt Ritchie

Goalscoring midfielders are a rarity.

And it just so happens that Newcastle United are blessed with one of the best in the business, at Championship level anyway, in Matt Ritchie.

It makes life much easier for the other players – he can win games for us on his own.

The £12million man netted his 15th goal of the campaign in Wednesday night’s 1-0 win over Burton, and, as we all know, it should have been 16.

While Ritchie is firmly establishing himself as a fans favourite, his contribution, not just in the goals for column, has not gone unnoticed among his peers.

Frontman Dwight Gayle has opened up about the former Bournemouth man’s impact on the park.

United’s top-scorer points towards his leadership qualities, as well as his ability to pop up with crucial goals.

“It is not just his ability, he is a great character,” said Gayle of the Scotland international.

“He is a great experienced player. He has done this before, he knows what it takes.

“He is non-stop with his talking to us, telling the boys what needs to be done.He tells the whole team when to press and when to hold.

“As well as that he is a great lad. And then there is his goals.”

Winger Christian Atsu, often found on the opposite side to Ritchie, echoed those sentiments.

The Chelsea loanee thinks having the likes of Gayle and Ritchie in the United XI is invaluable, as both can win a match single-handedly, and have done so on numerous occasions this campaign so far.

“He is a great player,” said the Ghanaian.

“He has good finishing – he can finish with the right or the left.

“I am also happy to play in the same team as him.

“It makes life much easier for the other players – he can win games on his own for us.

“Having players like Matt and Dwight in our team, we are very happy.”

Atsu is so happy, in fact, he’s even given up his preferred position out on the right.

He explained: “We have swapped sides at times this season – the manager tells us to do that.

“But I do prefer to play on the right side. I have played there for so many years.”

Ritchie was again the driving force behind United as they returned back to the top of the Championship table this week.

His strike, with just 20 minutes remaining, was worthy of winning any game.

But the disappointment of his penalty being chalked off earlier had even more of an impact, according to Atsu.

“It was difficult to put out of our mind,” said the wideman. “I always believed we would win.

“They were scared to attack us. They were always defending. We had more ball possession, we created more chances and, in the end, we scored a great goal from Ritchie.

“We created a lot of chances and eventually got the goal.

“For us it is a very important three points.

“Now we are going to focus on the next game.”

Looking ahead to the weekend, Atsu expects United will have it tough at Hillsborough.

The Magpies head to South Yorkshire tomorrow looking to keep up the heat at the Championship summit, with both third-placed Huddersfield (Saturday, 3pm) and Brighton (Friday night) playing before them.

And while United’s away record is the best at this level, he reckons that could count for nothing on Saturday evening.

“It will be a very tough game,” he said of the visit to Sheffield Wednesday.

“We have a very good away record but that does not count for anything.

“We have to just keep working hard.”