Newcastle United 1 Burton Albion 0: Astonishing refereeing blunder overshadows win

Rafa Benitez
Rafa Benitez

Matt Ritchie fired Newcastle United closer to the Premier League on a night dominated by an astonishing refereeing decision.

Ritchie's second-half strike gave Rafa Benitez's side a 1-0 win over Burton Albion at St James's Park.

And the result saw Newcastle go two points clear of Brighton and Hove Albion at the top of the Championship.

United remain 10 points clear of third-placed Huddersfield Town, who beat Norwich City at the John Smith's Stadium.

But the game's talking point wasn't Ritchie's winning goal, his 15th of the season.

It was instead the decision of referee Keith Stroud to rule out the first-half penalty converted by Ritchie and not order a retake for encroachment by Dwight Gayle.

As Ritchie celebrated the strike, Stroud awarded a free-kick in the box to the visitors.

The baffling decision sparked furious protests from Benitez and his coaching staff as well as the players.

Assistant Mike Antia confronted Stroud as he left the pitch amid boos from all sides of the ground for the half-time break.

United composed themselves during the interval and returned to the pitch in a determined mood.

And their pressure finally told in the 68th minute when Ritchie curled a superb shot into the top right-hand corner to claim three important points at the second time of asking.

Stroud issued an apology for a "lapse in concentration" through Professional Game Match Officials Limited after the game.

NEWCASTLE UNITED: Darlow; Anita, Lascelles, Mbemba, Dummett; Shelvey, Diame; Ritchie, Perez, Atsu (Ameobi, 89); Gayle (Murphy, 90). Subs not used: Elliot, Gamez, Haidara, Hanley, Gouffran.

BURTON ALBION: McLaughlin, Brayford, Turner, Flanagan, Mousinho, Christensen (Kightly, 70), Murphy, Irvine, Sordell (Woodrow, 85), Akins (Dyer, 80), Varney. Subs not used: Bywater, McFadzean, McCrory, Naylor.

Goal: Ritchie 68

Booking: Lascelles 50

Referee: Keith Stroud (Bournemouth)

Attendance: 48,814