Newcastle United briefing: Jamaal Lascelles' £5 goal bonus, 'no excuses' for Rafa Benitez

Jamaal Lascelles and Rafa Benitez
Jamaal Lascelles and Rafa Benitez

Newcastle United are up to fourth in the Premier League after a remarkable run of victories.

The club has had its best start to a top-flight campaign since 2000-01, when Sir Bobby Robson was in charge.

But Rafa Benitez and his players weren't getting carried away after Saturday's 2-1 win over Stoke City at St James's Park.

"I haven't seen the table and I don’t want to see the table, believe me," said Benitez after the match.

Newcastle return to action on Sunday, when they take on Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium.

The club's Under-23s take on Brighton at Crawley Town tonight in a Premier League 2 fixture. Yasin Ben El-Mhanni could return from injury at the Broadfield Stadium.

Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez

Here's your daily briefing:

Head boy

For the second week in a row, Jamaal Lascelles was United's match-winner.

And for the second week in a row, Lascelles headed in a Matt Ritchie corner.

Lascelles claimed all three points with a second-half goal after Xherdan Shaqiri cancelled out Christian Atsu's first Premier League goal.

He had scored the only goal of the game against Swansea City six days earlier.

The club's captain spoke about the goal after the match.

However, the game could have been over a lot earlier had Joselu converted one or more of the chances that came his way either side of the half-time break.

Lascelles embraced Joselu, signed from Stoke last month, on the pitch after the final whistle.

“That’s what team-mates do," said the 23-year-old. “If it was down the other end and I’d let a goal in and he went down the other end and scored, I’d have gone up to him and said the same.

“He knows himself he should’ve scored a couple of goals today, but good team-mates get each other out of the ****.

“He’s done a great job for us. He held the ball up well, he kept finding himself in dangerous areas and he’s been a real threat for defences in other games as well, so it’s certainly not one of them when I’m going to have a go at him.

“He knows he should have put a couple away, but it’s no different from one of us losing the ball or not making a block at the back.

“It’s what team-mates are for. He’s been a great player for us so far.”

Goal bonus

Lascelles used to have an extra incentive to score when he was coming up through the ranks at former club Nottingham Forest.

The Derby-born player's proud mum revealed on Twitter after the game that his goals had "cost her a fortune".

Jill Lascelles tweeted: "Costing me a fortune , from his academy days at nffc, it's always been a fiver a goal."

Strength

Stoke defender and one-time Newcastle target Erik Pieters left St James's Park "frustrated" at his team's defeat.

Pieters said he and his team-mates were well aware of United's strengths – yet they were beaten by a carbon copy of a strike which they had studied in the build-up to the game.

"We’ve been watching videos of Newcastle and then we concede an identical goal to theirs last week," said Pieters.

"We had said to each other we know they come like that and set ourselves to be zonal for the set-pieces.

"We know they’re going to be strong in that area, but still we have to make it as difficult as possible when they come charging in and we didn't. We gave him a free header and you can’t do that."

No excuses

Benitez made a telling observation about his players after the Stoke match.

They don't make excuses. Instead, they take responsibility.

Benitez said: “When I pick players, I need to be sure I’m choosing players who really want it and are not always making excuses when they make mistakes.

“I want players who will make sure they react in the right way.”

Benitez also revealed why he's "not surprised" by the team's start to the season.

United's manager – who had missed the Swansea game as he recovered from an operation – also gave an update on his health.

"It's just a bit of pain now – every day I'm taking less tablets," said Benitez. "I'm feeling better."

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