Newcastle United briefing: Paying the penalty – on and off the pitch

Mike Ashley
Mike Ashley

We've never seen anything like it at St James's Park.

The stadium's seen more than its fair share of refereeing mistakes over the years.

But this was remarkable.

READ MORE: Miles Starforth’s analysis: Newcastle United 1 Burton Albion 0

Thankfully, Newcastle United still beat Burton Albion 1-0 last night to return to the top of the Championship.

But the game's talking point wasn't Matt Ritchie's second-half winning goal.

Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez

It was instead the decision of referee Keith Stroud to rule out a first-half penalty from the winger for encroachment and award Burton a free-kick.

The fallout from the game is dominating today's headlines.

United, however, have also published their latest set of financial results, which include a warning from Lee Charnley on the consequences of relegation.

Here is your daily briefing:

Ref justice

Rafa Benitez was remarkably calm by the time he faced the media.

United's manager had strode on the pitch to speak to Stroud and his assistants after the final whistle.

Mikel Antia, his assistant, had done likewise, clipboard in hand, at the break.

Maybe aware that an apology, via Professional Game Match Officials Limited was forthcoming, Benitez chose his words carefully.

"The referee and me have been talking," Benitez told journalists.

“We need to move forward. We can’t change what happened.

“We got three points. We have to be ready to be stronger for the next one. After the incident, we were losing our focus. We won.”

Benitez, long bothered by the standard of refereeing in the division, hadn't been so calm after his nine-man team lost to Nottingham Forest at the City Ground in December.

This time, however, United had won.

Benitez would, presumably, have had a bit more to say had Stroud's incompetence cost his team two points.

Spot on?

Burton manager Nigel Clough felt the penalty, awarded after Tom Flanagan challenged Dwight Gayle, shouldn't have been given in the first place.

Gayle, however, was adamant that it was one decision that Stroud had got right.

"It was definitely a penalty," said Gayle. "I got in front of the guy and he's clipped me, so I've gone down and the penalty has been given.

"I don't think the penalty has got that wrong but that second bit I think it was a mistake. It was important that we moved on from it and got the win."

Clough, meanwhile, was just pleased that the game had been won fair and square.

“I didn’t think it was a penalty in the first place,” said Clough, who had been pleased with his teams' effort and application.

“I don’t know about that. I am pleased it wasn’t the game-deciding issue.

“Somebody has put the ball in the top corner. I am pleased about that. You don’t want controversial decisions to decide matches.”

Numbers game

As if all that wasn't enough to digest, Newcastle today published their latest set of accounts.

And the figures, for the year ending June 30, 2016, underlined the financial consequences of last season's relegation.

United recorded an after-tax profit of £4.6m (down from £32.5m), while the club’s net debt rose to £127.3m.

The results also show that a company controlled by owner Mike Ashley loaned United £33m, of which £18m was used to repay a personal loan made by the billionaire to the club.

Newcastle say the balance of £15m provided “additional essential funds for operating activities”.

Managing director Lee Charnley explained some of the figures in a statement.

Charnley also outlined the financial "risk" Ashley took in the wake of relegation.

And finally...

Ipswich Town defender Steven Taylor looks set to miss out on a reunion with his former club at Portman Road on April 17.

For news and updates, follow NUFC writer Miles Starforth on Twitter here