Rafa Benitez addresses Jamaal Lascelles form during Newcastle’s run-in

Jamaal Lascelles
Jamaal Lascelles

Rafa Benitez says he will NEVER “point the finger” at his players.

Newcastle United – who take on Preston North End at St James’s Park tonight – are just a win away from a return to the Premier League.

As a team we can lose and we can win. I will not be pointing at players all of the time.

Rafa Benitez

The form of Benitez’s side, however, has been up and down in recent months.

And Newcastle fans reacted angrily to the team’s performance in the 3-1 Easter Monday defeat to Ipswich Town at Portman Road.

Captain Jamaal Lascelles has come under scrutiny in recent weeks.

A series of defensive mistakes, notably against Ipswich and against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough, have cost United points.

But manager Benitez said: “Some games as a defender when you concede everyone can notice mistakes.

“As a striker, you miss a chance, no one remembers for too long. I don’t remember one mistake. As a team we can lose and we can win. I will not be pointing at players all of the time.

“I have to talk with them an we analyse things, then we go to the pitch and we train.

“So they realise when they have made mistakes, and if they do they are improving.

“But this team, they do learn. They will make mistakes like me and it can go down to experience. They will learn. The main thing is they try to improve.

“If you see the average age of this team we are a young team. You see where we are – it shows we have done a lot of good things. Some mistakes we have made in the last games are experience.”

Newcastle have missed defender Ciaran Clark, who has been sidelined for more than a month with a knee problem.

Clark, however, could return against Preston.

Asked if Lascelles had missed Clark, Benitez said: “You can miss players who are doing well and then you lose them.

“We have missed Clark, because players need time to settle and adjust.

“Another thing with Clark is that he is left-footed. Play (Grant) Hanley or (Chancel) Mbemba there, they are right footed. Other managers will analyse that and they try to make sure you suffer.”