Rafa Benitez reacts to fans' show of support for him at Newcastle

Rafa Benitez
Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez says Newcastle United's fans made all the difference at St James's Park.

Benitez's side beat Derby County 1-0 this afternoon thanks to a deflected goal from Matt Ritchie to return to the top of the Championship.

Newcastle had the better for the first half, and Ritchie put them ahead in the 27th minute.

But Derby fought back after the break and Tom Ince missed a glorious chance to put them level.

Benitez had called on everyone involved at Newcastle to "stick together" in the wake of the club's failure to strengthen in last month's transfer window.

And the name of United's manager was chanted throughout the game.

"It was a pity that we had to suffer a little bit as we had chances," said Benitez. "Every three points will be important. It doesn't matter how (you get them).

"We are doing well, Today the positive was the communication between the fans and players. All this created a very good atmosphere.

"They (the fans) realise that they can make a different in some games like this one.

"The fans are ready to help the team. The players responded, and the fans are happy with that. I could feel the atmosphere."

Asked about the support for him from the stands, Benitez added: "The fans have been amazing.

"I'm happy if they continue to sing my name, but especially if they keep supporting the players."

Derby head coach Steve McClaren said: "I'm very disappointed. First-half, I thought we didn't get going. In the second half, I thought we had a right go."

Newcastle lead second-placed Brighton and Hove Albion – who travel to Brentford tomorrow – by two points.