Rafa Benitez responds to protests against Mike Ashley at Newcastle

Rafa Benitez says his players need Newcastle United's fans more than ever.

The winless club is 19th in the Premier League after yesterday's goalless draw against Southampton.

Owner Mike Ashley was at the St Mary's Stadium, where Newcastle were backed by almost 2,500 fans.

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Supporters backed the team and chanted against Ashley, who put the club up for sale a year ago.

The Magpie Group has revealed the "next phase" of its protest against Ashley, who has watched the last five games having previously gone a year without attending a fixture.

Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley.

Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley.

Benitez, his manager, was asked about protests against Ashley after the Southampton game.

"I think we can help the atmosphere on Tyneside by winning games," said Benitez. "We need the fans at the stadium supporting the team for 90 minutes.

"We will make mistakes – I make mistakes – but we have to stay together because it's the only way."

Newcastle have taken three points, all from goalless draws away from home, from their opening 10 Premier League games.