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Rob Elliot discusses Newcastle's potential season-defining few weeks plus keeper addresses criticism of Rafa Benitez tactics

Rob Elliot against Man City
Rob Elliot against Man City

Performances against the likes of Manchester City will not keep Newcastle United in the Premier League, according to Rob Elliot.

It's the results against the teams around them that have the power to define the Magpies season.

And that's why the next four days could be make or break for Rafa Benitez's men, as they bid to open up some breathing space between themselves and the bottom three.

"We need points from the next two games.,"said Elliot, whose side take on Brighton at St James's Park on Saturday, before heading to Stoke on Monday.

"When you look at the table, yeah it's great if you can take points from teams like Man City or the big boys.

"But the main thing is to pick up points from the teams in and around you, and we know we have another two opportunities to do that between now and New Year's Day.

"We have got to get our focus back on Brighton and Stoke, and we have to make sure we stick to what we are good at and build on from the positive performances against Arsenal and West Ham.

"Man City was a bit of a different game because you don't played against Man City every week - thank God - but the next two games are massive and hopefully that can push us positively into the new year."

Meanwhile, Benitez's tactics came in for some criticism against City.

A minority of fans thought the Spaniard set United up too negatively, despite the fact the Magpies were in with a shout of getting a result against Premier League champions in waiting, and probably the best team in Europe on form.

Elliot believes his manager got things just right.

"We had a gameplan. We were never going to go toe to toe with Manchester City - teams have done that this season and conceded six, seven and eight," said the Republic of Ireland international.

"Our idea was to stay in the game as far as possible, build well and then we had some chances to nick a draw at the end.

"We need to be realistic and the manager is tactically fantastic, he has set us out well and we were disappointed with the goal we conceded. But it was only one goal, and we almost got something.

"We've got to be realistic about where we are at the moment, but at 1-0 against anyone you've always got a chance.

"We always knew they would have a lot of the ball, but we set out with a gameplan and I thought we executed it really well, showed great attitude and desire, and the fans appreciated that - especially towards the end when the atmosphere was incredible.

"Unfortunately we couldn't get the goal.

"We can hold our heads up high and hopefully this can spur us on to the next two games, which are going to be crucial."

Elliot admits Benitez was pleased by the efforts his United players put in on the day.

And the keeper has revealed just what the Spaniard said to inspire the Magpies to come so close to upsetting the league leaders stride.

"I think he was pleased overall. He didn't say too much after the match, but the gameplan was to do pretty much what we did and unfortunately we couldn't get that goal at the end," saod Elliot.

"But he's definitely pleased with the workrate and the desire. He said to us before the game: 'If we think we're better than them, we won't get anything. If we think we're not good enough to be on the same pitch as them, we won't get anything. What we've got to do is work hard and show desire.'

"I believe we did that, and it nearly paid off. If we show that same desire and same mentality against the next two teams, then hopefully we can get two very important results."