NEWCASTLE took a giant step towards an instant return to the Premier League – without looking that convincing until the last ten minutes against former leaders Brighton.
The South Coast club, on course for promotion themselves under the ever-impressive Chris Hughton, conceded an early lead and left empty handed.
Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle took maximum points, reclaimed top spot – and will take great heart from beating arguably the best footballing side in the division.
It looked like being a frustrating night for the Toon as they trailed to an early penalty from Glenn Murray.
But, with ten minutes left on the clock, Mohamed Diame and super sub Ayoze Perez secured a priceless win for the Magpies who are nailed on for promotion; eight points clear of third placed Huddersfield.
You can’t them slipping up now. Rafa will not allow it.
Brighton too look odds-on to return to the top flight after a long absence (34 years, in fact), and Hughton is doing a fine job. He wasn’t happy with the way his team finished the game though.
Murray’s 17th goal of the season wasn’t enough to see the Seagulls over the line and as quoted on the BBC Sport website – http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/39035302 – Hughton said: “We feel hard done by.”
He added: “That gives Newcastle momentum going into that last period. I didn’t think we were at our best but I still thought we would go on to win.”
Newcastle boss Benitez commented: “It was difficult when you play against a good team and with the advantage of goal from penalty that wasn’t, it was more difficult.
“Watching the replay of the penalty he was pushing our player. But the reaction of the team was good. We were creating chances and you have to be pleased with the performance of everyone, on the pitch and off the bench.
“We created a lot of good situations before we got a little bit lucky. And Ayoze was calm and composed for the winner.”