Newcastle Utd 1 Burton Albion 0: Mags boss quick to move on from referee’s penalty blunder

Matt Ritchie complains to referee Keith Stroud after the controversial penalty decision
Matt Ritchie complains to referee Keith Stroud after the controversial penalty decision

Rafa Benitez refused to publicly criticise referee Keith Stroud after his astonishing blunder overshadowed a key win for Newcastle United.

A second-half goal from Matt Ritchie gsecured a 1-0 victory over Burton Albion at St James’s Park last night.

That took the Magpies back to the top of the Championship, and maintained their 10-point lead over third-placed Huddersfield in the race for promotion.

Ritchie, however, also had a first-half penalty chalked off after Dwight Gayle encroached into the box.

Stroud should have ordered the kick to be retaken, but he instead awarded Burton a free-kick.

Benitez and his coaching staff remonstrated with Stroud, assistant Matthew McGrath and fourth official Tony Harrington for several minutes. After the game, Stroud issued an apology through Professional Game Match Officials Limited.

Newcastle manager Benitez stressed the need to “move forward” after the game, saying: “The referee and me have been talking.

“We need to move forward. We can’t change what happened. We got three points. We have to be ready to be stronger for the next one. After the incident, we were losing our focus.

“We won.”

Asked to explain what had happened, Benitez added: “We had a couple of explanations. Nobody was convincing. I prefer to talk about the best goal.”

The PGMOL statement read: “As Matt Ritchie took the kick, Dwight Gayle encroached in the penalty area.

“An indirect free-kick was awarded to Burton, but the Laws of the Game state that that the penalty kick should have been retaken.

“Unfortunately, the referee has misapplied the Law. Keith and his team are understandably upset at the lapse in concentration and apologise for the mistake.”

While Burton manager Nigel Clough felt Stroud had got that initial decision wrong when Tom Flanagan challenged Gayle, he was “pleased” the game hadn’t been decided by the official’s error in interpreting the rules. “I didn’t think it was a penalty in the first place,” said Clough.

“I am pleased it wasn’t the game-deciding issue. You don’t want controversial decisions to decide matches.”

The winner came on 68 minutes. Ritchie found space on the edge of the area to shape and curl home a brilliant right-foot shot.

Newcastle: Darlow, Anita, Lascelles, Mbemba, Dummett, Ritchie, Shelvey, Diame, Atsu (Ameobi 89), Perez, Gayle (Murphy 90). Subs not used: Hanley, Haidara, Gouffran, Elliot, Gamez. Booked: Lascelles. Goal: Ritchie 68

Burton Albion: McLaughlin, Akins (Dyer 80), Mousinho, Brayford, Turner, Flanagan, Christensen (Kightly 70), Murphy, Irvine, Sordell (Woodrow 85), Varney. Subs not used: McFadzean, Bywater, McCrory, Naylor.

Att: 48,814. Ref: Keith Stroud (Hampshire).