Newcastle boss pleased his tactics paid off
Rafa Benitez says his Newcastle United side can be dangerous without much of the the ball after the club took a five-point lead at the top of the Championship.
Benitez’s side beat third-placed Huddersfield Town 3-1 on Saturday to stretch their advantage at the top of the division.
Newcastle – who travel to Reading tomorrow night – had just 24% of the possession at the John Smith’s Stadium.
But Benitez’s gameplan didn’t revolve around possession.
Instead, United’s manager told his players to be quick, direct and win the second balls.
The plan worked, and goals from Matt Ritchie, Daryl Murphy and Dwight Gayle gave the club a record-equalling 13th away win of the season.
“We knew Huddersfield would be a team who had possession,” said Benitez. “We didn’t care about that.
“We had to be a threat when we got forward, with Murphy running behind and getting the second balls. The plan worked well.
“We have had a lot of possession in a lot of games. Our average is 55%, so we do have the ball in games.
“We knew Huddersfield would have it so I wanted to try to do different things, like getting in behind the big centre-backs.
“We played with Murphy instead of Gayle, so we had to make sure we won the second balls.”
Newcastle last won 13 away games in the 1992-93 season when the club, under Kevin Keegan, won promotion to the Premier League.
Asked about his team’s form away from home, Benitez said: “I’m not surprised because I can see this team every day, every week.
“It’s not easy, but the way the players work together, they make it difficult for teams to break us down, and it’s not easy for them.
“Then we have to create the chances at the other end to win the games.
“The fans home and away don’t score the goals, so you have to give credit to our players for scoring the goals.
“Our fans away from home are amazing. They are supporting the team from day one. It is good to have the positive communication between them.”
“We need to try to get that at the start of games at home too.
“We have taken one step forward, we cannot lose this opportunity.”
The result stretched United’s lead over Huddersfield to 11 points, though David Wagner’s side have a game in hand.
Second-placed Brighton and Hove Albion, meanwhile, lost 3-0 at Nottingham Forest.
But Benitez said: “It’s still only eight points, not 11, because Huddersfield are a good team so they can win that game in hand.
“The players know it is not job done. The Brighton result at Forest proves that. This is a very difficult league and we have to keep going.”