Scotland winger Matt Ritchie fired up to avoid costly booking '“ and ban '“ in Newcastle promotion push
Matt Ritchie is determined to let his feet do the talking '“ and stay out of the referee's notebook.
The Newcastle United winger is a yellow card away from a two-game ban.
And Ritchie, set to face Huddersfield Town this evening (5.30pm kick-off), must avoid a booking between now and April 9 to avoid an automatic suspension.
The 27-year-old, tireless and tenacious, plays on the edge. But Ritchie believes most of his bookings could NOT have been avoided.
“People say I get booked for dissent, but I’ve only been booked two or three times for dissent this season, and they have been silly ones when I’ve been in the referee’s ear,” said Ritchie.
“Most have been for tackles. I’ve just had to be careful, just little things in the game where you might sometimes takes a risk and put your foot in. I’ve had to concentrate on staying on my feet a bit more.
“Obviously, I have been aware of it, but I try to concentrate on playing the game and enjoying my football.
“I’m not good at watching football, I prefer to be out there.”
Summer signing Ritchie has been an influential figure on the pitch for Rafa Benitez this season.
The Scotland international hit a superb pass from his own half for Newcastle’s winner against Brighton and Hove Albion on Tuesday night.
Ritchie played a crossfield ball for Christian Atsu, who squared the ball for Ayoze Perez to score, as Newcastle’s 2-1 win took the club back to the top of the Championship.
Asked about the pass, Ritchie said: “It was a pleasing one – the goal at the end of it makes it ‘that pass’.
“Jonjo (Shelvey) has probably hit five or six of them this season, but, because they haven’t ended in a goal, they probably don’t stick in the memory as much.
“It was pleasing, because it was an important game, and it was a defining moment.
“I’d say it was as pleasing as any goal I’ve scored.
“It was a good goal all-round, and I thought the performance all night, even though we were 1-0 down for the majority of the game, was very good.
“We were probably on top in the second half. Once we equalised, if any team was going to win it, it was going to be us.
“It was very pleasing to have an impact on the game, but it was a great touch from Christian and a great finish from Ayo. It was a great team goal.”
Having beaten Brighton, United are looking to maintain, or even stretch, their eight-point lead over third-placed Huddersfield.
And Ritchie knows a defeat would undo some of their good work at the Amex Stadium.
“It would, but that’s this league, and that’s football,” said Ritchie.
“We’re aware of that, and defeat is not what we want.
“To be honest with you, I’ve not even thought about defeat. We’re going there thinking about winning the game. Every game in this league is a tough task, and Huddersfield will be no different. They’re on a good run, but so are we.
“We’re top of the league, and I’m sure they will be wary of us going there, and rightly so because we’re a good side.
“Hopefully, we can go there and perform as we have been, and get three points.”
On his own form, Ritchie added: “I am very pleased with how I have been performing.
“I remember saying a few months back that there’s not many players who go through an entire season playing at the top of their game all the time.
“There is going to be dips in form, and when there is, you just have to grind it out, dig in and just keep believing.
“It’s been pleasing to get back on the scoresheet and contribute. I’ve enjoyed my football all season, even when I haven’t been contributing as much as I would have liked, but I want to keep contributing now.”