Mohamed Diame’s admitted that Newcastle United simply weren’t good enough at Hillsborough.
Rafa Benitez’s side were beaten 2-1 by Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday.
Now, it’s nearly the end, so it doesn’t matter if we have plenty of games or not. We just need to give everything. It’s the last part of the race, and we just need to be there.Mohamed Diame
And the result has left Brighton and Hove Albion two points clear at the top of the Championship.
Newcastle are 10 points clear of third-placed Huddersfield Town ahead of the Good Friday fixture at home to Leeds United.
The game is followed by a visit to Ipswich Town on Easter Monday.
Diame – who fired Hull City into the Premier League last season with a goal against Wednesday in the play-off final at Wembley – says Benitez’s players must do whatever it takes to get the club over the line.
“Now, it’s nearly the end, so it doesn’t matter if we have plenty of games or not,” said the midfielder.
“We just need to give everything. It’s the last part of the race, and we just need to be there.”
Diame – one of the few players prepared to speak to journalists after the Wednesday game – labelled the defeat a “massive disappointment”.
More than 3,000 United fans at the Leppings Lane end of the stadium saw an error-riddled performance from the team.
Huddersfield’s 2-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest at the City Ground earlier in the day had seemingly presented Newcastle with a big opportunity in South Yorkshire.
But second-half goals from Tom Lees and Steven Fletcher saw off United, who rallied late in the match.
“It’s a massive disappointment,” said the former Senegal international.
“We had a big opportunity to get back at the top of the league, and it was a big disappointment for everyone.
“We have a week to recover and think about the next game, which is a massive one at home.
“The team have to stay focused and stay confident.
“We’re still in a good situation.”
Newcastle have the joint-best defensive record in the Championship with Brighton, having conceded 35 goals in their 41 games.
But Benitez bemoaned the “mistakes” his team made all over the pitch at Hillsborough.
Lees met a free-kick with a header, while former Sunderland striker Fletcher nodded a long throw-in past Karl Darlow.
“We knew they had big players who are good in the air like Fletcher,” said Diame.
“It was just a bad game. Sometimes that happens.
“The most important thing is to have a reaction at home.”
Diame’s midfield partner Jonjo Shelvey struck the crossbar with an audacious shot from the halfway line late in the first half.
And Shelvey gave United hope with an 88th-minute goal after Wednesday goalkeeper Keiren Westwood parried a shot from substitute Aleksandar Mitrovic.
“In the first half they started very well,” said 29-year-old Diame, who retired from international football last month to concentrate on his club career.
“We didn’t have a good first half, but the second half was a little bit better.
“It wasn’t enough. I think it was a bad game for lots of us in the team.
“In this league, you have to give everything every single game. It’s going to be tough until the end.”
Diame says everyone associated with Newcastle must stay calm during the run-in as the team is still in control of its own destiny.
United need a maximum of nine points from their remaining five games to secure automatic promotion.
Huddersfield are at home to Preston North End on Easter Friday.
“Not only the fans, but everyone at the club, I think, has to stay calm,” said Diame.
“We’re going to give everything to try to win this league. It’s not going to be easy, but we’re still fighting.”