Newcastle boss says ref choice for Preston crunch just wouldn’t happen in Spain

Rafa Benitez. Picture by Frank Reid
Rafa Benitez. Picture by Frank Reid

Rafa Benitez says Newcastle United questioned why a Huddersfield-born referee had been appointed to officiate the club’s crucial game against Preston North End.

Andrew Madley will officiate Monday night’s match at St James’s Park.

Second-placed United are seven points ahead of Huddersfield Town in the Championship, though David Wagner’s side have a game in hand.

A win over Preston would be enough for Newcastle to secure the division’s second automatic promotion spot if Huddersfield fail to beat Fulham at the John Smith’s Stadium this afternoon.

The decision to allocate the game to Madley by the EFL has been questioned by supporters.

And United manager Benitez said he was “surprised” that Madley – who has officiated three previous Newcastle games this season – had been handed the match.

“In Spain, this thing doesn’t happen when you have a referee from a city that is more of less close in the table,” said Benitez.

“Normally they don’t referee those games.

“We were asking (the EFL), and they say that they are happy with that and we have to carry on.

“We don’t have any problem. We will do our best to avoid a situation that nobody will understand.”

Benitez added: “We are not complaining about the referees in press conferences or interviews or whatever. We have something to say and the fans will realise we try to do what we have to do.”

Benitez has been angered by a number of refereeing decisions and performances in the Championship.

Keith Stroud disallowed a Matt Ritchie penalty at St James’s Park earlier this month and awarded Burton Albion a free-kick, and not a retake, after a number of players encroached into the box.

And Steve Martin sent off Jonjo Shelvey and Paul Dummett in December’s defeat to Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.

Benitez, however, says he still “trusts” officials, despite Newcastle’s experiences in English football’s second tier this term. “We have to trust the referees,” he said.

“We have not had a lot of luck with them. I always trust the referees, and hopefully everything will be fine and we are not talking about the referees at the end of the game.”

Benitez is hopeful that Ciaran Clark, fit after a knee problem, will strengthen his defence for the final promotion push.

“Those who came in have tried and some have done well and as a team we have made mistakes,” said Benitez.

“Always when you have players coming back from injuries, it is good news for us, because the competition increases.

“It’s one more option, and this is always good.”