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Newcastle snatched a marginal win over Derby County at the St. James Park on Saturday evening as an intense Championship title race which saw them leapfrog Brighton on top of the log table continued.
The Ram’s manager, Steven McClaren, was returning to the Magpies’ home ground for the first time in almost a year after his sack, and he could have left with a point in a game where Newcastle weren’t the most dominant in both halves.
The home side wasted no time in trying to find an early goal once the first whistle sounded, and they finally did via Ritchie having made some few attempts prior to the 27th-minute opener.
The winger, who has now scored 4 goals in the last 3 Championship fixtures, hit through an Aleksandar Mitrovic pass which deflected off Bradley Johnson into the net having left Scott Carson with no chance to make a save.
Newcastle came closer to adding 2nd, with the best chance falling to the Serbian striker who could only blast his effort from 8 yards wide after Ritchie’s header left him unmarked and under no pressure whatsoever in front of goal.
Derby County’s highest goalscorer, Tom Ince, then squandered a glorious chance to draw the Rams level, as he alarmingly hit an Abdoul Camara cross which had left him unmarked wide with the goal at his mercy 10 minutes from time.
Yedlin’s goalline clearance on a Darren Bent’s header following the visitors’ corner late in added time then saved the day for Newcastle, allowing Benitez’s side temporarily move 2 points clear at the top, now one point ahead.
Here is how the Toons are rated:
Some nervous moments when dealing with the crosses saw him drop a ball that was quickly cleared by Hanley, but he was on hand to make few impressive saves that proved vital in the end.
An improved performance from the fullback whose intervention with a goalline clearance saved the day.
Sat back too much and hardly launched any attack.
Made things hard for Ince.
Replaced Lascelles in the lineup and was excellent all along at the back.
Had a decent game in the middle as he didn’t play any stray pass until an injury forced him out.
Kept Bent quiet, made vital defensive interventions and dealt excellently well with the crosses.
Another commanding performance from deep midfield that allowed him to control and dictate the pace of the game.
Another dismal outing from the French winger, from whom, much more is expected.
Flopped both on the wing and in center forward.
Dropped deep in the 2nd half and wasn’t as effective as the first half when he ran the show and helped the side put in one on their best opening 45 minutes performances.
Notched his 11th goal of the season, and though it was a lucky strike, it highlighted his brilliance in the final third.
Missed 2 clear-cut chances that should have sealed an earlier victory but his hold-up play was second to none.
Had very little impact upon his introduction.
Rating: Not Available
Rating: Not Available