United secured a vital three points and all but secured a return back to the top flight thanks to Huddersfield’s late defeat at home to Burton as we ground out a victory against a Wigan side heading the other way.  Rafa only made one change from the starting line-up at Birmingham a fortnight ago, bringing Gayle back in for Murphy and the side looked fresher for their breather in the early stages as took the game to the visitors early on with no real efforts on target to show.  Shelvey in particular looked a yard quicker and most of our forward momentum early on came from him, his best effort coming as he drove onto a one-two before firing at the keeper from outside the area.

As has been the case for most of the season at SJP, our periods of possession were interspersed with nervous moments as the visitors broke forward but for the most part, Lascelles and Hanley looked in control at centre half.  Still, as the half drew on, we looked to be short of ideas before we took the lead with ten minutes to go before the break.  Diame, who up to that point had been very poor again was the architect, sweeping over a fine ball across the box that Gayle could barely miss from six yards out to put us ahead.  A good time to score given that we were labouring at the time, to quell any grumbles going into the break.

Ritchie's shot rebounds off post and he is about to run onto it and head ball in to make it 2-1The momentum didn’t last though and we were pegged back shortly after the restart.  Jacobs levelled for the Latics with a composed lob over the onrushing Darlow but if the finish was clever, the defending leading up to it certainly wasn’t as we opened up with alarming ease through the middle.  The equaliser rattled us and for a while, Wigan got on top and created a couple of good chances to take the lead, the most notable of which saw Colclough shoot right across the face of goal.

The nervousness didn’t last long though as we regained the lead through our man of the match, Matt Ritchie shortly before the hour mark.  He first fired a shot that the keeper somehow managed to tip onto the bar but sheer determination saw him win the follow up to plant a header across the goal into the back of the net before celebrating before booting the corner flag up in the air.  The winger’s attitude has been first class this season and his endeavour pulled the team along at times today.

Wigan never really offered anything after the winner and we brought on three subs with Atsu, Hayden and Perez all entering the fray.  We could have finished things off late on when Ritchie seemed to be clearly chopped down in the area but the referee looked like he didn’t want to make a decision and the appeal was waved away.  The game fizzled out after that, aided in part by thousands of fans mystifyingly leaving well before the final whistle but when it came, it was greeted with the knowledge that we’re all but there now.

Performances aren’t important in any way at this stage of the season, nor is the goal difference.  All that matters now is getting across the line and, nine points clear with seven games to go, it looks like we are going to do it at a canter.  All of which will make the season a resounding success.  For me, it’s time to relax and acknowledge that and enjoy what remains of a promotion season.  Hopefully it will be the last for a while, so let’s all chill out and make the most of these last few weeks, eh?

Keep the Faith

Newcastle United  – Darlow 6, Anita 5, Hanley 6, Lascelles 7, Dummett 6, RITCHIE 8, Colback 6, Shelvey 7, Gouffran 5 (Hayden 6), Diame 5 (Atsu 6), Gayle 7 (Perez 6)

Ref – Coote – 5 – We’ve had worse but that’s damning with the faintest praise

Our Fans – 6 –Alright on the whole but why would a quarter of the stadium empty when you’re a goal up in a vital game with five minutes to go for fucks sake?  Were 10,000 wives imminently going to give birth at the RVI?  What can be so important?

Their Fans – 3 – Shite, as always.  About to settle back at their level. 

GARETH HARRISON – Follow Gareth on @truefaith1892

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