Obviously, it was a long week for Newcastle fans, following the lack of action in the transfer window and the mind-boggling draw at home against QPR that featured a 90th minute own-goal. Going into the weekend, you had a sense that pressure was on for the Magpies to silence the critics.
It was not a dominant looking score line, but Newcastle certainly looked the better outfit and proved to be a constant threat throughout the match. Matt Ritchie continued his excellent scoring run when his deflected, looping attempt gave Newcastle the lead midway through the first half and Rafa’s group never looked back.
Ritchie clearly looked very solid with the game’s only goal, but Mo Diamé had a good outing as well, creating some chances and working the keeper early. The backline for Newcastle bounced back in a big way after the debacle against Rangers on Tuesday. DeAndre Yedlin might have made the play of the match clearing a header from Darren Bent off the line. On the whole, the group held Derby to just two shots on target and walked away with a 1-0 victory.
The one concern is that the goal scoring from the strikers has slowed down immensely since the injury to Dwight Gayle. In only one of the Magpie’s last five matches did a striker score and that was the 4-0 romp against Rotherham a fortnight ago.
What made the win against Derby even better was the fact that Brighton had a chance to reclaim the table lead on Sunday, but drew with Brentford 3-3 keeping Newcastle a point clear.
The next three games for the Toon will be very telling. They head on the road to Wolverhampton and then take on Norwich away before a return home against Aston Villa. Newcastle split it’s two games with Wolverhampton this year, 2-0 a piece, squeaked out a win against Norwich at home and drew away at Villa so this is not going to be an easy stretch. Taking seven of nine points would be huge, and you know that Rafa will have everyone focused on extending this lead now that they have it.
After the week Newcastle had, this was the weekend they needed.