Newcastle 2-1 Wigan: Toon edge closer to promotion
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 03/04/17 12:26am
Newcastle moved a step closer to making their Premier League return by defeating relegation-threatened Wigan 2-1 at St James' Park.
Striker Dwight Gayle struck his 22nd goal of the season nine minutes before half-time but Wigan cancelled that out when Michael Jacobs levelled early in the second half.
But Matt Ritchie headed Newcastle back in front in the 57th minute and that was how it remained to move Rafael Benitez's side closer to promotion.
The win saw Newcastle end a three-match run without a win and preserve a point lead at the top of the Championship, and crucially, they are now 10 ahead of third-placed Huddersfield after they lost to 1-0 at home to Burton.
Wigan's chances of avoiding the drop were hit once again despite encouraging signs under the interim guidance of Graham Barrow.
Newcastle looked full of intent in the opening moments when Jonjo Shelvey made a bursting run from deep and had a shot blocked from distance. Wigan settled after that and the home side did not have it all their own way.
Despite a pre-match gap of 44 points dividing the two teams at either end of the Championship, Newcastle found it difficult to test goalkeeper Matt Gilks even though leading scorer Gayle was leading the line again after Daryl Murphy missed out.
Wigan, with it all to do if they are to avoid dropping back into League One, initially made it hard and the nearest the home side had come to scoring before the opener was when Shelvey struck a couple of hopeful efforts from distance.
Just as it seemed Wigan might get to the break level, Gayle struck and he had Mohamed Diame to thank for picking him out with nine minutes remaining of the opening period.
Ritchie found Diame on the right and the Senegal international turned towards the byline and delivered a cross to the back post where Gayle was on hand to convert first time.
It remained that way until half-time and Wigan, who had not recorded a shot on target in that period, had done enough to be still in it, with Newcastle hardly free-flowing in the opposite direction.
And things got better for the Latics immediately after the restart. Newcastle started nervously and the visitors made them pay by pulling level when Jacobs got in behind Jamaal Lascelles before chipping Karl Darlow.
Big Wigan defender Dan Burn and Jacobs went close to putting Wigan ahead soon after too, but it was Newcastle who edged back in front with 33 minutes remaining.
Ritchie had seen his initial half volley hit the woodwork and when it rebounded back to him he cleverly headed back into the net from a difficult angle.
Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez:
"The main thing was to get three points. We knew it was difficult, watching Wigan against Aston Villa we knew they do well. This mini league we have of eight games is now seven and we have won the first, the other teams have made mistakes so we have to concentrate on ourselves.
"The league table for us is that this is three points for us in the league. It was a win, I have to be happy. I would like to score five goals and be amazing, but at the moment we showed character, good reaction and personality to manage the situation.
"We can improve on a lot of things, but we do a lot of things well. But when you see Huddersfield losing or Brighton winning 1-0 it shows it is not easy."
Wigan interim boss Graham Barrow:
"I'm disappointed with the result. At 1-1 I thought we were in with a chance. They got the rub of the green on the second goal. But if we can play like that we have got a chance (of staying up).
"I do think Newcastle are (destined to go up). The teams that are at the top have that little bit of quality that tells on the day. That can unlock the door for them. This is a fantastic place to play football. I know they were under a bit of pressure we hoped to turn the fans against them, but it wasn't to be."