Before Saturday’s game we had lost our previous two championship games – a shock 1-0 defeat at home to Blackburn and a 2-1 loss at Nottingham Forest.
That last game is best forgotten because the referee cost us the game with a pathetically biased performance against Newcastle.
He sent off two of our players in the first half and gave two penalties to Forest – both of which were saved by Karl Darlow.
Those two red cards for Jonjo Shelvey and Paul Dummett were quickly overturned by the FA on appeal and that game blemished certainly the name of the Championship for it’s very poor officiating.
Rafa Benitez – send out good message after the win on Saturday
So it was bad week when we also think of the defeat at Hull on penalties in the League Cup in a game we had every opportunity of winning.
Brighton beat Leeds United at home 2-0 on Friday night to go 2 points above us at the top of the Championship so it was important we won the game on Saturday.
It was a great 4-0 win against a good Birmingham side and Rafa Benitez said this after the game:
“It was a bad week so we needed to put things right by scoring goals and playing good football which we did.”
“So there were a lot of positives from this game with players performing at a very good level which is what we expect.”
“The players – they knew we needed to perform and to do well, we were talking about the fans and trying to play well from the beginning to keep the fans behind the team.”
“They realised it was an important game in terms of changing things.” “We didn’t mention the Brighton game to be honest, the aim is to get three points whenever we can and then see where we are in the table.'”
“The league is a long, long race.” “In April we have seven games, in May you have one so it’s eight games and 24 points to play for from April onwards.”
“So let’s keep on doing the right things and if we are higher than the other teams, fine but we have to keep doing the right things.”
“We know how competitive this division is and how good Brighton are.” “We have to be consistent, you know you can make mistakes but we have to be consistent if you’re fighting for the title.”
“I said to him he was too honest when he said about him sleeping too much since he’s been here.”
“Sometimes players, media press, fans think the players have to score goals but sometimes it’s just about working hard and getting to the level that you know they have.”
That’s a really good balanced message from Rafa.
It is a long brutal season and we still have 26 games to play and we have seen teams like Huddersfield and Norwich get into bad runs and quickly drop down the table.
So we cannot get overconfident even if we are at the top of the league.
On the other hand if we do falter there are lots of games to make a comeback in.
The key is what Rafa keeps saying – take very game as it comes and simply try to win it.
It’s worked so far and the lads on Saturday showed they are made of the right stuff with a great performance when it really mattered.
It was a great 3 points and helped our goal difference which is now +25 and the best in the division and 16 goals better than third best Fulham, who have a goal difference of 9.
Here’s the top six in the Championship with Derby County making a move having won six games in a row with five clean sheets.