Andros Townsend demands Newcastle build on their “massively important” victory over Swansea – and says the club can avoid relegation if they win their remaining home fixtures.
Rafael Benitez’s men went into the weekend six points adrift of safety, but emerged having rekindled their hopes of pulling off a great escape after derby rivals and fellow relegation candidates Sunderland did both a favour by winning at Norwich before the Magpies secured a 3-0 home victory over Swansea.
The likelihood is still that two of the three clubs which currently occupy 17th, 18th and 19th places in the table will join relegated Aston Villa in next season’s Championship, but victory over Manchester City – a big ask at the best of times – in their game in hand on the Canaries would lift Newcastle out of the drop zone and increase belief that they can yet rescue themselves.
January signing Townsend played a key role in a crucial win and is now hoping it will provide a springboard for further success.
He told the club’s official website, www.nufc.co.uk: “It was massively important. The games have been running out and we knew that eventually we had to get three points, and we’ve done that now.
“We’ve got five games left and we’ve got to win our home games if we want to stay in the Premier League.
“I think people outside the club wrote us off after the Southampton game, but we knew that four of our last six games are at home, we knew that we had a good record at home and we knew that we were still in with a chance.
“One week later, everything’s changed. Norwich have slipped up, we’ve capitalised and now it’s anyone’s to grab now. Hopefully we can be the team that takes the last five games by the scruff of the neck and does enough to survive.”
Townsend played a key role as the Magpies belatedly handed Benitez his first win on his 56th birthday, delivering the corner from which defender Jamaal Lascelles headed the home side in front four minutes before the break, and then repeating the dose eight minutes from time for skipper Moussa Sissoko to score after Aleksandar Mitrovic’s header had been blocked.
The £12million former Tottenham winger wrapped up the win in the final minute of normal time with his second goal in as many games, but it was the manner of victory as much as the fact of it which gave his team cause for hope.
Lascelles belied his youth and inexperience with an outspoken critique of his team’s performance and character at Southampton last weekend, but the 22-year-old was delighted with the reaction seven days later.
He said: “In this changing room, we need a character because I think we have lacked it – I said it last week, I think we have lacked it a little bit this season.
“I’m young, but I don’t think that matters. I don’t care about experience or anything like that – if you can talk, you can talk, so do it.
“But it’s had a big reaction on the other players and that’s exactly what we needed, so I am really pleased with them.”
Swansea boss Francesco Guidolin was disappointed with elements of his side’s performance, and particularly their vulnerability at set-pieces.
He said: “We work every week with the staff and with my assistant, but it seems to be our destiny this season. When you don’t have a good day, normally if you concede a goal, it’s from a set-piece in this period.
“I have known my team for three months, which is not a long time, but in the future, I’m sure we have the possibility to change this.”