Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez praised his players for their hard work after what he described as an important 1-0 win at Huddersfield.
In a contest that saw the hosts boss possession and have more efforts on goal than the Magpies, what proved the winner came in the 55th minute when Salomon Rondon’s strike finished off a break.
Newcastle – a day after it emerged they had cancelled their Christmas party – celebrated a first win in four matches and only their fourth victory all season as they rose a place to 14th in the Premier League table, six points clear of 18th-placed Huddersfield.
Benitez said: “I am really pleased with the three points today.
“We played against a team we knew would be on the front foot from the beginning, would be pushing, would be high and would leave so much space, and then we have to exploit that.
“The idea was to try to exploit the space we had behind, be dangerous on the counter attack and defend well against a team that physically is very strong and they were making crosses, throw-ins, corners and free-kicks.
“You have to defend everything, and we did it.
“It is quite important for us. We know they are a good team, that they work really hard and will do it from the beginning until the end of the season. We have to do the same.
“To get three points here, to keep them a little bit far away, means we have done one step forward but this is just one small step. Still we have to play so many games.
“It is important to focus on the next one (against rock-bottom Fulham at home next Saturday). It is really important for us to keep performing and keep working as hard as today.
“It is an important win because we are playing against a team that is close to you, and then obviously we feel the pressure, they will feel the pressure too.”
Summer signing Rondon has now scored four times in his last six Newcastle appearances, and Benitez added: “The main thing for the strikers is if you can create chances for them. If you can attack and make sure they have some good chances, they will score goals.
“In this case, Salomon is working really hard for the team. When you are the striker, you are isolated there, you have to fight on your own against everyone, and he did a great job and finished with a great goal.
“I think he is doing what we were expecting. He is a striker with experience in the Premier League. He can score goals but also hold the ball and give us some time to go forward, especially when you play away.”
Huddersfield, two points adrift of safety, have now lost four matches in a row.
Terriers boss David Wagner, whose side had taken seven points from the three games prior to that, said of this result: “Harsh and disappointing after the performance the players have shown.
“I’m not worried (about recent results), it’s only disappointing. We lost our momentum with the Brighton game (the first of the four losses), which was very unlucky.
“We have spoken a lot about this and now it’s all about us to pick this momentum up again. I think the last four performances, where we conceded defeats, were all on a very good level.
“It’s all about us, only we can change it and this is the most important thing. We have to believe that we are able and that we are competitive and capable of doing it, that we can turn this.”