All roads appeared to lead towards the end of February for Newcastle United.
Once the Brighton match was rescheduled due to the FA Cup involvement of both clubs, facing three of the promotion contenders away from home within a week, always had the look potential disaster.
To beat the two closest challengers and then seemingly finish off Reading’s challenge for good with a very decent draw, was the stuff of dreams for Rafa Benitez.
Yes Rafa Benitez has won La Liga titles and the Champions League but your next challenge is always the most important.
Rafa keeps saying that a week of poor results can change everything. He wasn’t wrong.
Despite all the positives so far this season, the top six/seven of the Championship would have looked like this, if Newcastle had lost all those three away matches within that seven day stretch:
62 Sheffield Wednesday
That is how it would have looked with 10 games remaining to recover the situation, with Huddersfield and Fulham each having a game in hand as well.
Newcastle fans would then have been looking at these upcoming fixtures for a potential recovery, rather than hopefully putting this automatic promotion race to bed.
The next four matches see NUFC up against Fulham (home), Birmingham (away), then consecutive matches at St James Park against Wigan and Burton.
A team/squad that can put that run of results on the board against Brighton, Huddersfield and Reading, will have massively let themselves down if they don’t now take advantage of that hard work by finishing the job off.
Rafa Benitez keeps talking about hard work, focus, guarding against complacency and so on – little wonder that he has created a positive atmosphere that has very very rarely allowed Newcastle to have two bad performances/results in a row this season.
It is this professionalism that is the biggest asset Rafa has brought to Newcastle United – long may it continue and let’s finish this initial job off and start to look forward once again.