(Reuters) - Matt Ritchie struck a second-half winner as Newcastle United survived a Wigan Athletic fightback to win 2-1 and remain a point clear at the top of the Championship, while Rotherham’s relegation was confirmed with a 1-0 home defeat by Fulham.
Newcastle took the lead in the 36th minute when Dwight Gayle netted his 22nd goal of a productive season, but Wigan, who had scored only once in their previous five matches, responded through Michael Jacobs’ dinked effort in the 50th minute.
However, Newcastle have repeatedly demonstrated their resolve in their testing title race this season, and Ritchie restored their lead seven minutes later when he headed home after his initial effort came back off the woodwork.
”We’ve got seven games left and we have to keep on winning,“ Ritchie told Newcastle’s official website (www.nufc.co.uk). ”You’ve just got to have the desire to get over the line.
“We’ve worked hard to get into this position. We just need to continue to work hard, stay focused and keep the same mentality that we have done throughout the season, because we’re in a great position at the top of the league.”
Newcastle remain a point clear of Chris Hughton’s Brighton and Hove Albion, who have 80 points after bouncing back from their 2-0 defeat at Leeds United ahead of the international break to beat Blackburn Rovers 1-0, courtesy of Glenn Murray’s second-half strike.
Brighton’s victory establishes a nine-point gap between them and third-placed Huddersfield Town after their shock 1-0 home defeat by Burton Albion, while Reading leapfrogged Leeds United into fourth after a 1-0 win at the Madejski Stadium.
At the other end of the table, Rotherham’s relegation to League One was confirmed with a 1-0 home defeat by Fulham, who move up to sixth after Sone Aluko scored the only goal of the game.
Rotherham escaped relegation last season, but their latest loss was their eighth on the bounce, and their last victory was in mid-January.
Their defeat to Fulham left them 24 points behind Bristol City in 21st place.
Reporting by Ed Dove,; Editing by Neville Dalton