In a defiant interview from the NUFC winger, Matt Ritchie believes it is “harsh” to suggest we have not been clinical enough this season – however has admitted that we must become more ruthless in front of goal if we want to consistently win close encounters in the top flight.
Against Bournemouth on Saturday we had 16 efforts on goal, but failed to score from any – hitting the target on just 4 occasions.
As it turns out, Dwight Gayle’s first half goal should have stood, however our limitations in the final third have been exposed in the last two games – seeing us fail to score against both Burnley and Bournemouth.
Ritchie, who faced up against his former club on Saturday, has defended our ability in front of goal following the ‘harsh’ criticism that has followed our latest defeat, saying the following in his latest interview since the game:
“I think it’s a bit harsh to say we haven’t been clinical enough,”
“You’re playing against top defenders, some of the best defenders in the world, and you have to work hard for your chances.
“It would be wrong to say we haven’t been clinical enough. Each to their own, everyone will have their own opinions.
“But my opinion is that, yes, it would be nice if when you create a chance you score a goal, but it doesn’t always work like that.
“You’re playing against top defenders and it’s so quick out there – you’re not going to score with every chance you create.
“You have to continue to create chances, and hopefully the more chances you create, the more goals you will score. That’s what we will continue to aim to do.”
The winger then defended our first half performance on Saturday, stating we were unfortunate not to go in ahead at the break:
“I think we performed really well in the first half. We were good off the ball, and we were good on it too,” Ritchie added.
“I was a little bit disappointed not to score. Asmir’s obviously made a fantastic save for the first one. I couldn’t see him, so it was impossible for him to see the ball. So he’s pulled off a really good save.
“With the second one, I’ve just set it off a little bit too far outside the post, and it’s not come in enough and hit the post. That could have been a defining moment, but it wasn’t to be.”
Finally, Ritchie restated the importance of us creating chances in the first place, believing we must continue to work hard and overcome the small margins that can sometimes come back to bite you in the Premier League:
“I think it’s positive that we’re creating and getting into goal-scoring areas though. We need to continue to work hard in the week and perform well because with good performances comes points.
“We created some good chances, but then in the second half you saw a reaction from them. We became a little bit stretched, but that’s the Premier League for you.
“They’re a good side, and it was always going to be a tough game. It’s a horrible way to lose in the last minute, but we’ll go again.
“I think that just shows how tight the Premier League is. We’ve won a few games like that already this season, and it just shows that the small margins are massively important.
“Sometimes, it just comes down to who can take their chances. In this league, you’ve got to do something really special just to create a chance.
“It wasn’t a bad performance. You can’t look at it and say we’ve lost and we haven’t performed well. If we continue to perform the way we played in the first half, we’ll pick up points for sure.”
He makes a good point here. If Gayle’s goal had stood, it could’ve been a totally different game and result.
It doesn’t defend our second half performance, but does highlight just how games small margins like this can make or break a game in this division.
As he says, it’s a disappointing result, but ‘we’ll go again’ and hope for some better performances and more positive results in the weeks and months to come.