Belfast Telegraph

Mikel Merino urges Newcastle to keep fighting for each other

Match-winner Mikel Merino has told Newcastle they can achieve their dreams if they continue to fight for each other.

The 21-year-old Spaniard headed the Magpies into the top six on Saturday evening in a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace on a day when hard graft and tenacity made up for their shortcomings elsewhere.

They have collected 14 points from their first nine Premier League games and sustaining that kind of return would ensure their continued presence in the top flight long before the final few weeks of the season come around.

Merino, who completed a permanent move to St James' Park from Borussia Dortmund earlier this month, knows there will be many twists and turns along the way, but is convinced that Newcastle have the character it will take to get themselves across the finishing line.

He told NUFC TV: "It wasn't the perfect game to watch for the fans, but we know they appreciate our effort and the way that we run, we fight together and at the end, we had our three points.

"We know we haven't done anything yet, but we have to keep working like that and I am sure really good things will come."

Palace, who arrived on Tyneside having belatedly launched their season with a 2-1 home win over Chelsea, enjoyed the better of the game with former Magpie Andros Townsend and last weekend's hero Wilfried Zaha repeatedly stretching the home defence.

However, Rafael Benitez's misfiring side held firm and when substitute Merino got his head to Matt Ritchie's 85th-minute corner to score his first goal for the club, the home fans had something to celebrate.

Merino said: "I'm not used to scoring a lot of goals, so always when I can score and help the team, it's incredible.

"It's the best moment because I have signed a new contract here and that's the way to celebrate it, even better with the three points."

At first view, Merino looked to have made solid contact with Ritchie's delivery, although replays later showed marker James McArthur had headed the ball on to him.

He said with a smile: "I haven't seen the replay yet, but someone told me it was lucky. It doesn't matter, every goal counts."

Palace boss Roy Hodgson headed south a frustrated man, but encouraged by what he had seen.

He said: "The encouragement is the work these players are putting in on a weekly basis day-to-day - apart from the one day we have off - on the training field, I am definitely seeing the signs of them understanding what we are trying to do. I believe I see them improving at the way we are trying to play.

"We are getting some players back - Zaha, of course, it's a massive boost to have him back playing for us, [Christian] Benteke is not so far away before he maybe comes back as well.

"There are signs on the horizon that our squad will get stronger with players who, of course, have got recognised Premier League ability, which we didn't have, I suppose, when I first came to the club."

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