Newcastle United boss Rafael Benitez has admitted that he expected his team to have already secured promotion to the Premier League at this stage of the campaign.
The Magpies currently sit six points clear of third-place Reading in the Championship table, but a recent stutter has allowed Brighton & Hove Albion to move clear at the summit.
Newcastle will actually enter Monday’s home game against Preston North End having won just one of their last four in the second tier of English football.
Benitez has claimed that his team ‘were expecting to win some of the games in their hands’, but failing to win when in control has prevented the Magpies from already sealing a return to the Premier League.
Benitez told the Chronicle Live:
“We were expecting to win some of the games in our hands, especially Leeds. We played really well and we were there. We were winning, had 22 attempts and some very clear chances.
“That is something you can’t control, and why football is so special. Sometimes you have to give credit to the other teams. Sometimes you make mistakes, like against Leeds.
“And the other day against Ipswich we didn’t play at the level we are used to playing – especially away as we have a very good record.”
“But you have to give credit to another team when they push and push. If you make mistakes they will take advantage of that and you pay.”
After hosting Preston on Monday, Newcastle will finish their 2016-17 Championship campaign with a trip to Cardiff City on April 24 and a home game against Barnsley on May 7.