MATT RITCHIE insists it would be wrong to try to radically overhaul Newcastle United’s playing style, and claims the club have to stick to their current approach if they are to avoid becoming embroiled in a relegation battle in the final three months of the season.

Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace means the Magpies have won just one of their last nine matches, and their tally of 24 goals from 27 matches makes them the joint-lowest scorers in the Premier League.

Steve Bruce’s side are also at the bottom of the pile when it comes to expected goals calculations and possession statistics, and the Magpies boss admitted it was “maybe time to try something different” in the wake of this weekend’s latest setback at Selhurst Park.

However, having replaced Danny Rose as a second-half substitute in South London, Ritchie does not think it is time for a major shift in approach. Instead, the Scotsman maintains he and his team-mates have to continue to adopt the kind of tactics and game plan that earned them a degree of success under Rafael Benitez and that have largely been mimicked by Bruce.

“The results this season have generally been good,” said Ritchie, who was the only player willing to stop and conduct media duties on Saturday night. “We’ve been on some good runs and some not so good runs. Okay, we conceded four goals at Arsenal, but it wasn’t really that kind of game.

“For me, we just have to stick together, stay as we are, and win games the way we have been winning games this season. We’ve been a similar team for the last four years in the Premier League, so we must be doing something right.

“Speak to anyone who plays against us, and they all say we’re a tough team to beat. That’s what we’ll continue to be, and hopefully we can pick up three points through being that.”

This has been a difficult season for Newcastle, with unhappiness over Benitez’s departure coupled with disgruntlement over Bruce’s appointment combining with the ongoing anger over Mike Ashley’s continued ownership of the club to produce a toxic mix.

A fans’ boycott saw attendances drop in the first half of the season, and while it had looked as though things were calming down somewhat as results improved at the end of last year, the last two months have seem simmering tensions once again begin to come to a head.

It cannot be an easy environment in which to flourish, but Ritchie claims the scale of Newcastle’s problems, particularly when it comes to Ashley’s involvement, can often be overblown.

“I don’t feel like that’s (the wider situation) an issue at all,” he said. “In my opinion, the owner stories are just created by the press or whatever. The owner is the owner – we’ve spent money in the last two windows.

“As a team, this is our fourth season in the Premier League now and we’ve had good finishes in the division. You can try to create scenarios or situations, but there isn’t one. We’ve had good finishes in the Premier League, and we’ll continue to try to build, raise the bar, raise standards and get better, individually and as a football club. That’s what we try to do.

“It feels like a long time (since a win) but that’s probably a bit misleading. We’ve just had a break, which we went into on a good run of form. It feels longer than it is because we’ve had a period where we haven’t been playing games.

“It’s only two games. Yes, we’ve not performed well, but it won’t take long for that to change. As long as the lads stick together and have the right mentality, we’ll be okay. We know we’ve got games that hopefully we can take something from.”

Ritchie also defended Joelinton despite Newcastle’s record signing having managed just one league goal all season. The Brazilian, who cost £40m when he was signed from German club Hoffenheim last summer, produced another lacklustre display at the weekend, but Ritchie is adamant it would be wrong to pin the blame for the Magpies’ ongoing lack of goal threat onto just one player.

“All players can score goals on the pitch,” he said. “It’s not just down to Jo. We win and lose together as a team. We attack together and defend together. It’s not down to individuals at all, it’s a collective thing. It’s unfair to criticise any player. No player goes out not to score goals or not to do something. Joey works his socks off for the team.”