Matt Ritchie’s “character” and “ability” have helped take Newcastle United to the brink of a Premier League return, insists team-mate Christian Atsu.

Scotland international Ritchie has now scored 16 goals this season, as well as contributing seven assists, and has netted the Magpies’ winner in successive matches against Wigan Athletic and Burton Albion.

And Atsu is delighted to play alongside Ritchie because the 27-year-old makers “life much easier” for his team-mates.

“He is a great player,” Atsu said of Ritchie, who curled in a magnificent second-half winner against Burton on Wednesday after seeing his penalty controversially and wrongly disallowed before the break.

“He has good finishing - he can finish with the right or the left.

“I am also happy to play in the same team as him.

“It makes life much easier for the other players - he can win games on his own for us.

“Having players like Matt and Dwight in our team we are very happy.

“We sometimes swap sides - the manager tells us to do that.

“Sometimes you need to do that to change things.

Newcastle have already mathematically secured the minimum of a play-off spot this season, and the league leaders head to fellow promotion-chasers Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday.

Atsu insists the Magpies will head to Hillsborough in confident mood.

“We were very happy with the way we played against Burton,” Atsu added.

“We created a lot of chances and eventually got the goal.

“I always believe we would win.

“They were scared to attack us. They were always defending.