'Chalk and cheese' - Dawson reflects on Tyne-Tees victory
Written by Luke Vinton
Under-23s coach Ben Dawson admitted he saw a vast difference in halves from Newcastle's second-string despite securing a 1-0 win at Middlesbrough on Sunday.
Tom Allan's second half winner for the young Magpies - a venomous low effort from long range - ended their Premier League 2 campaign on a positive note before venturing into the Division Two play-offs where they will face either Reading or Southampton in the semi-final stages.
Dawson, who believed Newcastle's first half display was below par, was pleased to witness an improved performance in the final 45 minutes to seal maximum points at the Riverside Stadium, taking their points tally up to 40 - three shy of league leaders Wolves.
He told nufc.co.uk: "It was a bit of chalk and cheese in terms of each half. The first half was probably as a result of the warm-up. We had effort but without any real intensity which allowed them to play and dictate the game. We scrambled and relied upon a bit of luck for their chances in front of goal. In reality, Middlesbrough should have been two or three nil up at half-time as we didn't take care of the ball.
"The second half was role-reversal. We tried to fix a few things at half-time and we played with a much better tempo and intensity in the second half, both in and out of possession. We took care of the ball a little bit more and restricted their chances to one or two at the other end and managed to get our noses ahead at a crucial time.
"The goal was similar to the Leeds game in that respect. If you look at it, we didn't really do that in the first half (pressurising the defence) and whether they (Middlesbrough) thought they weren't going to get pressed much, there was that change all of a sudden. No matter who the opposition is, if you put them under enough pressure, they will end up making mistakes and giving you the ball and that is where the chance has come from."
Newcastle's youngsters are on a successful run of five consecutive league wins away from home and will be hoping to add towards the impressive spell ahead of the play-offs, in which Dawson's side are likely to face an away trip.
And after recording back-to-back clean sheets, Dawson feels the manner of their recent victories can play a key part in their attempts to gain promotion to Division One as well as competing in the Premier League Cup final.
He added: "We're now going into a period of one-off games where the result matters and we need to make life easier for ourselves. We've relied on the defenders making blocks and putting bodies on the line along with Nathan (Harker) making saves that he shouldn't have to. We shouldn't be relying on him if we do our job properly from the front all the way to the back, defending as a team. We then got to grips in the second half and made it much easier for ourselves.
"It's nice to have a bit of momentum and to have two clean sheets. That will give us a great chance going into these games. If we can keep a clean sheet again, we'll have a strong chance of progressing and to make something from the season."