Dawson full of praise for players after emphatic derby victory
Written by Dan King
Ben Dawson hailed his Newcastle United under-23s players after they produced a five-star show to thrash local rivals Sunderland at St. James' Park on Monday night.
Goals from Owen Bailey, Cal Roberts, Luke Charman (2) and Elias Sörensen gave United a 5-0 victory against the Black Cats, and it was a fitting result for a dominant display.
Skipper Bailey led by example to open the scoring before Roberts added to his strike in the first game of the season against West Bromwich Albion with a well-taken second before the break.
And United were even better in the second period, playing some wonderful football in front of 3,381 as Durham-born Charman grabbed a brace and Danish teenager Sörensen completed the rout.
"We had probably a five-minute blip at the end of the first half, which I wasn't best pleased with, but for 85 minutes of the game I thought we were terrific," coach Dawson told nufc.co.uk.
"Everything that we'd asked of them pre-match - focus, intensity, enthusiasm - and then the quality on top of that, I thought was evident for really large spells of the game.
"It was a perfect night for it in terms of the atmosphere, the pitch, everything about the night - and then the performance just made it extra special.
"We said last year when we played them in the Premier League International Cup it was about the game and not the occasion. It's important that you have passion and you compete, but at the same time you have to have game intelligence and I thought we got a good balance of that tonight.
"I thought it was the best I've seen Luke Charman for a long time. I thought Sean (Longstaff) worked his socks off. We asked him and Luke to play a little bit closer than they did on Monday (in the 1-1 draw at West Brom) and I thought they combined well.
"The wide lads - Callum (Roberts), Tommy (Allan), Adam (Wilson) made a difference when he came on - were backed up solidly by the two lads in the middle, the two centre-backs and the full-backs joining in when they were needed.
"We have got good competition for places, a good honest group, and they all seem to have a desire and a hunger to improve and be better."
Liam Gibson was injured in the warm-up and replaced in the starting XI by Lewis Cass. Gibson has undergone four operations over the last couple of years after he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, and played for 89 minutes on his competitive return to action last week.
He was visibly upset when it became apparent that he would not be able to continue his comeback against the Black Cats, but Dawson explained: "He just took a knock on the back of his leg in the warm up. He wanted to try and carry on but it was our decision as staff - and more so mine - to have the bigger picture in mind and think longer term.
"He was obviously disappointed - it's a big game, his first home game back, all that - but he needs to think longer term, as do we, and we just had to make sure we looked after him."
Shortly before the game, it was announced that Steve Harper, the long-serving former Newcastle goalkeeper, had taken up a new role as Lead Academy Goalkeeping Coach with the club.
And while Freddie Woodman enjoyed a quiet evening against the Wearsiders, Harper would have been pleased with a clean sheet in his first match in the job.
"Steve will be a great addition to the coaching staff," said Dawson. "He's got good experience from having played the game for a long time but also he's spent time learning his trade, a little bit away from here and more recently back at the club, so he will add something else to the coaching staff."
"It's important that you have passion and you compete, but at the same time you have to have game intelligence and I thought we got a good balance of that."