Dawson impressed by Checkatrade Trophy run
Written by Luke Vinton
Ben Dawson is hoping United's second string can continue their strong form in the Checkatrade Trophy when they face Sunderland on Tuesday night.
The young Magpies are unbeaten in the competition after topping Group G with three wins before defeating Macclesfield Town on penalties to book a Northern Section quarter-final spot aginst the Black Cats' senior side at the Stadium of Light.
With 16 teams remaining, the Academy squad are joined by Manchester City and Chelsea as the only under-21 sides left in the tournament, aiming to reach the quarter-finals and go within two rounds of a Wembley final.
And, with an unbeaten record so far, Dawson highlighted that his side have well and truly deserved their place in the knockout stages.
"It is a great achievement to get through the group stages with three wins, and beating Macclesfield," Dawson told nufc.co.uk. "I think knowing you can play well and what your capabilities are and how to perform breeds confidence on the back of good results and performances.
"The point we try to stress all the time is that you can't control the result but what you can control is the effort, hard work and trying to do the right things. Nine times out of ten when you do that, the results will come off the back of it.
"We're really pleased in getting through to this stage unbeaten and being the only under-21 side to do that in the competition."
This season, Newcastle have faced away trips at Doncaster Rovers, Notts County and Grimsby Town, which Dawson feels has been beneficial for the players in gaining much-needed experience.
"The tournament has been terrific for the players' development," Dawson said. "We've had some really tough games and, as much as there has been speculation around how much teams are valuing the competition, I don't believe for one second that a manager would send out his team to get beat.
"All the teams we've faced have put out a team and tried to play to win and, in that respect, it has been valuable for our lads to come up against some seasoned professionals who have played at a high level.
"It is important for the group to get that mix, in terms of their development alongside the league competition, which is a lot stronger than people think.
"Some of our toughest games this season have come in Premier League 2 and adds another layer to the development which the lads seem to thrive in, especially playing away from home. We've mentioned the St. James' Park effect and how big the stadium is.
"Of course, Sunderland's ground is big too and there'll be a good crowd there but there is something about playing away from home which we seem to like as a team.
"Hopefully, the team can do themselves justice on the night."
It has been three years since United last faced Sunderland's senior side and the Magpies will be backed on the road by 2,800 away supporters, a following which Dawson believes could play a key part for the youngsters.
He added: "I think the support shown for the game has been terrific. We've had good support in the group games away from home and against Macclesfield at St. James' but now, because of the opposition, it has risen to another level.
"I think it will be a very good experience for the lads to play in front of a noisy away support who are one of the best in the country when you look at the first-team games when there are thousands of people there.
"They're all you can hear so I think they'll be looking forward to getting their support and hopefully then can help to spur the players on towards a good result.
"The players have done really so far in the tournament to get to this stage and we're in good company in terms of the academy sides left in the cup and also the league teams.
"We're three games away from Wembley and the competition can give teams a good opportunity to give their fans something to cheer about and something to look forward to.
"Including ourselves at times, we didn't think we'd do as well as what we have done but all the credits go to the players, who have had to turn up and play on the big stage."
Tuesday night's game will be shown live on NUFC TV. Read more here.
"There'll be a good crowd there but there is something about playing away from home which we seem to like as a team. Hopefully, the team can do themselves justice on the night."