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Stephenson vying for Villa victory in Premier League 2 finale

Written by Luke Vinton

Dylan Stephenson is hopeful Newcastle United Under-23s can end their Premier League 2 campaign in winning fashion ahead of Monday's trip to Aston Villa (kick-off 12.30pm BST).

The young Magpies travel to Villa Park ahead of their penultimate match of the 2021/22 season, with Elliott Dickman's side facing Blyth Spartans in the Northumberland Senior Cup final at St. James' Park on Thursday night. 

Stephenson, who signed his first professional contract with his boyhood club last summer, admitted the squad were left frustrated after failing to secure a Division Two play-off spot following Monday's 4-2 home defeat against Southampton. 

"We're looking forward to the last league game of the season," the Blyth-born 19-year-old told nufc.co.uk. "We want to finish on a high because we've been on a poor run of form lately so we want to finish as strongly as possible.

"We had a very good chance of getting into the play-off spots, having games in hand over teams around us in the table, but we threw it away with four defeats in a row which was disappointing. Other teams have taken their opportunity and we've not been playing as well as we'd like.

"It's still been a good season for us. We've reached the (Northumberland Senior) cup final and just missed out on the play-offs, getting more points than we did last season (25) which has been pleasing.

"We can learn a lot from this season. Most of us have now had our first season at under-23 level and we can take those experiences into next season, hopefully doing better and getting into the play-offs."

With two games remaining this term for United's second-string, Stephenson will be aiming to build on his impressive goal tally, with the teenage striker currently on 15 goals across all competitions at under-23 level, including 12 league strikes.

The attacking forward, who received a Premier League 2 Player of the Month nomination in August after scoring five times in his opening three matches, has relished his maiden campaign with the young Magpies.

"I think I've had a great season," he added. "Unless the last couple of games change it, I've finished as the club's top goalscorer which is always a happy achievement. That was an aim at the start of the season, which it has always been for me.

"I was 18, turning 19, during this season and to score 15 goals this season and 12 of those being in the league has been great. I've been playing against opponents two or three years above me, which has been a great experience. 

"It's always good having those challenges because it improves you as a player and it's a good feeling to finish as top goalscorer." 

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