Rafa Benitez on another big positive from Newcastle’s win at Preston

Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez

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Rafa Benitez says it smells like team spirit at Newcastle United – after a seventh successive win.

Benitez’s side lead the Championship table by three points ahead of Saturday’s home game against Cardiff City.

Newcastle beat Preston North End 2-1 on Saturday to maintain their advantage at the top of the division.

Aleksandar Mitrovic netted both of United’s goals at Deepdale.

But it wasn’t Mitrovic’s finishing which pleased Benitez the most, it was the spirit that saw his team through a difficult game.

Asked what he took from the game, Benitez said: “In general, the team spirit.

“The workrate of the team, the organisation was fine, so you cannot avoid one or two situations where you are under pressure and make a mistake or they take advantage.

“But in terms of the organisation of the team, how they were working, the understanding of what they had to do, it was quite good, especially at the beginning of the second half.”

Benitez felt his team was disciplined and determined against a team looking to avenge last week’s 6-0 EFL Cup loss at St James’s Park.

“It was not easy because they were pushing and pushing, so we needed to defend well,” said Benitez.

“We couldn’t keep the ball on the floor or pass it in the way we wanted to, because they were pressing all the time and they were very, very physical.

“In the second half, as soon as we scored the goal, then we had more space and we could be a threat on the counter-attack.

“You could see when we scored the second goal that, for me, we were closer to scoring a third goal than they were to scoring.

“But then they scored and we were suffering in the last minutes, but sometimes it’s like this.”

Preston had a penalty appeal turned down, and struck the post, in added time.

Meanwhile, goals from Sean Longstaff and Yasin El-Mhanni gave Newcastle’s Under-23s a 2-0 win over Middlesbrough in a Premier League 2 fixture at St James’s Park last night.

Longstaff and El-Mhanni netted in the first half for Peter Beardsley’s side, who moved up to fifth place in the Division Two table.