What impressed Paul Heckingbottom most about Rafa Benitez's Newcastle team

Paul Heckingbottom

Paul Heckingbottom

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Paul Heckingbottom has paid a glowing tribute to Newcastle United – and Dwight Gayle.

Heckingbottom's Barnsley team were beaten 2-0 at Oakwell last night.

Gayle – who once played against Heckingbottom during his time at non-league club Bishop's Stortford – netted both Newcastle's goals.

“I remember playing against Dwight when he was at Bishop’s Stortford, and he was a hard player to contain," said Heckingbottom.

READ MORE: Rafa Benitez: Newcastle fans have been amazing – I feel their passion and support
"I can’t remember whether I played centre-half or left-back against him, but I can remember he was quiet for most of that game and still ended up scoring two goals too.

"He was good, but that’s what you pay for isn’t it? His goals. We were prepared for that, so from our point of view, it’s disappointing that two lapses of concentration cost us the game. That was the difference."

Heckington was particularly impressed with the "graft" from Benitez's team, who had beaten Rotherham United in their last away game.

"They gave us absolutely nothing during the game, even though we worked our socks off," he said.

"We went toe-to-toe with them, even though they’re at the top of the league, and we were grafting and working for everything we could.

"But they gave us nothing. They were having to graft and work as hard as us to get anything, but the two goals were lapses in concentration on our part.

“I’ve been impressed with the way in which this Newcastle team has proved it’s prepared to dig in and work in order to get a result.

"It was a similar story at Rotherham, although I watched that game and with respect to Rotherham, I thought we had a right go at them even more than they did. They gave us nothing.

"They matched our effort and endeavour, and ultimately they’ll be over the moon with their result. We’re disappointed with the goals we conceded because we would have loved to have given them nothing, like they gave us nothing."

Heckingbottom didn't offer any excuses, despite the gulf in spending between the two clubs.

“You can’t hide behind the excuse that they’ve spent more money than us," said Heckingbottom.

"We know we can win in this league. That’s what we have to take on board, and rise to that challenge. They’ve got quality all over.

"They took three really good players out of their side, and brought three really good players in. But that’s the situation we’re in, and it doesn’t mean we can’t compete. On another day, we might have got something."