Newcastle boss reacts to 'tough' Sunderland draw ahead of Checkatrade Trophy derby
Newcastle United U21 boss Ben Dawson believes his side will face a 'tough' test against Sunderland in the Checkatrade Trophy.
But he knows his young side will be relishing the chance to impress at the Stadium of Light.
Saturday's draw for the last sixteen of the competition saw the bitter rivals paired together, with just three games separating the duo from a date at Wembley.
Dawson's side have brushed aside Notts County, Doncaster, Grimsby and Macclesfield en route to the second knockout round, but will face their toughest test yet against the Black Cats.
And Dawson is well aware of how tough a game it could turn out to be.
“Obviously, they are doing really well at the moment in terms of their league form, and it’ll be a really tough game," he admitted, speaking to Newcastle's official website.
"I think, as much as we’d love to play at St. James’, we’ve been a little better away from home.
“I think the lads are really looking forward to it.
"As much as it’ll be a tough game, it’ll also be a great experience for a young group of players, and one that they can savour.
"I’d imagine it’ll be a decent crowd, as well."
This won't be the first time a young Newcastle side has travelled to Wearside.
An under-23 line-up headed to the Stadium of Light last season and triumphed on penalties - and Dawson will be giving a similar pre-match message to this year's crop of youngsters as he looks to deliver a similar result.
“When we played against Sunderland’s Under-23s in the (Premier League) International Cup last year, it was ‘play the game, not the occasion’, and this will be very similar for us," he added.
"We’ll approach it like we do any other game. We’re not going to do anything special or drastically change anything just because it’s Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
"We’ll be really consistent in terms of how we approach it and what we do in the build-up to it.”