Benitez’s side had to hold out for a victory after a late Jermaine Beckford goal meant there was a nervy finish to the game, but says the players can take heart in how they performed in three key areas. He told the Shields Gazette:
“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.”
The Lilywhites were keen to make amends for the 6-0 defeat they suffered at the hands of the Magpies in midweek, and the league match was a much closer affair.
Despite the Serbian’s goals, it is not certain he will start against Cardiff City on Saturday if top goalscorer Dwight Gayle manages to recover from a hamstring injury.
Benitez has been insistent that he won’t change formation to accommodate the pair and it looks likely the two will have to fight it out for the sole striker role over the course of the season.