Newcastle boss Eddie Howe has urged his players to use their FA Cup derby victory over Sunderland as a springboard for the second half of the season.
The Magpies ended a run of seven defeats in eight games in all competitions with a resounding 3-0 third-round win at the Stadium of Light on Saturday to get the better of their arch-rivals for the first time in 10 attempts dating back to 2011.
A place in the fourth round presents the prospect of a run in a competition which has assumed ever greater importance for the club following their exits from the Champions League and Carabao Cup in December.
Asked if they could use the win as a launchpad, head coach Howe said: “Well, hopefully. That’s how we have to look at it.
“Naturally when you don’t win for a period of time, confidence can be affected. Our players are the same as any others.
“Today will have done them the world of good. We’ve not just won the game, but we’ve performed well, we’ve scored goals, we’ve kept a clean sheet so all round, it’s a very good day.”
Victory over the Black Cats was significant – it was a first in the FA Cup under Howe after third-round exits at the hands of League One sides Cambridge and Sheffield Wednesday in the last two seasons.
Asked about the prospect of a cup run, Howe said: “We’d love that. The third round has not been kind to us the last couple of years, two difficult moments for us.
“But as I said in the build-up to the game, those moments actually helped us grow. Now we stand here and we know we needed to win today, so we’re delighted to do that and yes, we’d love a run in the FA Cup. It’s an important competition now for us.”
The hosts frustrated Newcastle until 10 minutes before the break, when defender Dan Ballard turned Joelinton’s cross into his own net, and they contributed further to their own downfall when Miguel Almiron robbed Pierre Ekwah to set up Alexander Isak for the second before Ballard handed the Sweden international the chance to double his tally from the penalty spot after barging Anthony Gordon to the ground.
Asked about the white-hot derby atmosphere, Howe said: “I don’t think it was too dissimilar to Milan, to PSG and other places we’ve been this year, so I think those experiences probably helped us.”
Opposite number Michael Beale was philosophical after a defeat he hopes can help aid his side’s bid for promotion from the Sky Bet Championship.
He said: “Let’s be honest, there was a gap between the two teams when we arrived at the stadium today and at the end of the day, we’ve tried to close that gap over 90 minutes and we weren’t able to do that.
“My young team must really be honest with themselves, the staff, the players, everyone at the football club about today because then I think we’ll improve and we can use it in our Championship form for the games we’ve got coming up.
“But the big thing for us is being honest and not hiding away from the fact there is a gap.”