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 By PA Sport

Rafa Benitez: Newcastle must fight until the end for survival

Rafael Benitez has warned his Newcastle players they face a fight until the end of the season to preserve their Premier League status.

The Spaniard saw his side strike late at St James' Park to avoid a seventh successive derby defeat to arch-rivals Sunderland and snatch a 1-1 draw that ultimately did little to improve their situation at the wrong end of the table.

However, Benitez said he remained confident that they can drag themselves out of trouble.

When it was suggested to him that the table -- which shows the Magpies three points adrift of safety with eight games remaining -- looked scary, Benitez said: "It was scary before.

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"I am here because I have to give the team confidence and we have to improve things. Again I will say at Leicester, you could see a lot of good things; still not enough. Today in the second half, a lot of good things; not enough.

"We have eight games to play and we know they will be incredibly difficult. We know it will be difficult, for sure. I knew before.

"We are creating chances, we are attacking and we can be there, so we have to improve this part of the game and create more chances and [Aleksandar] Mitrovic or Papiss Cisse or the other strikers will score more goals and we will be fine.

"But I can maybe say that we will have to fight until the last game and the last minute, so we have to do it."

Mitrovic, who later appeared to be knocked unconscious in an aerial challenge, got Newcastle out of jail with an 83rd-minute equaliser after the Black Cats had opened the scoring when Jermain Defoe capitalised on a good first-half display with a 44th-minute opener.

It was Serbia international Mitrovic's sixth goal of the season, and Benitez is hoping there are more to come.

"I said before that he has the potential. We have to help him a little bit with better crosses, better deliveries and support and get closer to him, but he will score goals if we can do that," he said.

Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce was angry that his side had failed to hold their advantage, saying: "We end up hugely frustrated with a point instead of three, and that makes life again so difficult for us.

"It happened at Southampton and now it's happened here today -- that's four points thrown away.

"I'm a little frustrated about the fact we have not won enough games and again should have won this one and didn't."


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