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In safe hands?

6 years ago

Newcastle ended their horrific run of 10 months without an away win, as they came back from Bournemouth with all three points. However, once again a Newcastle United victory has aroused more scrutiny than it has delight.

Ayoze Perez’s 27th minute strike was the only goal to separate the sides but the scoreline far from told the whole story.

This was arguably Newcastle’s worst performance of the season. Fans were voicing their disgust at the display, and rightly so, but they did come away with what could turn out to be an absolutely massive away win.

As much as the performance from Newcastle was dire, and at times even non-existent, the 0-1 scoreline is all we should really be caring about in our position.

I’m not saying I’m hoping for repeat performances like this in the future, as we will be heavily punished against more clinical opposition, but give me three points after a bad game over one/no point(s) after a good game (ie, Sunderland and Stoke) any day of the week. We were due some luck.

Regardless of the opinion fans took away after the Bournemouth game, the one overwhelming positive was that performance of Rob Elliot, once which I was thrilled to see.

Since his time at the club, there has always been an immense lack of faith in the Irish ‘keeper whenever he’s been called upon, and I would definitely argue it has been undeserved.

Elliot is a much better stopper than a lot of people give him credit for. His positioning can be questioned, but his reflexes and distribution of the ball (which are fast becoming two of the most important attributes for a modern-day goalkeeper) are excellent.

He did have a shaky start during his debut season in 2011/12 but showed glimpses of the quality he had during the Europa League campaign in 2012/13.

Away at Bordeaux, in a 2-0 loss, Newcastle fielded a very inexperienced side after already guaranteeing progress from the group stages. Bordeaux dominated the game and it could have been a very embarrassing scoreline for Newcastle, if not for a string of fantastic saves from Elliot.

During last year’s Capital One Cup run, Elliot made a superb point-blank reflex save to deny Crystal Palace a late equaliser in the 3-2 ET win at Selhurst Park.

Even in the recent draw with Stoke, where all of the plaudits went to Stoke ‘keeper Jack Butland. Elliot made a brilliant reflex save to deny John Walters from close range. He did well to stay on his toes, especially after having very little to do for the full match.

What makes his man of the match display at Bournemouth even more impressive, was that he was a big injury doubt for the game, due to an ongoing thigh problem.

At the time I thought ‘how unlucky must this guy be?’. The life of a second-choice ‘keeper at a club can be a tough one, you know that realistically you aren’t going to get a great deal of game time. Rob Elliot had his chance last year after Tim Krul picked up a knock, before he himself was injured taking a goal-kick in his first PL appearance of the season at home to Chelsea.

After Krul’s season-ending injury he picked up this campaign, Elliot was again called upon. To get your chance after injuries to your first-choice ‘keeper two years running, only to become injured yourself, must have been devastating.

Despite the thigh problem,  Elliot showed everyone exactly what he is capable of on Saturday.

The Irishman made several excellent saves, the best of which was to deny ex-Magpie Dan Gosling at his far post, plus he was quick off his line to clean up after a mix-up between Mbemba and Anita at the back, and barely put a foot wrong in dealing with the bombardment of crosses into his penalty area.

I do rate Rob Elliot and I was chuffed for him in seeing him do so well, in what has no doubt been a difficult career so far on Tyneside.

I’m not saying the guy is the greatest ‘keeper to have ever lived but I’d certainly say that he deserves a lot more credit than he’s given.

Perhaps now he will after his showing at Bournemouth.

It says it all when thanks to Rob Elliot, Newcastle have now picked up back to back Premier League clean sheets for the first time in a year.

Comments welcome below.

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