By Adam Shaw
Rob Elliot made his first appearance of the season as Newcastle United recorded an emphatic 6-2 victory over Norwich City on Sunday.
The Republic of Ireland goalkeeper demonstrated a safe pair of hands and could do nothing about the goals conceded as Newcastle got their first win of this year’s Premier League campaign.
The Magpies were under pressure following their poor start to the season, which had left them rock-bottom of the table.
But four goals from Dutch midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum set them on their way to an impressive win which sees them leapfrog Aston Villa and arch-rivals Sunderland.
Elliot has been given the chance to impress due to first choice keeper Tim Krul’s season-ending knee injury.
St James’ Park was dotted with banners in support of Krul and there were certainly some supporters who questioned his replacement’s credentials before the match.
But as Elliot sprinted towards the Gallowgate End before kick-off, he was met with a huge roar suggesting that the majority of the Toon Army was firmly behind him.
A frantic first half saw him beaten twice, though he could hardly be held accountable for the goals.
Dieumerci Mbokane, on loan at Norwich from Dynamo Kiev, reacted quicker than Newcastle’s defenders to prod home from Martin Olsson’s low cross.
And the Irishman was let down by his defence once more when an unmarked Nathan Redmond volleyed in his fourth league goal of the season.
Former Premier League striker Chris Sutton admitted that Elliot had “no chance” with these efforts but for the rest of the match, the stand-in keeper proved to be reliable and assured.
He displayed good handling skills to pluck the ball out the air from a couple of Robbie Brady free-kicks and showed few signs of nerves when forced into routine saves.
And the former Charlton man made one particularly eye-catching stop on 71 minutes when he blocked a goal-bound header from the lively Mbokani.
He suffered a small cut on his head late on after an elbow from former Magpie Sebastien Bassong but recovered to see out the remainder of the match.
The headlines will understandably go to Wijnaldum for his four-goal salvo but it was nonetheless a solid performance from Elliot in between the sticks.
The Republic of Ireland international has had a tough time at St James’ Park since he was signed by Alan Pardew in 2011.
Prior to the weekend, he had made just 21 competitive appearances and although he said he was determined to wait for his opportunity to come, it seemed another difficult season lay ahead.
This opportunity has come sooner than expected following Krul’s injury and Elliot has made an encouraging start to his time as Newcastle’s new go-to keeper.