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Sunday 18 February 2018

Goalkeeper Karl Darlow hoping to inspire Newcastle to safety

Newcastle goalkeeper Karl Darlow was the unlikely hero against Crystal Palace
Newcastle goalkeeper Karl Darlow was the unlikely hero against Crystal Palace

Unlikely hero Karl Darlow is hoping his moment of inspiration will be remembered as the one which secures Newcastle's Barclays Premier League status.

The 25-year-old's 70th-minute penalty save from former Magpie Yohan Cabaye helped to secure a priceless 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace for Rafael Benitez's side which lifted them out of the bottom three for the first time since February 13 and strengthened their survival hopes.

With two games remaining - rivals Sunderland and Norwich both have three - there are sure to be further twists and turns, but Darlow, who is only in the team because of season-ending knee injuries to Tim Krul and Rob Elliot, knows just how important Saturday's events at St James' Park could prove to be.

Asked if the penalty save was the best moment of his career to date, he told nufcTV: "Hopefully it will be. If it saves us from relegation, then of course it's going to be a big moment for this club.

"I just hope it can prove to be a moment that will be remembered and hopefully we can get out of this mess that we have got ourselves into."

Newcastle knew they simply had to win if they were to stand any chance of getting themselves out of trouble and having seen Palace start well with Cabaye and Yannick Bolasie forcing Darlow into fine first-half saves, they took a 58th-minute lead in spectacular style.

Defender Scott Dann, who had been sick on the pitch just before the restart, sent Andros Townsend tumbling 20 yards out and the £12million January signing dusted himself down before sending a swerving, dipping free-kick across keeper Wayne Hennessey and inside the far post.

It was Townsend's fourth goal in 11 appearances for the club, but it might have been cancelled out within 12 minutes as referee Mike Dean intervened.

The visitors were awarded a corner and as Moussa Sissoko challenged Dann, Dean spotted the ball hitting the Frenchman's hand and pointed to the spot, to the shock of the Newcastle players and crowd, who thought he had awarded a goal kick.

Darlow said: "I was just preparing because I thought he'd given a free-kick to the defending team, so I was waiting to take that. Then I saw him point at the penalty spot and everyone was a bit bemused."

As Cabaye stepped up, Tyneside prepared for the worst, but Darlow guessed correctly, diving to his left to turn the France international's attempt away and spark relieved celebrations.

However, he knows his heroics could count for little if the Magpies do not emerge from next weekend's trip to relegated Aston Villa having repeated the feat.

Darlow said: "That's four without loss now and we move on to Aston Villa knowing it's going to be another tricky game, and that we need to come away from there with three points again."

Palace boss Alan Pardew, who described Sunderland counterpart Sam Allardyce's comments about his players being "on the pop" as "prehistoric", nevertheless admitted that the FA Cup final would inevitably be at the back of their minds.

He said: "In a way with the cup final coming up, it is difficult for the lads to put it at the back of their minds, but the two league games are important and we have to try and improve our league position.

"We have Stoke at home first up next weekend, which is a big game for us in which to try to keep the momentum we have gained with our semi-final win and results before it."

Press Association

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