By Matt Farr
Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez has admitted he picked goalkeeper Rob Elliot ahead of the victory over Preston on Monday because of his experience.
Elliot had yet to make a single start for the club this season, having lost his place in the first team to Karl Darlow, but was recalled as one of five changes to face Preston at St. James’ Park.
The 30-year-old goalkeeper could not, however, mark the occasion with a clean-sheet; but he would have been glad to have been on the winning side of the 4-1 rout, and witness the club’s return to the Premier League.
In a video shared on Sky Sports’ live match blog on Monday night (19:01), Benitez said: “He has experience, and he has been training well, so we gave him an opportunity.”
The Republic of Ireland international was Newcastle’s undisputed No.1 in the Premier League last season, making 21 appearances before his season was cut short with a knee injury.
He remained sidelined throughout the first few months of the current campaign, making his return for the reserves on December 12, but faced a prolonged wait to regain his place in the first team.
Elliot’s injury saw him fall behind both Darlow and summer signing Matz Sels in the pecking order, with Darlow having appeared in each of Newcastle’s last 34 Championship appearances.
The sudden decision to axe Darlow with just two games remaining, however, left Newcastle fans stunned on Twitter before the game.
But any doubts in the minds of fans were swiftly forgotten as Newcastle sealed their promotion to the Premier League with a comfortable victory.
In other Newcastle news, the club have joined the race to sign this £12million-rated Premier League ace.