'Keeper woes for struggling Magpies

LONDON • Newcastle United's relegation battle took another blow after Rob Elliot's injury left Karl Darlow as the only fit senior goalkeeper in the squad.

Darlow, 20, who has a single, unhappy top-flight appearance to his name, will start away to Norwich City tomorrow in a game that could have significance for both clubs' hopes of survival.

Newcastle have 25 points after 30 games - three points adrift of 17th-placed Norwich, who have played a game more. New Magpies manager Rafael Benitez, searching for his first win with the Tyneside club, will hope his team can end their five-game winless run.

Benitez spent Wednesday badgering his worldwide contacts to find a free-agent goalkeeper who may sign a short-term contract for Newcastle's final eight games but he has had little success.

Elliot was already deputising for the injured Tim Krul, who has been sidelined since October with an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

Benitez's only other alternative is to play Freddie Woodman, 19. The England Under-19 international has potential but the Spaniard will not risk destroying a young player's confidence.

Elliot, meanwhile, attempted to stay positive even though his Euro 2016 hopes appear to have been dashed, making plans to watch his Ireland team-mates with friends this summer.

Having ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during the early stages of Ireland's 2-2 draw with Slovakia on Tuesday night, Elliot learnt that he will be absent until September or October.

"It's tough to take but I just have to get on with it. When I found out it was my cruciate ligament, that's when the tears came," he said.

"There was a wave of emotion knowing I'd miss the rest of the season and the Euros."

Newcastle legend Alan Shearer lamented the cruel nature of football at times, writing on Twitter that Elliot had been the club's "best player this season by a mile".

Elliot averaged 2.8 saves per game this season and kept four clean sheets despite playing behind a woeful defence.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 01, 2016, with the headline ''Keeper woes for struggling Magpies'. Print Edition | Subscribe