Rafa Benitez has made no secret of his wish to bring a new goalkeeper to Newcastle throughout this season, but the issue continued to bemuse some fans in last month’s transfer window.

The Magpies were in clear need of creativity and a goal threat and so, with Karl Darlow finding form, surely the recruitment of a new number one could wait until the summer?

However, on Sunday, against Manchester United, Martin Dubravka showed exactly why this signing was so key to Rafa and the team.

The Slovakian international arrived on loan – with an option to buy – on deadline day from Sparta Prague, and made his debut in the big win at St James’ Park.

Dubravka instantly made the headlines for a string of fine saves, but there was perhaps more to his performance than that, with key elements certain to have grabbed Rafa’s attention.

Darlow, after all, can make brave blocks and instinct stops, but his confidence has waned in the Premier League and, at Crystal Palace a week earlier, he did not command his box with any sort of authority.

The new boy did that and more. Dubravka also showed a superb range of passing – the like of which a Newcastle goalkeeper has not possessed in many a year.

With Dubravka in goal and Florian Lejeune in the centre of defence, Newcastle could play their way out of trouble and keep the ball, crucially relieving pressure late on.

This was in stark contrast to the latter stages at Palace, where Darlow and Clark defended heroically but contributed to a desperate scramble as Rafa’s men consistently failed to retain possession.

Just 11 games from the end of the campaign, it is painful to ponder how many more points Newcastle might have won this term had they been able to call on Dubravka’s calming presence at the back throughout.

And Mike Ashley would do well to note that Rafa looks to have made the right call in the transfer market yet again…

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