Karl Darlow picked the ball out of his net three times on his return to Newcastle United’s starting XI – but the goalkeeper couldn’t have been happier when he left the field.
Darlow made his first Championship start of the season in Wednesday night’s home game against Norwich City.
He just named the team in the dressing room, so I didn’t have a clue I would be playing until about 90 minutes before kick-off. It was one of them that I just knew I had to prepare like I have been for every game and that my chance would come.Karl Darlow
And Rafa Benitez’s side found themselves 3-1 down in the second half.
Darlow could do little to stop Norwich’s three goals, which included a penalty and a deflected shot, and he feared it would be “one of those nights”.
But Dwight Gayle quickly pulled a goal back.
And Gayle and Yoan Gouffran both netted in injury time to give Newcastle a remarkable victory over Alex Neil’s previously in-form team.
Darlow had been recalled to Benitez’s team in place of summer signing Matz Sels, who had deleted his Twitter account last weekend after being abused by a small number of fans in the wake of the club’s 1-1 draw against Aston Villa.
The 25-year-old – who has experience of the Championship from his time at former club Nottingham Forest – was only told he would be starting 90 minutes before the match.
“He just named the team in the dressing room, so I didn’t have a clue I would be playing until about 90 minutes before kick-off,” said Darlow.
“It was one of them that I just knew I had to prepare like I have been for every game and that my chance would come.
“To be honest, I thought it was going to be one of those nights. When we ended up 3-1 down, I was just thinking ‘no, any night but this one’.
“I was delighted to get the opportunity, even if I had to pick the ball out of my own net three times!
“I’ve been training hard, kept my head down and thankfully the gaffer’s given me a game. Long may it continue, hopefully.”
Gayle had four good chances to score before finally opening the scoring in the 24th minute.
Norwich, however, fought back strongly after going 1-0 down, and Darlow, for his part, felt Newcastle “resilience, passion and determination” late in the game when the visitors were seemingly on their way to an away win.
“It was an unbelievable game,” said Darlow. “The fans certainly got their money’s worth!
“For the first half an hour, we absolutely battered them, but we should have been 3-0 or 5-0 up and completely out of sight.
“Then their goals ... one was a penalty, one was a deflection and the other one was a brilliant finish into the far corner, so they’ve gone 3-1 up out of nowhere.
“But we showed resilience, passion and the determination to never give up.
“We’ve got immense talent in this team, which we know will get us a long way, but to know we’ve got the fight and desire to get us back into games like that is going to stand us in good stead for the Championship.”
United were frustrated at the break not to be leading given their early dominance.
Asked about the mood at half time, he said: “It was good actually.
“We just kept telling each other to keep going because we were making a lot of chances and continuously getting in front of goal.
“We hit the bar twice and their goalkeeper’s made a great save, then out of nowhere they’ve ended up 3-1 up.
“But to turn it around in the end and come away with a 4-3 win is just a magnificent result, and it’s vital that we build on these three points going forward.”
The result saw Newcastle move up to third place in the Championship.
“It’s an absolutely huge win,” said Darlow.
“We’ve just got to make sure we stay in and around it at the top of the league and then make sure we go on a very good run at some point like we know we can.
“We’ve already won six on the bounce this season, so we’re all confident we can do that again, and that will then propel you right up the league.
“Now we need to get a good bit of momentum behind us, start racking up wins behind us, then it will really will put us in a strong position.”
Benitez’s side take on basement club Rotherham United at the New York Stadium this afternoon.
“If we pick up another three points at Rotherham, then it will be seven points from the last nine given that we got a point against Villa and then turned that Norwich game around,” said Darlow.
“Again that will put us right up there and you never know what teams in and around you are going to do because in this league anyone can beat anyone.
“It’s a tough league, we know Rotherham will offer a different threat and we have to make sure we don’t go there being complacent and thinking that they aren’t as good as Norwich.
“This is a new and different challenge for us.”