Who will step up in goal for Newcastle United with Dubravka out?

Karl Darlow of Newcastle United. (Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images)
Karl Darlow of Newcastle United. (Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images) /

Will Karl Darlow or Mark Gillespie start in place of an injured Martin Dubravka for Newcastle?

Recently, we wrote an article about the uncertainty behind Martin Dubravka at goalkeeper. The Slovakian is the clear-cut number one option and there are some question marks behind him with Karl Darlow and Mark Gillespie. Now, one of those two will need to step up early in the season with Dubravka expected to miss time due to an injury.

According to The Chronicle, Pavel Hapal, who manages the Slovakian national team, mentioned that Dubravka will miss Slovakia’s upcoming Nations League matches and a potential timeframe of six to eight weeks. Today, the club confirmed he will be out to start the season due to a heel injury. Newcastle United’s first Premier League match comes on 9/12 against West Ham United, right in the middle of that timeline for Dubravka being out. Will Darlow, the known quantity, assume the role of starter early in the season, or will Steve Bruce turn to newcomer Mark Gillespie?

Darlow and Gillespie both featured in the friendly win over Crewe Alexandra and neither allowed a goal. They will surely split the reps against Barnsley and Middlesbrough coming up, too. Then, it will be time to move from friendlies to the English top flight and the decision between two backup goalkeepers.

For Darlow, it’s often about the big blunder. He’s been known to make great saves, but that’s offset a lot by a complete howler that allows a soft goal. He didn’t stand up too well in cup matches last season either, conceding six combined goals to Rochdale, Oxford United, and West Brom.

Gillespie enters the season with no previous experience in the EPL, playing the past couple of seasons in Scotland and in League Two with Walsall before that. He finished third in the Scottish Premiership with 11 clean sheets in 2019/20. But, the Premier League is a different animal.

The one thing that could benefit Gillespie is that he’s been a first-choice keeper, getting consistent matches, every season since 2012/13. Granted, most of those were in League Two, but it’s still a positive thing. Darlow started 10 Premier League matches for Newcastle in 2017/18 before Dubravka arrived, but he’s been stuck with backup/cup-only duty since.

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Bruce will likely turn to Darlow, the player that has experience against the clubs Newcastle will face during Dubravka’s absence, unless Gillespie is miles ahead during this preseason. No matter who starts between the two, it will be a massive drop-off from Dubravka, Newcastle’s 2019/20 Player of the Year.