Karl Darlow had a long wait for his chance at Newcastle United.
And the goalkeeper has made a big impression in a short space of time since getting an opportunity.
It was a stunning strike from Andros Townsend that gave the club 1-0 home win over Crystal Palace last weekend.
And the result lifted United out of the Premier League’s relegation zone ahead of tomorrow’s game against Aston Villa.
“I have to take the chance and finish well in the next two games,” said Darlow.
“We need to stay in this league.”
You need a run of games, especially as a goalkeeper, just to get your eye in. But I never had any doubt I could play at this level.Karl Darlow
The Palace victory owed as much to Darlow’s heroics in goal, with the 25-year-old having saved a penalty from former Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye.
Darlow’s chance came early last month after Rob Elliot was ruled out for the rest of the season with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, the same injury suffered by Tim Krul in October.
Asked if he felt it was his time to shine after so long in the shadows, Darlow said: “In a way, I felt like that, yes.
“I have trained hard all season.
“As a footballer, and a professional footballer, it’s your job to go in to work every day and work hard.
“Sometimes, it pays off, and days like (against Palace) are special.
“Hopefully, all that hard will hard work will pay off for me and we can see this through.”
Darlow’s only previous Premier League game had come in the 1-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion in late December.
The former Nottingham Forest player, signed in the summer of 2014 in a joint deal with defender Jamaal Lascelles, was at fault for the goal.
Darlow – who was loaned back to Forest last season along with Lascelles, who also came to the fore last month – left the The Hawthorns in silence.
And he had to quietly wait for another chance in goal.
That opportunity came when Elliot suffered his knee injury playing for the Republic of Ireland.
Darlow – who knew he had a lot to prove at the club – quickly impressed on his return to the side at Carrow Road, where Newcastle were beaten by an injury-time goal.
Another defeat to Southampton followed, though the losses would have been heavier had it not been for Darlow.
“You need a run of games, especially as a goalkeeper, just to get your eye in,” said Darlow, who is backed up by the highly-rated 19-year-old Freddie Woodman.
“But I never had any doubt I could play at this level.
“It was one of those situations where I needed to get an opportunity, and now I have to take it.
United manager Rafa Benitez quickly got behind Northampton-born Darlow after Elliot’s injury.
Darlow said: “He has been brilliant. He’s tactically very, very good.
“It is well known he is an unbelievable manager.
“There’s a lot of respect from the players for what he has done in his past.
“Everyone is listening to his thoughts about what he wants us to do on the pitch.”
Meanwhile, Moussa Sissoko has spoken of his “pride” at captaining Newcastle.
Benitez handed the midfielder the captain’s armband last month when he left stand-in skipper Jonjo Shelvey out of his starting XI.
And Sissoko will lead the team out against Villa knowing a win could see the club have its destiny back in its own hands – if Sunderland fail to beat Chelsea at the Stadium of Light.
“I’m lucky that since I’ve been captain we’ve won some games and drawn some games, so that’s good for me, for the team, for everyone,” said Sissoko, who made his United debut at Villa Park in January 2013.
“When you have the armband, you have more responsibility in the team, so I know that I’m an important player for the team and I need to give everything.
“Even at the beginning (of the season) when it was hard, I tried to help my team-mates.
“Now we are in a good moment, so we need to keep going until the end.
“We have two games left, and it won’t be easy, but if we do it I’m sure we will stay up.”
On the honour of captaining Newcastle, the 26-year-old added: “You can ask everyone – if a player has the armband he will be happy, because that means a lot for the player.
“It also means that the manager believes in you, and that give you a lot of confidence, which is good.
“I’m very proud to be captain of this team.”