Karl Darlow’s hoping to start the season between the posts for Newcastle United.
No 1 Tim Krul and Rob Elliot are still recovering from their long-term knee injuries.
And United manager Rafa Benitez must choose between Darlow and summer signing Matz Sels at Craven Cottage on August 5.
Darlow was outstanding in the latter part of last season after Elliot, like Krul before him, ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament.
The 25-year-old has experience of the Championship from his time at Nottingham Forest, and he gave Benitez a timely reminder of his ability ahead of the Fulham game in Tuesday night’s win over Southend United.
Darlow denied David Mooney late in the game, which saw Darlow – who hopes to also feature against Vitesse Arnhem at St James’s Park this afternoon – make his first 90-minute run-out of pre-season.
Matz is good competition,” said Darlow. “We’ve got some very good goalkeepers now. It’s going to be a fight all season for who’s going to be playing.Karl Darlow
“I knew I needed to play,” said Darlow.
“It’ll stand my in good stead, hopefully, for Saturday against Vitesse.
“Then we’ll see what happens going into the season.”
“It’s been good for me. I’ve come back and been very good.
“I’ve worked hard, and I’ll keep working hard with Simon (Smith, United’s goalkeeping coach).”
Benitez also has England Under-19 international Freddie Woodman at the club, and the goalkeeping department is arguably the strongest at St James’s Park.
Sels, signed from Gent, was rated as the best goalkeeper in Belgium’s top flight last season.
“Matz is good competition,” said Darlow. “We’ve got some very good goalkeepers now.
“It’s going to be a fight all season for who’s going to be playing.
“When I get a chance, I just need to put my mark on a game and hopefully that’ll be enough to start the season.”
Darlow got his chance in April after Elliot suffered his injury playing for the Republic of Ireland.
The Northampton-born player quickly settled into the team as it battled to stay in the Premier League.
The experience underlined to Darlow, used to being first-choice at the City Ground, the importance of being mentally ready to play.
“I wasn’t really expecting what happened last season,” he said.
“Attitude-wise, you really have to stick with it and grind through when you’re not playing.
“When you are playing, you need to make sure no one takes the shirt off you.”
The Southend fixture was chosen by Benitez as an ideal one to prepare Newcastle for the rigours of the Championship. United ably coped with their aerial balls and counter-attacking football, and won 2-0 thanks to goals from Vurnon Anita and Yoan Gouffran.
“It was a different test for us,” said Darlow.
“A lot of the pre-season games have been about working around the back and playing through midfield, but this was a lot more route one from them, if you like.
“We stood up to it really well. We were solid and won a lot of headers.
“They didn’t really trouble us, and on the breakaway we had some decent attacks and scored two very good goals.”
On his save from Mooney, Darlow added: “It was a good one, it was just a reaction save.
“It was nice, because it was late on my first 90 minutes of pre-season.
“It was good finish with a nice save and keep a clean sheet.”