Karl Darlow says NO player can rest on their laurels at Newcastle United – because of the “incredible” competition for places.
Rafa Benitez’s side recorded a seventh successive win at Deepdale on Saturday.
People are being pushed on to the next level at the moment. Competition for places is incredible.Karl Darlow
And the result maintained the club’s three-point advantage over second-placed Brighton and Hove Albion at the top of the Championship.
Aleksandar Mitrovic, handed a start in the absence through injury of Dwight Gayle, scored both of Newcastle’s goals against Preston North End.
The form of 11-goal Gayle has restricted Mitrovic’s appearances so far this season.
Goalkeeper Darlow – who started the season on the bench – believes the intense competition off the pitch for places is driving the team on when it takes to the field.
“People are being pushed on to the next level at the moment,” said Darlow, who made two key saves in the Preston victory.
“Competition for places is incredible. We’ve got such a good squad that we can hopefully keep rotating and hopefully keep winning games.
“Everyone is pushing to play in every single game with competition fierce, and it’s showing out on the field.
“The lads want to perform and do well out on the field, and long may our run continue.”
United won all five of their October league fixtures and also progressed to the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup.
Asked how important run of games that propelled the club to the top of the division could prove, Darlow said: “Very important.
“As long as we concentrate on ourselves, we know we’re at the top of the table at the moment, and if we keep our focus, and match whatever the opponents can throw at us – or even better that – then we’re in a very good place.”
Preston, beaten 6-0 at St James’s Park in the EFL Cup last week, had the better of the first half at Deepdale.
But they couldn’t beat Darlow, and a well-taken goal from Mitrovic in the 59th minute turned the game.
Mitrovic doubled Newcastle’s advantage in the 71st minute, but a late goal from substitute Jermaine Beckford set up a nerve-wracking nine minutes of added time which saw Preston denied a penalty.
“We knew Preston were going to throw everything at us after Tuesday when we beat them 6-0 at home,” said Darlow.
“We knew it was going to be a different game heading to Deepdale, because teams at the top of the league have been beaten already.
“It was obvious we were going to have to concentrate throughout, and then we got a little bit of luck at the end which saw us get over that finish line.”
On Mitrovic, Darlow added: “He definitely does gee us all up.
“He’s come into the team against Preston in the cup and scored two there, then another two against the same team.
“Obviously, we’ve missed Gayle – who’s been in terrific form as well – but it’s nice to have two strikers scoring goals.
“Then, at the back, we’re complementing them really well by keeping clean sheets and putting in solid performances.”