Steve McClaren says his previously-fragile Newcastle United team must become unbreakable if it is to stay out of the relegation zone.
A goal from Ayoze Perez, and a superb performance from Rob Elliot, saw the club beat Bournemouth 1-0 on Saturday.
We had a certain fragility about us early on in the season, but we stuck in there and we’ve got to take belief from it.Steve McClaren
And the result meant Newcastle climbed out of the bottom three after a two-month spell in the drop zone.
While Newcastle were dreadful with the ball at the Vitality Stadium, McClaren – who feels his team was too “fragile” earlier in the season – was heartened by the “character and fight” in his ranks.
Asked if it as important psychologically to be out of the relegation zone, he said: “Yeah, we’ve said that in the dressing room.
“I said at half-time we need character, fight and grit to win and to keep a clean sheet, and that’s what we had.
“We had a certain fragility about us early on in the season – with the West Ham game early on – but we stuck in there and we’ve got to take belief from it.”
Thanks to Elliot’s heroics, Newcastle have now kept clean sheets in successive games.
“You need clean sheets,” said McClaren. “You don’t win any games unless you can keep clean sheets, and we got a point (against Stoke City) because of it – we should have won – and we’ve gone and won.
“For us, clean sheets are the most important, because we have the players, and that quality, of those players who can score goals.”
Captain Fabricio Coloccini – who has struggled for form this season – was the pick of United’s back four.
McClaren added: “I thought he was excellent. When we needed him, he was there.
“We caused our own problems, giving the ball away cheaply, but in the end we got the blocks and the headers and they missed opportunities, and the saves saved us again.”