Nick Pope brushed aside his Carabao Cup penalty shoot-out heroics against Crystal Palace after helping Newcastle to maintain their momentum as they approach the World Cup break still in dreamland.
The 30-year-old saved spot-kicks from Luka Milivojevic, Jean-Philippe Mateta and Malcolm Ebiowei as the Magpies prevailed 3-2 after a 0-0 draw in front of a record League Cup crowd at St James’ Park of 51,660 on Wednesday evening to book their place in the last 16.
In the process, they extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 10 games with a fifth successive victory ahead of Chelsea’s Premier League visit to Tyneside on Saturday evening, after which football’s attention will turn to Qatar.
A delighted Pope said: “Any goalkeeper will tell you that it is no bad thing winning a shoot-out.
“You see the optimism around the club, selling out a third-round cup tie. The way the team is playing at the moment it was important for us to carry our momentum forward and have the next round to look forward to.
“We wanted to be in the hat.”
Pope was Newcastle’s star on a night when head coach Eddie Howe made eight changes and saw his reshuffled side struggle to recreate the fluency which has taken the club into third place in the league.
He made a superb first-half save from Mateta to deny Palace, themselves featuring six changes, an early advantage, although his big moment did not arrive until after the final whistle.
As he and opposite number Sam Johnstone walked towards the Leazes End ahead of the shoot-out, “Nick Pope, in the middle of our goal” rang out around St James’, the melody borrowed from the chorus to Madness’ Our House.
The song was released almost 10 years before Pope was born; it is a measure of the Magpies’ hunger for tangible success that lead singer Suggs did not enter the world until more than five years after Newcastle won their last domestic trophy, the 1955 FA Cup.
The England goalkeeper said: “From our point of view, we are just happy to get through in a bit of an ugly game, not many chances either side really and a difficult game to play in.
“Before the game, we spoke about finding a way and, yes, luckily we found that way.”
Vieira said: “The positive is we have a really clear idea about the way we want to play the game regardless of the players on the field.
“We showed a lot of discipline, we showed quality at times and I’m pleased because players we didn’t play a lot played fantastically well – you look at Sam in goal, you look at [James] Tomkins, you look at Luka and Will Hughes in the midfield – I’m really pleased with the attributes they had in the game.
“Of course, it’s a difficult place to come, but managing not to concede a goal, to perform like that, I’m really pleased with what we showed.”