Newcastle United’s Steve Harper says clean sheet’s not a priority in Wear-Tyne Derby

Steve Harper insists a victory is his priority on Sunday - not a clean sheet.
Steve Harper insists a victory is his priority on Sunday - not a clean sheet.
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NEWCASTLE keeper Steve Harper would gladly sacrifice a goal or two if meant glory for the team in Sunday’s Wear-Tyne derby, writes GARY FOSTER.

The veteran shot-stopper has kept a clean sheet in his previous two Premier League games.

And while most keepers like nothing better than shutting out opposition strikers, Harper insists he doesn’t mind shipping a few, as long as the Magpies still come away as victors.

Harper said: “People keep saying to me about the clean sheets, but I’ll take a 5-4 win any day. We need to get to a minimum of 40 points as soon as possible and that’s our aim. I’ll take a win however they come.”

As a rule, derby games can be cagey affairs to say the least, but the Easington-born goalie says the visitors won’t be adopting an over-cautious approach at the Stadium of Light.

“We go there to win the game,” he said. “That’s our priority, and if you don’t win don’t lose, but first and foremost we hopefully go there to do the double over Sunderland.”

Harper knows better than most what a derby victory means to either set of fans on the divide.

And he feels that key to success will be matching a Sunderland side, wounded by a 5-1 humiliation at St James’s Park back in October.

“It’s a massive game,” he added. “It takes on extra significance after the result at our place. That was a great day for everybody concerned, and we go to Sunderland knowing they’ll be very up for it to say the least, and we have to make sure that we are, too.

“Both teams are coming into the game on the back of very disappointing cup results, but form goes out the window when it comes to derbies they are a one off and we are looking forward to it.”

Harper is expecting a red-hot atmosphere at the derby clash, and insists that everyone in the Newcastle squad knows how important the game is.

He said: “I’m sure it will be a full house, and it will be extra loud. I’m sure their fans will be roaring them on, and I’m sure the Geordies will make a lot of noise, the ones that are there, encouraging us to go there and get a positive result.

“The foreign players understand what the derby is all about they’ve all been here long enough now to know what it means to our fans so there are no problems in that department.”

Newcastle crashed out of the FA Cup in 3-1 defeat to Stevenage last weekend, while the Black Cats fell at the first hurdle – losing to Notts County.

Harper admits the defeat was a bitter blow, but insists the Magpies can’t afford to dwell on their cup woe.

He said: “Morale has been good in the squad. We’ve had two very good days training, put the Stevenage result to bed Sunday and Monday, and came in Tuesday looking forward.

“There’s no point looking back and it’s a great opportunity for us to bounce back on Sunday lunchtime.

“What started a great week with six points in four days ended up with a disappointing cup exit, but that’s history. There’s no point in looking back, we have to look forward to what is a massive game on Sunday.

“It’s never nice to go out of a cup competition. We were unfortunate to draw Arsenal in the Carling Cup and the priority at the start of the season was to stay in the Premier League, but when the FA Cup comes along you want to stay in it as long as possible.”

“Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and it means nothing come Sunday lunchtime.”