Jason Steele won praise from Sunderland boss Simon Grayson after bouncing back from his difficult debut against Celtic.
The goalkeeper, signed for £500,000 from Blackburn, endured an afternoon to forget against the Scottish giants in the 5-0 drubbing last week.
But he bounced back with a far more convincing display in last night’s 1-1 draw with Derby County at the Stadium of Light as Sunderland got off to a solid start to life in the Championship.
Steele made a vital save at the death to deny Rams striker David Nugent from snatching a late underserved win for the visitors, the stopper spreading himself to close Nugent down.
It was an important stop after a far more convincing display from the former Middlesbrough man.
Grayson praised Steele, who is competing with new signing Robbin Ruiter for the gloves, post-match and said he never doubted his ability.
“I never doubted him last week,” said Grayson.
“He got some unfair criticism last week. There weren’t many decisions he made against Celtic that were solely his fault, you could have criticised all the team last week.
“He made saves when he needed too against Derby County and showed what he is capable of. He played a part in the performance.”
Meanwhile, Grayson has also revealed why he made the decision to shorten the pitch at the Stadium of Light.
This week the markings have been altered, with the pitch also narrowed with Grayson keen to reduce the size of the playing surface.
He denied the Celtic drubbing was the sole reason behind the change, though.
Grayson added: “It wasn’t done on that sole reason. We could have played on a five-a-side pitch and Celtic could have beaten us quite easily.
“I just felt that what we have within the group isn’t suited to a too bigger pitch, we haven’t taken it in miles just a few yards either way. You are entitled to do that.”