Steve Harper

By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Club Reporter

 

Steve Harper has backed Papiss Cisse to open the goalscoring floodgates sooner rather than later, and praised his teammates' show of support for the United front man.

Cisse is yet to get off the mark this season, and last found the back of the net in the black and white stripes at the start of May, when he bagged that stunner away at Chelsea.

When Newcastle won a penalty in first half stoppage time against Norwich on Sunday, Demba Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa - after conversing with captain Jonas Gutierrez - tossed Cisse the ball.

But the Senegalese international was unable to convert from the spot, blazing high over the top into the Gallowgate End.

However, despite the outcome, goalkeeper Harper believes the incident highlights just how together the Magpies' squad is.

"You have seen the spirit within the camp right there in that moment," he told nufc.co.uk.

"It shows what a fantastic spirit we have got that people want to get Papiss going.

"He was incredible last season and just needs a goal this time.

"It's a real team ethic here, and giving him the ball and the opportunity to score proves just that.

"It wasn't to be, unfortunately, but Papiss will score goals for us - loads of them this season.

"He couldn't stop scoring last year and once he has one then it will be the same again. He just needs one to go in off his backside or something like that, and hopefully that will open the floodgates."

At the other end of the pitch, Harper stood firm to record United's third clean sheet of the season in all competitions.

A superb stop while one-on-one with Andrew Surman was the pick of the bunch for the veteran, but he also had a big hand - literally - in Demba Ba's first-half goal.

Having claimed a wayward Norwich through ball, Harper instantly turned defence into attack with a quick throw-out to Hatem Ben Arfa. And the French international promptly fed Ba, who provided a composed finish.

"No, I don't think so," said Harper, when asked if he should take any credit for the goal. "Although Tayls was trying to get me to claim an assist!

"We worked a lot on distribution in pre-season and playing shorter balls out from the back, be it us as keepers or the defenders.

"Part of the tactic on Sunday was to get it out quickly and play at a high tempo.

"Hatem was on, so I just gave it to him and he's got that door-opener of a pass. It was a fantastic ball and Demba did the rest.

"And when you've got Demba, Ben Arfa and Cisse on the pitch, that happens - it's a lot of firepower for teams to stop them scoring."

"As a goalkeeper you love a 1-0 win.

"If you'd said at the start of the week that we would get four Premier League points and a point away from home in the Europa League, then we would have taken it."

To buy a goalkeeper's jersey with Steve Harper's name and number on the back, click here