By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
Last season, much of Newcastle's success was built on a solid and settled defence which racked up 15 clean sheets in the Barclays Premier League and goalkeeper Tim Krul believes returning to that sort of miserly form is key to kickstarting the Magpies' season.
Despite the best efforts of their Dutch international shot-stopper, United have only managed one shut-out in the league this term and Krul is determined to improve upon that record starting at Southampton on Sunday.
Although they have hardly been leaking goals by the bucketload - only twice this campaign have they lost by more than the odd goal - Alan Pardew's side have conceded 17 times in the top flight compared to 11 at the same point a year ago.
Having lost their last two league games at home to West Ham and Swansea, United travel to St. Mary's at the weekend before heading to Stoke on Wednesday and Krul wants to get back to winning ways sooner rather than later.
"We have to bounce back," he told nufc.co.uk on Friday. "It's been a little bit of a hard time for us with injuries and suspensions and also of course the two games we've had weren't the results we were hoping for.
"But I think Southampton is a good opportunity for us to get back to winning ways.
"They did well last weekend - I saw them against QPR and they're a good side so it will be a hard game, especially at their place. But it's one of those games - if you get three points it would help us back up the league."
Nigel Adkins' newly-promoted Saints are currently 19th in the table and boast the worst defensive record in the league, having shipped 30 goals in 12 matches. But they've scored 18, which is more than every other side in the bottom half of the table.
So Newcastle will have to defend well if they are to record another clean sheet - but Krul is hoping they can do exactly that.
"It would be nice," he said. "Last year that was our base - keeping clean sheets and then nicking wins.
"But it wasn't meant to be recently. We haven't had that bit of luck we maybe had last season - I think that's the most important thing - and maybe that little bit of quality to just nick that goal and go 1-0 up instead of 1-0 down.
"I think that's what's been lacking in the last couple of weeks. And it doesn't help having your best players injured or suspended and that's what's happened in the last few weeks. That's the quality I just spoke about - just a bit of extra quality that we need."
If Newcastle can keep it tight at the back, however, the 24-year-old from the Hague is confident that they boast the firepower to cause problems for any side.
"We've got the quality there," he insisted. "Demba (Ba) has been scoring and we've got Papiss (Cisse) who is back firing up so I'm looking forward to the game to be honest.
"We've had two home games, so now it's two away games and we have to get back to picking up points and get back up that table."
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