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Rob's reaction to victory at Hearts

Written by Tom Easterby

Newcastle United goalkeeper Rob Elliot said he was happy to kick-start his season with a couple of fine saves as the Magpies earned a 2-1 win over Heart of Midlothian on Friday night.

Dwight Gayle’s first half brace earned the victory for Rafa Benitez’s side in what was their first pre-season outing, though Jamie Walker had given the Jambos brief hope with an equaliser after Gayle’s early opener at Tynecastle.

The former Crystal Palace frontman’s close-range second proved decisive in the end, though United were indebted to Republic of Ireland international Elliot, who made two stops from Walker and Esmeal Goncalves to preserve the visitors’ advantage in Edinburgh.

And Elliot told nufc.co.uk he was happy to have played his part as Benitez’s men got their pre-season preparations off to the perfect start.

“I was really pleased with those. To see the ball early and make some saves was good,” said the 31-year-old. “You’ve got to try and impress as early as possible, so anything you can do to help the team and get your own game going is good.

“It was a quite tough game, because they’ve had a couple more games than us and they’re a good team, but I thought we played well. Everyone’s got some minutes, we got a couple of good goals and it was a good run out in the end.

“It was nice to get 60-odd minutes in. With the first game after coming back, you just want to get it out of the way and then you can hit the ground running. It’s been a good couple of weeks, and we now go to Ireland for a good week’s training before we play Preston.”

A squad of 22 players travelled to Hearts for game against Ian Cathro’s side, with the majority of the United players playing 45 minutes or more.

Elliot played 63 minutes before making way for Freddie Woodman and, with his side having stood up the physical challenge posed by the Scottish Premiership outfit, he feels that last season’s Championship title-winning campaign has made the Magpies a more “battle-hardened” team.

“We knew they were going to be physical, and they like to play football as well. It was a good test for us,” he said. “Physically, we’ve got a really strong team this year. Last season stood us in good stead, because we had a lot of physical games, and the lads are battle-hardened – they really are up for the challenge. Obviously we got the ball down and plated some nice stuff at times as well, so it was really good on both fronts.

“We had a great winning mentality last year and we said at the start of the game that we need to carry that on, and we did that really well. They got their goal, but we recovered from that setback and should have had more, but it was a good start for us.”

Newcastle now head to Ireland for a week-long training camp before friendlies against Preston North End and Bradford City.

United will also face Mainz, Wolfsburg and Hellas Verona before the Premier League opener at home to Tottenham Hotspur next month, and Elliot reckons a testing pre-season schedule is the ideal preparation for the campaign ahead.

“We’ll go and get some hard work done in Ireland, and then the games come thick and fast then ahead of the start of the season,” he said. “It’s a great start, it’s good to get the minutes under the belt and hopefully we can push on from here and really hit the ground running.

“I think we’ve got tough games in every one – Preston’s a tough game, Bradford after that and the others in Germany too – so it’s going to be a real tough pre-season.

“But the Premier League is the toughest league in the world, so you need to be tough and you need to be on it ready for the start of the season.”

"Physically, we’ve got a really strong team this year. Last season stood us in good stead, because we had a lot of physical games, and the lads are battle-hardened – they really are up for the challenge."

Rob Elliot

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