Speed hails the defence

Last updated : 10 March 2004 By Martyn Elliott

Despite the doom and gloom seemingly surrounding St James’ Park, United have lost just twice in their last 20 games, conceding just 14 goals.

And while the national press continue to refer to our supposedly suspect back line, it is good to see that someone has noticed that Shay Given and the back four have been doing pretty well.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Speed’s midfield colleagues, who in recent weeks have often found themselves overrun and unable to retain possession long enough to create decent chances for the front pair.

"We have a determination to succeed at this club and that's helping us right now," Speed told The Journal.

"But I think it's Shay and the defence who are seeing us through a very difficult patch.

"Those lads have come in for a lot of stick in the past but I think they're the best thing about the team at the moment. They are the reason we aren't losing games.

"Shay made a truly great save against Valerenga when he pushed one of their first half shots onto the bar and he's in a rich vein of form.

"He made superb saves in Oslo and at Portsmouth and, without him, you wonder what might have happened. Because we're not playing well we rely on our top players performing to the best of their abilities and he's doing that."