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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 May, 2004, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
Blayney stars in debut
Southampton keeper Alan Blayney made his Premiership debut against Newcastle United
Southampton keeper Alan Blayney saves from Newcastle's Lee Bowyer
Northern Ireland Under-21 keeper Alan Blayney celebrated a sensational Premiership debut in Southampton's draw against Newcastle United on Wednesday.

Although beaten three times, the Belfast-born keeper pulled off some stunning saves to deny the Magpies the win they desperately needed.

"The boy did very well," said Saints manager Paul Sturrock.

"He could have caved in after letting one in after just seven minutes but he came through it."

The dropped points meant Newcastle could no longer challenge Liverpool for a place in next season's Champions' League.

And that suited 22-year-old Blayney who is a Liverpool supporter.

"I was always a Liverpool fan and it is a big bonus to think I have helped them get a Champions' League place," said Blayney.

The understudy, from the Shore Road area of north Belfast, was handed his debut when Finland star Antii Niemi was ruled out with a mystery virus just hours before the kick-off.

Second choice Paul Smith, a 500,000 buy from Brentford, was also unavailable with a gashed arm, but Blayney covered himself with glory with an astonishing save from Alan Shearer's point-blank second half header.

Some pundits have already put it in the same class as Gordon Banks' famous stop from Pele in the 1970 World Cup finals in Mexico or, at least, David Seaman's miraculous stop from Paul Peschisolido in last season's FA Cup semi final.

"I could not believe I had saved it really. I saw the ball come across the six-yard box and he headed it down into the ground. I just spread myself and hoped it would hit me.

"It did and it went over the bar. Afterwards, as I lay on the ground with the blood pumping and the fans shouting my name, it was great, unbelievable."

Blayney progressed through Southampton's youth system and had loan spells at Stockport County and Bournemouth.

Now Northern Ireland hope he will emerge to challenge top two keepers Maik Taylor and Roy Carroll.

Saints count injury cost
12 May 04  |  Southampton

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