Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images

Steve Bruce believes Mark Gillespie, rather than Miguel Almiron or Ryan Fraser, was Newcastle United’s man of the match during the Carabao Cup second-round victory over Blackburn, speaking to the Chronicle.

When Almiron scythed through the Rovers defence to set up Fraser’s first goal in the black-and-white stripes, you’d be forgiven for forgetting the pair of quicksilver forwards had never shared a pitch before.

The Paraguayan and Scot appear to have struck up an almost telepathic understanding already, combining brilliantly as Newcastle reached the third round of the EFL Cup for the first time since 2016.

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But with Newcastle hanging on for dear life during most of a nail-biting 1-0 victory over Championship opposition, Bruce was keen to pay tribute to Fraser’s fellow debutant – an experienced goalkeeper who finally ended his long wait for an appearance at St James’ Park.

“Mark Gillespie was given away as a 16-year-old so it was a big night for him on his debut and he was arguably our best player,” Bruce said of a man released by Newcastle in 2008 before returning this summer after a fine spell at Motherwell.

“It was a big night for Mark, he was probably our best (player),” the former Aston Villa boss added.

Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images

Gillespie made a terrific double save in the second half as Newcastle, who were outshot 15-5 and enjoyed just 36 per cent of possession, held on for a victory they scarcely deserved.

But with Fraser, Almiron, Gillespie and the “immaculate” Ciaran Clark impressing, Bruce can sleep easy in the knowledge he has a squad full of players he can rely on.

Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images

Newcastle United’s opening fixtures of 2020/21

  1. West Ham (A)

    September 12

  2. Brighton (H)

    September 19

  3. Tottenham (A)

    September 26

  4. Burnley (H)

    October 3

  5. Manchester United (H)

    October 17

  6. Wolves (A)

    October 24

In other news, Predicted Villa XI for Leeds as forward returns to bench after Smith's fitness update