There was a time last season when Steve Bruce described his defensive rearguard as "rock solid" as his side proved they were capable of clocking up a clean sheet when it was needed most.

We didn't know it then but two clean sheets picked up by Martin Dubravka and his defence at Sheffield United in a 2-0 win and then another ground out performance and shutout against Crystal Palace would lay the foundations for an early survival confirmation under Bruce.

The slender win over Roy Hodgson's Eagles placed United in ninth spot on 25 points before Christmas thanks to a winner in front of the Gallowgate End.

Dubravka and Newcastle kept 11 clean sheets overall (the same as the 2018/19 season under Rafa Benitez), just two behind Liverpool's Allison and five behind Man City's Ederson, throughout the 2019/20 campaign.

This season - despite Karl Darlow's heroics and fine form - Newcastle have delivered just one clean sheet from six matches in the top-flight.

It is a record that former Man United skipper Bruce is keen to improve on, as well as Darlow, who took responsibility for Raul Jimenez's opener on Sunday in the 1-1 draw at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Going into this weekend's clash against Everton at St James' Park, Bruce said: "We've got to make sure we eradicate the mistakes we made last week for example (vs Man United) and stop conceding.

"Unfortunately, no matter how well we have played we have conceded too many.

"No matter how well you play at the top end of the pitch, and you can't score three or four every week, so we have to get that right first."

For all the talk of clean sheets though perhaps focus needs to be at the other end on Sunday.

Like Newcastle, the Toffees, despite their lofty status in the Premier League, have recorded just one shutout this term with Jordan Pickford's form a hot topic for the critics.

It would be easy to assume that former Serie A boss Carlo Ancelotti is defensively-minded but the reality is he appears to be happy to simply score more goals than the opposition.

A profile of Ancelotti's style of play in the Liverpool Echo paid lip service to his approach to the centre of defence and reads: "Defensively (he prefers) strong ball-playing centre-backs who are comfortable collecting the ball from the keeper and playing out into midfield."

Looking back at Sunday, when Everton lost 2-0 to Southampton, his defence looked there for the taking and further confidence should be gained from the way the Toffees collapsed at the back the last time Newcastle played them.

Amazingly at 2-0 down, Newcastle emerged with a 2-2 draw following two goals in stoppage time, after they went for broke with Florian Lejeune bagging twice.

The two efforts were the second and third shots on target of the night for Newcastle with the Magpies only going for the jugular when all seemed lost on a chilly January night at Goodison Park.

Allan of Napoli
Allan of Napoli

Everton roll into Toon with Colombia's World Cup star James Rodriguez and Brazil international Allan on board, having vastly improved their line-up up on the park. But defensively they are very similar to last term.

Therefore the argument is there for Newcastle ahead of the Super Sunday encounter this weekend.

We already know that crowd or no crowd Jordan Pickford has a wobble or two in him.

Bruce is right to admit defensive errors must be eradicated, but Everton's equally shaky defence needs to be tested and with players like Allan Saint-Maximin, Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser and Jacob Murphy capable of doing damage, surely it would be rude not to?