Newcastle United injury setback as key man ruled out for four months despite training ground return

Newcastle United goalkeeper Nick Pope has been given a return date.

Newcastle United boss Eddie Howe doesn't expect Nick Pope to return from injury until the end of April.

Pope has been out of action since the beginning of December after requiring surgery on the shoulder he dislocated during the Magpies' 1-0 win at home to Manchester United.

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There were suggestions the England goalkeeper could return this month but when asked by NewcastleWorld last week, Howe revealed he wouldn't be back until April.

Howe was back in front of the media on Friday to preview the FA Cup quarter-final clash away to Manchester City and when pressed further on Pope's return date, the 46-year-old revealed: “April is his target, but I think that will be more towards the end of April than the beginning but he’s making good, solid progress.

"He’s out on the grass, not necessarily diving but doing lots of other little bits. Of course, diving is a big test for his shoulder and that is probably the next stage of where he’ll start implementing that back into his game.

"Then, of course, he will have to get his sharpness back. He’s entering into the final furlong in terms of his comeback but he’s still got a lot of hurdles to go through.”

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In the meantime, Martin Dubravka will continue to deputise and while the Slovakian has performed well recently - namely the FA Cup penalty shootout win at Blackburn Rovers - Pope's absence has potentially been season-defining.

With Pope in between the sticks, United have conceded 19 goals in 20 games this campaign compared to 38 goals shipped in the previous 21 matches.

The majority of those goals have came with Dubravka in net, excluding the recent 4-1 defeat at Arsenal when Loris Karius made only his second appearance in 12 months.

Howe's men have kept just four clean sheets since losing Pope, two of which have come against Fulham. Their 3-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday was their first Premier League clean sheet since December 16.

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