MARTIN DUBRAVKA has been backed to bounce back from his recent mistakes, with his fine form over the course of the last 12 months having earned him one of the biggest honours in North-East football.

Dubravka was crowned the North-East Football Writers’ Association’s Player of the Year for 2018 at an awards ceremony at Ramside Hall on Sunday night, becoming only the fifth goalkeeper to have won the honour.

The Slovakian made an instant impact after joining Newcastle from Sparta Prague last January, with a superb debut performance in a 1-0 win over Manchester United heralding a string of impressive performances.

He started the current campaign in equally eye-catching fashion, but three high-profile recent errors have proved costly, with Dubravka making mistakes against Manchester United, Tottenham and Wolves.

The last of those errors led to a stoppage-time concession in Newcastle’s most recent outing at Molineux, but another of Sunday-night’s winners has tipped the 30-year-old to put his shaky spell behind him in the remaining three months of the season.

Alan Shearer was named North-East Personality of the Year at the weekend in honour of his footballing achievements and extensive charity work following his retirement, and the Newcastle legend is confident Dubravka will remain a key performer as the Magpies look to maintain their position outside the relegation zone in the final 12 games.

“The last couple of games, he has had a tough time, with the mistake at Wolves, and at Wembley against Spurs,” said Shearer.

“But, in general, he has been a fantastic buy, when you look at the fees that have been paid out for some players.

“His handling, for the main part, has been superb. If he can get over the mistakes that have happened in the last couple of games, then great, but, in the main, I think he has been a super buy.

“I don’t know him personally, but what I see on the pitch is that he seems to be a good character, not afraid to make mistakes.

“He made a couple, as all players do, but it is how you recover from that and he will learn from those mistakes.”

Dubravka was honoured to have won the top honour at the Footballer Writers’ awards, which are now in their 39th year.

He follows in the footsteps of two-time winner Shay Given, who was the last Newcastle goalkeeper to be crowned Player of the Year, and is delighted to have been recognised by the North-East media.

“It’s amazing, I couldn’t believe it,” said the Slovakian. “I got the message that I won this trophy and I couldn’t believe that, because I spent an amazing year here, but it is the first year, you know.

“It is an honour for me to be part of this great history and I know that fantastic players won this trophy before me, so I am very pleased with that.

“I feel at home here now. Everybody was very friendly to me here since I came and helped me in all cases, so every week, coming home from games, from travelling around, I feel like I deserve to be here.”

Former Sunderland striker Josh Maja won the Young Player of the Year award at Sunday’s ceremony, with Black Cats boss Jack Ross picking up the trophy on his behalf.

Maja joined French club Bordeaux during last month’s transfer window, but recently returned to Sunderland’s Academy of Light training ground to hand out some hand-written cards to members of the club’s backroom staff.

The Women’s Player of the Year award went to Durham Women forward Beth Hepple, while there were special awards on the night to mark the achievements of South Shields, Marske United and Stockton Town.