Bailey Peacock-Farrell admitted he was undergoing a test of his character after responding to the threat of being dropped from Leeds United’s line-up with a vital penalty save.
Peacock-Farrell saw off a 90th-minute spot-kick in Tuesday’s 1-0 victory over Reading to redeem a prior error at West Bromwich Albion and respond to doubts about his place in Marcelo Biesla’s starting side.
The Northern Ireland goalkeeper was set to be demoted to the bench for last weekend’s 2-0 defeat of Bristol City - a match he subsequently missed with a knee injury - until Jamal Blackman broke a leg in an Under-23s match.
Despite the loss of Blackman, whose season has been ended by major surgery, Bielsa confirmed publicly that he had been planning to drop Peacock-Farrell, saying he hoped his comments would have a “positive effect” on the 22-year-old’s form.
Peacock-Farrell faced criticism over a bad mistake which led to a goal in Leeds’ 4-1 defeat to West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns on November 10, a blunder which raised questions about his position as number one.
He reacted to the pressure on him, however, by denying Reading’s Marc McNulty a last-gasp equaliser at Elland Road after a foul by Barry Douglas on Joshua Sims left United’s win hanging in the balance.
“Football is up and down,” Peacock-Farrell said. “You don’t get too high when you’re up and you don’t get too down when things go against you, otherwise you’ll be mentally done-in.
“It’s a test and maybe I’ve answered it. Maybe I haven’t. It doesn’t really matter. It’s just about the team.
“There was no real option for me other than to play well. That’s not from the outside noise or from what the manager demands, or from the fans. It’s the demands I put on myself.
“I wasn’t pleased with the goal at West Brom but if you look over the course of the season, I’ve done well and the team have done well.
“To finish on a high with the defining moment was good. That meant a lot to me and it’s the standard we need to keep.”
Peacock-Farrell was sent for two separate examinations last week after damaging a muscle around his knee in training. Bielsa ruled him out of the clash with Bristol City and fielded 20-year-old debutant Will Huffer instead.
United’s head coach was able to recall Peacock-Farrell on Tuesday night and will have him available at Sheffield United on Saturday despite the keeper admitting that he was not fully recovered from his injury.
“I played internationally (for Northern Ireland) and then came back and tore a muscle in my knee,” he said. “It’s still torn and there are a couple of other bits and bobs rattling around in there.
“But I was good enough to play. It was too much of a push on Saturday and too much of a risk in terms of being out longer. I’m fine for the weekend but it’ll take three to four weeks to properly heal.”