Brown laments 'distraction' from survival battle

Hull City 0 Newcastle United 0
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The Independent Football

You would have to have spent a long time visiting several other planets not to have twigged by now that the FA Cup is not what it used to be. Yet still sometimes it is hard to comprehend the extent to which its crown has slipped.

This tie betrays the truth in that the outcome of the replay on Wednesday week is likely to depend not on which team is the braver in the full intensity of battle so much as who can be bothered.

It is a fact, however unpalatable, that where FA Cup ties would once add spice to what managers used to call the bread and butter of the league, now they are seen as an unwelcome strain on resources. Replays doubly so.

"The importance of staying in the Premier League is getting greater," the Newcastle assistant manager, Chris Hughton, said. "There is no doubt that it is the priority.

"And because of how the division is, with so few points between teams as high as eighth place and the bottom of the table, it is more important than ever to keep your focus. Most clubs are seeing this as the toughest season they have had.

"Then again, with the support we have at Newcastle, any kind of run in the competition would be welcome as an opportunity to give them something back."

Maybe that thought will be in Joe Kinnear's mind. The Newcastle manager – whose failure to do post-match interviews was said to be down to a hoarse throat rather than his latest spats with the North-east press – won a winner's medal as a player with Tottenham in 1967, which suggests a little bit of Cup romance may lurk in his soul. Were he to end Newcastle's trophy famine, after 40 years, there could be a statue of Kinnear outside St James', never mind Alan Shearer.

You would expect, therefore, to see a little more ambition from Newcastle than from Hull. Phil Brown, their manager, made seven changes to his line-up and admits that fringe players will be in his replay plans as well. "Nice though it is to be in the fourth-round draw, it is a distraction," he said.

Perversely, though, Hull could easily have won on Saturday, had not Shay Given, his future seemingly in the air, not set his distractions aside to make at least three telling saves. Michael Owen went close on a couple of occasions for Newcastle but their man of the match, as so often before, was their goalkeeper.

Hull City (4-1-4-1): Duke; Doyle, McShane, Turner, Ricketts; Boateng; Giannakopoulos, Marney, Geovanni, Fagan (Halmosi, 73); Cousin (King, 73). Substitutes not used: Ashbee, France, Zayatte, Warner (gk), Featherstone.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Taylor, Coloccini, Bassong, Jose Enrique; Duff, Butt, Guthrie, N,Zogbia (Gutierrez, 36); Owen, Carroll. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Xisco, Geremi, Kadar, Edgar, LuaLua.

Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).

Booked: Hull Giannakopoulos, McShane, Fagan, Geovanni; Newcastle Butt, Gutierrez.

Man of the match: Given.

Attendance: 20,557.

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