Joe Kinnear called him the best goalkeeper in the country and if Shay Given is to leave Tyneside any time soon it will be with a debt of gratitude from his manager after his saves kept Newcastle in the FA Cup yesterday.
The Republic of Ireland international, at the centre of a media storm after his lawyer's claim that he was so despondent he was ready to quit the club, pulled off critical stops from Daniel Cousin, twice, and Geovanni to frustrate Hull, whose case for being in the fourth-round draw looked stronger than Newcastle's.
"In the circumstances it was a top-quality performance," Chris Hughton, the Newcastle assistant manager, said afterwards. "But he is a top-quality individual and we would not expect anything different from him."
He did have one moment of good fortune, perhaps, with the officials giving him the benefit of the doubt amid suspicions that a 73rd-minute header from Hull's Michael Turner had crossed the line. Damien Duff, on the goalline, deflected the ball on to the underside of the bar, Given catching it on its way down. He had one foot behind the line but insisted that he kept the ball in front. "It looked like it might have been over but you really can't tell," the Hull manager, Phil Brown, said.
Two minutes earlier, Given had pulled off his third crucial save, arching his back to punch the ball away as a dipping, curling free-kick from the dangerous right boot of Geovanni threatened to beat him at the far post. It followed two excellent stops from Daniel Cousin, the Hull striker, leaving Hull, who have not cleared the third-round hurdle since beating Cardiff at Boothferry Park in 1989, to try again.
Given had been afforded a rousing welcome from Newcastle's travelling fans, who have endured so much turmoil on Tyneside in the last couple of years that anyone with designs on escaping probably has their sympathy.
Whether or not he stays remains to be seen. In the meantime, he can be commended for his professionalism, putting pride in his own work ahead of any other consideration.
Hull's willingness to use the full width of the field enabled Craig Fagan in the first half and Stelios in the second to create opportunities for Cousin, but Given responded brilliantly on both occasions.
Hull were lively and threatening. Fagan was especially keen to make an impression. Four months ago, as Hull won at St James' Park, he suffered a broken leg after a reckless challenge by Newcastle's Danny Guthrie, who again lined up against him yesterday. This was his first start since.
Yet Newcastle, who had to turn to 18-year-old Andrew Carroll as Michael Owen's partner in attack, had their moments, too. Owen, perhaps, should have scored after 16 minutes when Matt Duke, standing in for the rested Bo Myhill, ran out of his penalty area as a long Given clearance zipped through the middle of the field. The England striker reached the ball ahead of the Hull goalkeeper but his chip went wide.
Six minutes into the second half, Owen looked askance at referee Chris Foy's decision not to award a penalty when Duke, having sliced an attempted clearance, appeared to knock him aside in trying to retrieve the ball. It would have been a generous decision had it gone in his favour.
Newcastle saved their best efforts until late, substitute Jonas Gutierrez having a shot deflected into the side netting. "A draw was probably fair," Hughton said. Hull might think otherwise.
Referee: C Foy
Man of the match: Given
Match rating: 6/10Reuse content