Given revels in recovery despite injury flashback

Newcastle 'keeper happy with win despite reminder of clash with Marlon Harewood
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The Independent Online

The Newcastle United goalkeeper Shay Given was served with a reminder of his worst moment in football as he helped his club to a morale-boosting victory. The 32-year-old Irishman was instrumental in Monday night's 2-0 Premier League win over Aston Villa, making a vital first-half save from Ashley Young as the Magpies hauled themselves from the foot of the table and into the relative calm of 14th place.

But amid the euphoria of securing three precious points, and the furore surrounding midfielder Joey Barton since, another big moment for Given went largely unnoticed.

With five minutes remaining, Villa manager Martin O'Neill sent on substitute Marlon Harewood, the man whose challenge during his West Ham days left the Newcastle 'keeper with a perforated bowel in September 2006.

The collision at Upton Park was purely accidental, but Given admitted he was aware of exactly who was bearing down on him as he was called upon to deal with an injury-time ball into the box. He said: "Yes, I saw him and obviously I knew who it was. But that's all water under the bridge now.

"What happened to me at Upton Park a couple of seasons ago is what happens in football. You get challenges in football all the time.

"I have to say, I don't think that Marlon Harewood tried to puncture my bowel. It was just one of those things."

Given suffered a succession of groin problems as he tried to work his way back to full fitness, and underwent two bouts of surgery in Germany before finally shaking off the after-effects of an injury likened by surgeons to that often sustained by road accident victims. But he is now back on top form, and having kept his first clean sheet since 23 August and just his second of the season against Villa, he will hope for another shut-out at Fulham on Sunday.

Given and his team-mates returned from Craven Cottage last season with a 1-0 win – the last of Sam Allardyce's ill-fated reign – courtesy of Barton's last-gasp penalty, and a repeat this time around would increase the growing feelgood factor at St. James' Park.

He said: "The most important thing is that we are going to Fulham on Sunday with more belief in ourselves as a team and with the confidence back-to-back wins has given us.

"In fact, the way we played on Monday night, people could have been excused for thinking we were in the position Aston Villa are in at the top of the Premier League.

"But we are still in a bit of trouble and we have to keep working hard in a bid to move up that league table.

"We got a good result at Fulham last season, but Roy Hodgson has done a great job for them and we know it will be difficult for us on Sunday. But if we can play like we did against Aston Villa, we are confident we will get some sort of result."

A feature of the Magpies' recent recovery under interim manager Joe Kinnear, who has taken eight points from a possible 15 and has lost only one game, the derby at Sunderland, has been the partnership of front two, Shola Ameobi and Obafemi Martins.

It was Martins' double which won the day against Villa, but Ameobi, who almost left the club during the summer, has rekindled his career on Tyneside to the extent that even fit-again captain Michael Owen may not be guaranteed a place at the weekend.

Assistant manager Chris Hughton said: "I have to say, I'm absolutely delighted for Shola. He's worked hard in training and in the period of time I have been here, this is the best I have seen him. I have been here since the end of February and it looked like he might be leaving the club, but since pre-season, he's been excellent."

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