How this hugely entertaining game remained goalless, nobody knows. Nobody, that is, but the two Irish goalkeepers, Dean Kiely and Shay Given, who matched each other save for save all afternoon.
They earned the plaudits of their respective managers, having repeatedly denied the many attacking players on show yesterday. "Dean did brilliantly to keep us in it at times," Charlton's Alan Curbishley said. "We needed him to be strong for us, and he was." So, too, was the Newcastle shot-stopper. "Shay was terrific," Sir Bobby Robson admitted, before adding, "but that's what we expect him to do. That's why we pay him."
At the other end, none of the attacking players did the necessary, though it was not for lack of trying. With six minutes gone, Newcastle's Laurent Robert, profiting from Kiely's one and only fumble of the day, fired in a goal-bound shot. Scott Parker did exceptionally well to get a foot to the ball just as it was about to cross the line, not least because of the ferocity of the Frenchman's strike. "If that one had gone in," Robson remarked, "I'm quite sure there would have been more goals."
Charlton came close as well in the opening quarter of the match. With 20 minutes on the clock, Paolo Di Canio fed Jason Euell, who created space for himself inside the box before firing high over the bar with only the keeper to beat. It got worse. With just over half an hour gone, Euell profited from a mix-up in the Newcastle defence to pounce on the loose ball and fire in a shot. He beat the keeper but not the post, and then, having reached the rebound first, saw his next effort saved by Given.
The Republic of Ireland keeper did even better five minutes later, getting a firm left hand to Di Canio's swerving 15-yard shot and then tipping over from Graham Stuart's subsequent dipping header. Not to be outdone, Kiely bravely stopped Robert's powerful drill from the left of the area moments later.
Both sides re-emerged with the same determination to create chances and, unfortunately, the same inability to convert them. The second half was in its infancy when Matt Holland found himself unmarked on the end of Parker's inch-perfect cross, but headed over the bar from four yards.
Then, on 56 minutes, the Charlton right-back Radostin Kishishev robbed Robert before sliding an exquisite pass into the on-rushing Stuart's path. The former Everton man was one-on-one with Given, but shot too close to the Newcastle keeper. Moments later, Di Canio played a delightful hooked ball over the top of the visitors' defence, but Holland was too slow-witted to anticipate the Italian's brilliance.
Back came Newcastle, with Robert again skipping down the left flank before delivering a good cross to the near post. Kieron Dyer was first to the ball, but skewed his shot well wide of the target. "It was hardly a disappointing 0-0," Curbishley later commented when reflecting on the number of opportunities both sides created.
No doubt sensing the need to force the issue, both managers changed one half of their forward lines on 77 minutes. The only difference was that Shola Ameobi, having fractured his cheekbone in a challenge with Parker moments before, accepted Sir Bobby Robson's decision to replace him with Lomano LuaLua.
Meanwhile, Di Canio threw a wobbly and then his shirt to the ground when his number was held up alongside Carlton Cole's on the substitutes' board. "That's Paolo," Curbishley noted wryly, "but don't worry, he'll be back at work on Monday."
Charlton Athletic 0 Newcastle United 0
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