The fear goes on. This may not have been the worst day for Hull City or Newcastle United given that the three clubs around them just above the relegation zone – Sunderland, Blackburn and Stoke – all lost, but there was no great leap forward either. Neither Hull nor Newcastle are yet, in the words of Michael Owen yesterday morning, drinking in the last chance saloon. But they are stood outside, cold and anxious. A call of last orders cannot be ruled out.
The Hull manager Phil Brown declared afterwards that the point gained was of more benefit to his players than Newcastle's to theirs, and you could understand his logic.
Yet Brown also said that his team were frustrated on the final whistle, which revealed that having taken a ninth-minute lead through Geovanni, Hull had the momentum to make a statement here.
But in a match almost devoid of competence never mind art, Nicky Butt delivered a centre six minutes before half-time of quality. Steven Taylor, advanced from right-back, met it and provided a subtle touch to guide in an equaliser.
Thereafter, all was blunt. And while Brown had a point about Hull's point, Newcastle did at least not lose a game Owen had said was "shaping up to be our Cup final" – although he also said that if offered a draw beforehand he would not take it.
After six weeks out Owen returned alongside Obafemi Martins in a partnership that promised more on paper than it produced on the pitch. Newcastle's coach Chris Hughton said that was due to the pair "not receiving the service they needed", which was a fair assessment.
"The goal so early rocked us," Hughton said of Hull's opener, "and it never allowed us to get into our stride."
Overall Hughton said his emotion was one of "disappointment" but he added Newcastle's relegation situation is "exactly the same as before today. It'll be tough but the teams around us have tough games as well. Our [run-in] has been highlighted a little more because of the next two games."
Newcastle's next two games are against Arsenal and Chelsea and while both are at St James' Park, the degree of difficulty is high.
Hull also face Arsenal next – in the FA Cup on Tuesday night – and then go to Wigan next Sunday. "This was a scrappy affair," Brown said, "there's a lot of nervous tension about. But as I've just said to the players, if you think you're the only one fearing it when you cross the white line, you're not. There's 22 of you. And others."
After the late victory at Fulham 10 days ago, Hull did not appear fearful at kick-off. Newcastle actually passed the ball crisply in the seconds before Geovanni's breakaway goal, and Hull's appetite could be seen in the way they closed down Geremi in possession.
That was midway in Hull's half but the ball was whipped away from the slow Newcastle midfielder and suddenly Geovanni was running at pace. He fed Craig Fagan on the left before peeling away to the far post. With no Newcastle defender getting close enough, Fagan was given room to measure a centre that found Geovanni, whose header was strong. Steve Harper had no chance.
Nor it seemed did his colleagues. Rushed by the wind and the opposition, personified by Ian Ashbee, Newcastle were disjointed.
There was only a half-chance for Martins before the 39th minute equaliser. Butt collected the ball wide on Newcastle's right and aimed a curling cross behind the Hull back four. Steven Taylor met it with the composure Brown bemoaned some of his players lacked. Taylor can be clumsy in defence but this was a tidy goal. It could yet prove to be priceless.
But with the director of football Dennis Wise looking on, from the row behind owner Mike Ashley, Newcastle could not assert the sort of control that would bring a winner. They had more of the ball but Hull had the best opportunity of the second half. To Brown's consternation, Bernard Mendy squandered it by panicking. Mendy will not be the last to do so. Brown said it might take more than 40 points to stay up.Reuse content