GOALKEEPER Shay Given modestly declined to take all the plaudits for earning Newcastle a point at Portsmouth on Saturday.

The Republic of Ireland star pulled off several world-class saves on the way to recording his third successive clean sheet.

He denied Matthew Taylor three times, including a breathtaking fingertip save which he pushed on to the bar eight minutes from time, and also saved well from Gary O'Neil and Dario Silva.

"I was lucky enough to get my hand on it," said Given of his best save. "We didn't play that well and we have played better this season and got nothing.

"Sometimes you just have to dig deep to try and keep a clean sheet, hoping you can get a late goal. But we can improve on the performance, especially going forward."

Despite the team's lacklustre showing, Given was happy the Magpies have finally learned how to keep things tight at the back when things aren't going as well at the other end of the pitch.

"We always get slated for giving away too many goals, but credit to the team as a whole for keeping three clean sheets on the bounce," he said.

"It's important sometimes when it's not your day just to keep it tight and get something from the game, which we did."

Manager Graeme Souness hailed Given as "the best in the Premiership" after the game and admitted he would not swap his goalkeeper for anyone in the world.

"He made three top-class saves," said the boss. "But it's no surprises because I know what a top-class keeper we have and he showed it again.

"Right now I don't think there is any better in the Premier League. I certainly wouldn't swap him. I don't think there is a recognised No 1 in the Premiership, but if you were pushed to give an answer I think a lot of people would push for him."

In the absence of their most creative players, Laurent Robert and Lomana Lua Lua, Pompey were there for the taking.

But without Michael Owen the Magpies had no cutting edge. Their first shot on target camefrom substitute Robbie Elliott 15 minutes before the end.

Prior to that, the closest the visitors had gone was when Charles N'Zogbia twice skinned Andy Griffin on the left in the first half and his crosses were spilled by goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown. But no-one took the initiative to follow them up.

Portsmouth carved United open at will. The visitors just could not come to terms with the home side's unusual 3-3-3-1 formation.

Pompey's two middle banks of three played in the holes behind and in front of the Newcastle midfield and United spent most of the time chasing shadows.

But Portsmouth's profligacy was Newcastle's blessing. Why they insisted on several touches in front of goal when one or two would have sufficed only Pompey boss Alain Perrin would find out after the game.

Souness denied his side struggled to come to terms with Pompey's tactics, instead blaming their inability to keep the ball for being put under constant pressure.

He said: "I have come across the formation before but we can't complain about it. I just thought our passing was sloppy earlier on and we kept giving the ball back to them. That isn't about formations, it is the way we played."

Despite the dreadful performance Souness still took positives out of the clash.

He said: "The real plus for us is that we've kept three clean sheets in a row and that is something we can build on. I'm not delighted with a point, but given the squad of players we've come to Portsmouth with then I'm not too unhappy."

Owen missed the match with a dead leg, picked up in training on Friday after a challenge with Steven Taylor. The £16m striker failed a fitness test on Saturday morning, but Souness insists he should be OK for England's two World Cup qualifiers in the next eight days.

Had Owen and a couple more of his 'door openers' played then Souness says he would have been disappointed not to win.

But he confessed he was reasonably happy to come away with a point under the circumstances.

He said: "We worked hard but didn't have any door openers in the team. We battled and managed to keep Portsmouth under control for long periods. When they did get at us Shay was in fine form.

"Nobby Solano, Alberto Luque, Emre and Kieron Dyer would all be the ones you want in your team when you're looking to win games - people who can create things from nothing.

"Michael can get goals from nothing, as he has done in recent weeks.

"If we had half of them fit I would have expected to win. I knew it was going to be a very difficult game and Alain Perrin must be delighted, his players have worked their socks off.

"I can't ask for any more than I got from the players I came with. None of them let me down in terms of effort or desire and I think Alain Perrin would say the same. The ones that can do something special, other than our goalkeeper, the creative ones just did not do it in the last third and that was why no goals were scored."

Souness insists United's fortunes will improve when he gets his injured stars back and still remains excited at the prospect.

He added: "I think a lot of people, not just Newcastle United supporters, will be interested to see our injured players play.

"They don't know a lot about Alberto Luque and they don't know a lot about Emre.

"But I'm like all of our supporters - I want to see them all on the pitch."

They had better return soon otherwise United fans may decide that their Saturday afternoons would be better spent at the Metro Centre or Ikea.

Result: Portsmouth 0, Newcastle United 0.

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