Newcastle boss Keegan defends Owen after stunning miss

Newcastle United boss Kevin Keegan refused to criticise skipper Michael Owen after he missed a golden chance during their 0-0 draw with Portsmouth.

Owen, who has scored 10 goals this season after recovering from a long-term knee injury, looked a certain matchwinner in the 72nd minute when Sylvain Distin's mistimed attempt at clearing Geremi's corner landed the ball on his foot.

But his volley from eight yards flashed over the bar, after hitting David James on the head. James said afterwards: "If I had had my hair cut last week we would have lost 1-0."

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Keegan, who thinks Fabio Capello should try Owen in a new midfield role for England, also brushed off his miss and said: "We had other chances and probably should have won the way we played.

"But getting a point here is certainly another good result although both Harry (Redknapp) and I are bound to say it's two points dropped on chances.

"We've come up against a really good team with an exceptional goalkeeper who in any other season would be named player of the year for the way he's performed.

"I know he's been nominated by the football writers for it but if he doesn't win it they should strike a special award for him. He's that good."

James actually survived a couple of rash moments and luck was on his side when Owen's instinctive shot flew at him.

But Keegan said: "Michael Owen was superb. He's in a new position for us, linking the midfield and attack and people just don't realise how fit he is.

"The Newcastle fans haven't seen him that much because of injuries but he's come back and played 20-odd games now.

"He's our leader now and covers phenomenal distances during matches. He's a fantastic player and I didn't know how good he is when I had him with England.

"I think he could offer Fabio Capello a real solution in the position he's playing.

"He can win the ball back for us and burst forward into the box. He's scored in his last four matches before this so none of that has deserted him.

"I think Capello, now that he hasn't got to qualify for anything for a while, should take a look at him there when he can.

"People know how I rate Michael and I'm confident he's going to sign a new contract with us and be here for the next three or four years leading us."

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