Newcastle - Beleaguered Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has admitted he was a relieved man after Papiss Cisse's late double temporarily silenced his critics in a 2-2 draw against Hull.
Pardew's struggling side were trailing 2-0 at St James' Park with just 21 minutes remaining when Senegal striker Cisse was introduced as a substitute for his first action since suffering a fractured kneecap in March.
With another defeat looming, the already tense atmosphere was in danger of turning ugly for Pardew, who rarely ventured from his dug-out to avoid becoming a target for abuse from angry Newcastle supporters who have been calling for the manager's sacking.
But Cisse came to Pardew's rescue with goals in the 73rd and 87th minutes to spare his under-pressure boss another broadside from disgruntled Newcastle fans.
"It was a tough day. But I tried to approach the day as a normal working day. I have been a manager for a number of years and I tried to focus my mind on the game," Pardew said.
"It was very difficult when the ball kept coming to me and they were jeering me, but other than that, I managed to do that."- United squad -
During Cisse's celebrations, the forward unveiled a t-shirt bearing the message 'Always looking forward, Jonas', a reference to team-mate Jonas Gutierrez's ongoing battle with testicular cancer.
And Pardew admitted Gutierrez's illness, which became public this week, had helped to unite the squad, and possibly taken the sting out of the supporters' vitriol, with planned protests not quite as vociferous as expected.
"I have to say thank you to them for that because big sections of our fans more or less took a neutral position today," Pardew said.
"I don't expect them to have been supporting me or in any way wanting to cheer for me personally, but I think they just took a view of loving their football club and just seeing what happened today, and I think we did enough on the pitch to win a few friends today.
"I think our fans are realistic -- they know the top six is beyond us. We can't compete with those clubs at the moment.
"But we should be competing for seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th, we have proven that we can do that in the past.
"We are well short of it at the moment and I am not going to jump up and down here for a 2-2 draw at home to Hull, but it's a stepping stone to that area where this club needs to be."
Pardew also revealed that Cisse only played after the former Southampton manager decided to defy the advice of his medical team.
"He shouldn't have played today, really. My medical staff didn't agree that he should be included -- I think he has trained five days," Pardew added.
"But when you are experienced -- myself and (assistant manager) John (Carver) looked at each other on Thursday and your eye tells you sometimes that the player is fresh, he's bright.
"Of course he's not ready for 90 minutes, but he knows how to carry the jersey."