As dire a performance as you could possibly imagine from an Everton side under David Moyes. So dire, it doesn't bear memorializing. The only change from the side that started against Man Utd last week was forced by injury — Beckford supposedly leading the line in place of Cahill. He was hauled off at half-time, having hardly touched the ball, but having taken out Newcastle goalkeeper Harper with an impressive slide on the slick wet grass. Harper dislocated his shoulder after landing very awkwardly and Beckford was booked.
Yakubu came on in his place, when the sensible decision would have been to play with two strikers, which is what Beckford is crying out for... but would either of them get anything to feed on from the likes of Arteta and Pienaar, who were both poor to the point of shocking? And Osman was utterly weak and ineffectual as ever, another classic chance going begging because of his inability to impart any power to his shot.
Ross Barkley, the latest very impressive youngster from the Everton Academy, had been given Luke Garbutt's Number 32 shirt and elevated to the bench for a "taster", but it soon became an encounter he stood no chance of playing in as Everton prodded and probed around for 10 mins or so until got the measure of them and slowly proceeded to dominate the game.
Newcastle scored just before half-time, a superbly executed goal, elegant in its simplicity and awesome in its power; supposed Everton target of the Summer of non-spending, Hatim Ben Arfa side-stepping Heitinga and then smashing a stinger past the flailing Howard from outside the area to stun the big Goodison crowd who had arrived convinced they would witness the first Everton league win of the season.
The other player introduced at half-time was Seamus Coleman, but incredibly in place of Hibbert, who was having a good game, rather than Osman, who was hopeless. But Coleman played just as badly as the rest anyway, as if he had been instructed not to make any of his exciting forays to the bye-line or jinking runs into the area. Instead, he amazingly resorted to early crosses from deep positions that were totally ineffective — but of course he was not getting too far forward, risking defensive exposure, or losing shape — and no doubt avoiding a tongue lashing from David Moyes in the process. It looked very much like his re-training has succeeded. He even put in a remarkable tackle from behind on Nolan to save a certain goal that looked for all the world like a penalty but was thankfully not given!
The only player to come out of this dismal encounter with any credit was Sylavain Distin, whose excellent defensive work saved Everton a number of times. Everton tried to repeat last week's added-time miracle, with Yakubu side-footing onto the post (possibly via a slight deflection) and Fellaini missing a sitter but that too was actually deflected out by a defender for a corner. The chorus of boos that rang around Goodison Park at the end was fully deserved.
No wins in four matches and second bottom of the Premier League is no way to start a season that most of us thought was finally going to be "the one", but in last weekend's ultimately thrilling draw with Manchester United, Everton may have found a catalyst to spark their campaign into life before it's too late.
In trebling their goal tally for the season and wiping out United's two-goal lead in as many breathtaking injury-time minutes, the Blues will hopefully have injected themselves with some self belief, particularly in their ability to make pressure tell in the final third.
Defensively, they have other problems, though, and it will be interesting to see whether David Moyes makes any changes to the cornerstone area of central defence and defensive midfield for the visit of Newcastle United this weekend.
Sylvain Distin unquestionably had moments as rocky as his display against United a week ago but eventually settled into a reliable partnership with John Heitinga before Phil Jagielka returned from his long injury layoff in the spring.
This season, with Jagielka fully recovered and enjoying the fillip of consecutive starts for England in the Euro2012 qualifiers, Heitinga rested early on after his World Cup endeavours, and Joseph Yobo out of favour, it's been the Distin-Jagielka axis that Moyes has favoured in the first four games.
Questions are rightly being asked about the wisdom of persisting with that partnership, though, with defensive lapses scuppering the chance of picking points at Blackburn and Villa, robbing the Blues of a home win against Wolves, and gifting Sir Alex Fergson's men three goals at Goodison last weekend.
It should stand to reason that Heitinga's ever-presence in Holland's defence as they went all the way to the Final against Spain this summer would make him an automatic first choice for Everton. But with him not being match fit to start the Premier League season and Moyes's preference to often stick with certain players or combinations until the need for change is clear — not to mention his desire to have a left-footed centre half on the pitch — it's been Distin and Jags who have remained in the starting XI. It remains to be seen whether he will break up that duo but to these eyes, it's worth trying alternatives.
Another area of concern is, of course, right midfield, where both Leon Osman and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov have struggled to make that position their own and the clamour for Seamus Coleman to be given a start there continues to grow. There, again, it'll be interesting to see what Moyes does against the Barcodes. With Phil Neville fit again, Coleman has added competition at right back but surely the time to give him a go in a more advanced role has come?
Finally, there is the striker's role, one that Tim Cahill, for the most part, struggled to fill against United until he popped up with what looked to be a mere consolation goal at the end. With Yakubu fit and showing some nice touches as a sub last week, he must be the favourite to start against Newcastle.
In that scenario, Cahill himself would play in the hole behind the Yak but the Australian is a doubt with a knee injury and will undergo a late fitness test. Definitely out are Victor Anichebe (knee), Louis Saha (knee) and Jack Rodwell (ankle).
Obviously, a home game against a team that lost its last game 2-0 at home to fellow new-boys, Blackpool, would be considered a should- and must-win but even though the Wolves encounter was regarded the same way, there was a general lack of urgency in that match, one that cost Everton dear in the end.
If they play the way they started and finished against United, though, the goals should hopefully take care of themselves and Moyes could be celebrating a first win of the season as he plots a climb back to where his side belongs.
|Premier League Scores|
|Premier League Table|
|2010-11 Reports Index|
|Subs not used|
|20||West Ham United||1|