Everton 3 - 0 Newcastle UnitedEGiven some of the rubbish we have endured in this campaign, plus the several midweek matches, earlier in the week, attending this match felt like more of a chore; however, as I neared the end of a frustrating day in the office, I was really looking forward to our game against the Magpies. You just can't beat the lure of Goodison Park.
It was nice to see the guys in the pub, all of us glued to our phones around an hour before kick-off to see if it was true. Was Tim Howard out of the game? Indeed he was... Joel Robles selected with Howard apparently injured. The back four was as you were from our win at Carlisle, with Barry and Lukaku returning to the team in place of Steven Pienaar and Arouna Kone.
Thankfully the horrendous wind and rain had died down as we walked from the pub to the ground. We headed to our seats in time for Z-Cars, the teams switched ends so Everton attacked the Gwladys Street in the first half, and attack we did in the opening flurry of activity, Everton nearly opening the scoring when Tom Cleverley's drive from the edge of the penalty area was palmed away by Elliot.
An injury to Romelu Lukaku, from a knee in the back, seemed to stunt our progress in the game. Our main striker, who I'm not sure is fit anyway, struggled through the rest of the half before he was withdrawn for Arouna Kone. Thankfully Everton had done enough to ensure we were ahead at the break when Aaron Lennon spun and shot from around the edge of the penalty area. I think it was a total hit-and-hope, which wrong-footed the goalkeeper, but we'll all take that slice of luck and it was nice to go in at the break a goal to the good with the Geordies silenced and the visitors not threatening... much.
Given the opportunities we passed up after the break, I was mightily relieved when Newcastle United failed to score once we'd gotten ourselves into our usual muddle and chaos reigned. Newcastle United should have been long since put to bed when Phil Jagielka volleyed the ball at full pelt into the chest of Coleman, winding the Irishman. This led to a corner which Newcastle United nearly put into the net. Newcastle United gained in confidence from this and you know you've been let off the hook when their striker (Mitrovic) puts wide a sitter and looks around in hope for the offside flag afterwards. We also got a favourable bounce between Jagielka and Mitrovic following a long ball from Jonjo Shelvey.
It was a nervy period born from familiar failure to convert opportunities when on top in a game. Aaron Lennon and Arouna Kone both missed good chances in quick succession, and we three times found the woodwork as we pummelled Newcastle United in the opening period of the second half but failed to put the ball into the back of the net.
We eventually settled down, solidified and managed to see out the last 10 minutes of the game with more composure. We got amongst them more and kept possession better as we saw the game out, even settling the game in the 88th minute when Lennon nipped in ahead of Rlando Aarons and was fouled by the Jamaican. It was very similar to the penalty Lennon won against Newcastle United in the same fixture last season. With no Romelu Lukaku or even Leighton Baines on the pitch, Ross Barkley stepped up and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to settle the match.
Everton, and more so Ross Barkley, weren't finished yet and we put more gloss on the scoreline with the last kick of the game. Quite why Jamal Lascelles bothered to bring down Ross Barkley when he was through on goal that late in the game I don't know it's not as if the result was in doubt, and with Mbemba and Dummett both coming off injured in the game already, he will have cost himself an opportunity in their next game a relegation scrap with West Bromwich Albion. Still, not our problem, and I fancied Ross to do something fanciful with his penalty though a Penenka I did not expect.
What a great way to finish a game and the players should be buzzing as we head to the Britannia on Saturday. A win there and who knows, maybe we could salvage something from the league this season yet.
Robles: I hope he gets a run of games now as we just won't know if he's going to be good enough or not unless he does. Judging on tonight's showing, although a clean sheet, I'm far from convinced. He didn't come for any crosses and at one point a defender headed it pretty much out of his hands such was his reluctance to let him deal with it. I also noticed, and I don't know if this was a tactical decision to counter Newcastle's tactic of pressing us up the pitch, but the defenders ran up the pitch quick whenever he had the ball to stem the amount of short distribution. We've seen previously that Robles CAN be good and he has all the attributes of a great goalkeeper, but does he have the confidence? We'll only know if he's given games. 5
Oviedo: A little weak sometimes but he did pretty well and got forward well in support of attacks. 6
Funes Mori: The pick of the two centre backs for me. Plenty of no-nonsense defending when it was required and he made some good tackles. 7
Jagielka: Still perhaps edging back to match fitness as some of his play was questionable, but he did make some good headed clearances. 6
Coleman: Also looking as though he's struggling for fitness but the minutes will do him good. 5
Barry: Got around the pitch and made some important tackles and interceptions, especially in the second half when we were under pressure. 7
McCarthy: James McCarthy will never get you a lot of goals or assists but his work rate and ability to fill holes defensively should not be understated. We'll always lose fewer games with McCarthy in the team, I'm sure of that. 7
Cleverley: Had a busy, industrious and impressive game on the left hand side. Should stay in the team for the Stoke City game. 7
Lennon: My Man of the match. A goal and a penalty won, following on from a goal and an assist at Carlisle United. Has to stay in the team for now. An excellent effort. 8
Barkley: A threat throughout and was unlucky not to score earlier in the game when his long range effort was superbly saved by Elliot. Hopefully he'll be bang up for it at Stoke City on Saturday following his brace. 8
Lukaku: With Oumar Niasse now with us, maybe a few weeks rest for Lukaku wouldn't be the worst thing as he struggles for fitness. That knee in the back seemed to cause him a lot of angst. 5
Kone (for Lukaku): His work rate was fine but sometimes his decision-making and composure in front of goal is just maddening. 6