If there was some comfort after the last-minute shock of what transpired at Anfield on Sunday it was that Everton had a quick opportunity to banish the memory of Jordan Pickford’s error and the pain of another derby defeat by getting straight back to action at home in a very winnable game.
In the end, tonight’s meeting with Newcastle looked like it had come too soon for some jaded-looking players and the reassurance that Marco Silva’s men were good enough to collect six points against the Toon and then Watford on Monday melted away thanks to a massively underwhelming and lacklustre performance that afflicted almost the entire Blues team.
It was one of those evenings where a number of players seemed to have an “off” night. Passes were over-hit, balls routinely mis-controlled and wires frequently crossed as Everton huffed and puffed their way through 90 frustrating minutes. Whether affected by the collective malaise or not, a couple of squad members handed a chance to impress weren’t able to stake much of a claim for further inclusion in the starting XI, further highlighting the need for further magic from Marcel Brands in the upcoming transfer window if the Blues are to sustain a top-six challenge.
Overall there wasn’t much to take in terms of positives apart from the fact that the Blues recovered from conceding another counter-attack goal to at least earn a point. It should have been more than that because Richarlison’s equaliser, his seventh Premier League goal of the season, arrived seven minutes before half-time which gave Silva’s men more than a half to pick their way through a dogged Newcastle back line that made things incredibly difficult, particularly for an Everton side so lacking in imagination or the ability to find a blue shirt with countless deliveries from wide.
Gylfi Sigurdsson, lauded prior to the Liverpool game for his impressive goals return and for generally stepping up as the influential figure Silva needs him to be, endured another anonymous evening and was substituted with 20 minutes to go.
Lucas Digne, perhaps the most consistent performer in the whole team so far this season, had what was easily his worst game since joining the club over the summer. He deserves credit for never shirking responsibility or showing for the ball but time and time again his delivery from crosses and set-pieces — and Everton had a lot of them, including 14 corners — was dreadful.
Richarlison scored the goal that cancelled out Salomon Rondon’s 19th-minute equaliser but he, too, was below his usual level, constantly trying to do too much and running into defenders and giving up possession cheaply in advanced areas.
Cenk Tosun, selected to start a game for the first time in two months, was wholly ineffective apart from one instance in the first half where he was foiled at point-blank range. Ademola Lookman, meanwhile, showed glimpses of the player who has looked so exciting when coming off the bench but in his 78 minutes on the field he wasn’t able to produce the magic to dismantle Newcastle’s entrenched defence.
Once again, if there was a pick of the bunch for Everton, apart from Kurt Zouma who made a solid return to the starting XI after a three-game absence, it was André Gomes who controlled the game and was head and shoulders above everyone else around him for long periods of the contest.
Yet you felt that with a player of his individual talent and skill on the ball, he might have been pushed further forward in the closing stages where he could perhaps pick a killer pass instead of sitting deeper and spreading the ball from side to side and out to the wings where the delivery from the likes of Lookman, Seamus Coleman, Digne and later Bernard was too often found wanting.
With all that said, the first half was fairly typical of a team that has been quite slow to get going at times. Tosun had an early shot from the edge of the box that deflected behind and he headed a decent Digne cross well over with around a quarter of an hour gone before and Richarlison went closer than anyone to opening the scoring to that point but was denied by Fabian Schär’s block.
If there is a vulnerability in Everton under Silva, though, it’s being caught on the counter-attack having committed men forward. Referee Lee Mason refused to blow for a foul on Lookman in Newcastle’s half and the visitors quickly fed it to Jacob Murphy who accelerated down the left, crossed to Rondon in the centre who had made his run between Yerry Mina and Digne and was able to steer a first-time shot home with the Frenchman two yards behind.
It was the Barcodes’ first real attack which seemed to make it all the more typical of the Toffees and while they responded immediately with a chance for Richarlison that goalkeeper Dubravka comfortably gathered, Rondon almost walked through the back door a second time when Christian Atsu threaded him with a pass but the striker dragged his shot wide.
On another night, Sigurdsson might have shaken himself out of his personal torpor with a goal but Federico Fernandes denied him with what was, admittedly, a brilliant lunging block and the Icelandic international had another effort from a similar position also deflected wide.
Having proven to be so ineffective from set-pieces this season, it was somewhat surprising that the Blues goal, when it arrived, came from that corner, the first Everton goal from a corner in 93 attempts. Mina’s presence was enough to ensure that no Newcastle player was able to head the dead-ball delivery away and it dropped at Richarlison’s feet at the back post where he managed to fire it high into the goal from close range and level the scores.
And Everton might have gone ahead before the interval when perhaps Digne’s best cross of the night flew into the six-yard box and was met by Tosun’s out-stretched boot but it hit the keeper and the chance was lost.
If the home fans were banking on Silva’s half-time pep talk rousing the Blues into a more typical level of performance, they would be disappointed because the second half was an exercise in mounting frustration and abysmal execution, both from set-pieces and shooting opportunities from distance.
Things picked up marginally when Theo Walcott replaced Sigurdsson and Bernard came on for Lookman, the former injecting some direct running into the proceedings but spurning one excellent opening by mis-controlling Pickford’s accurate ball over the top. The latter, when he wasn’t slipping over, tried to make things happen from a more central role than he has been used to so far but he, too, was too profligate in possession to hurt Newcastle.
In actual fact, it was Rafa Benitez’s team who had the better chances to win the game in the second half and had it not been for Pickford who made a smart, one-handed save to deny Atsu, and then tame finishing from the ex-Everton winger himself a few minutes later, they might well have done.
As it was, the spoils were shared and there’s no way to look at it from the Everton point of view other than as two points lost in the context of their recent home form and their top-six aspirations.
From the more optimistic, longer-term perspective, this was another learning opportunity for Silva in determining where he still needs to strengthen his side and which players he will feel might better serve him in terms of incoming transfer funds than being retained simply on the fringes of the first team.
It was also another game under the belt for the likes of Mina, Gomes and Bernard, the three of which are at varying stages of settling into their new surroundings. Because, ultimately, this is a season of transition and taking a real crack at breaking into the very top echelons of the Premier League was never going to be all that realistic this season.
Next season could be a different story depending on recruitment over the next two transfer windows but for now, capitalising on Manchester United’s inconsistencies and aiming for a run to Wembley in the FA Cup could be the summit of Everton’s ambitions. And while the new manager and his Director of Football are still implementing their vision, that’s fine.
Everton squandered two points with a lacklustre display that ended with Newcastle taking an unlikely point on a damp and frustrating evening at Goodison Park.
Richarlison's equaliser late in the first half which cancelled out Salomon Rondon's opener looked to have set the Blues up to go on and win it in the second period but too many players were off their game while the visitors retrenched and dug in for a draw.
Bernard and Theo Walcott made way in the starting XI as Ademola Lookman was handed his first start and Cenk Tosun led the line. At the back, Michael Keane was rested and Kurt Zouma came in to partner Yerry Mina.
Tosun saw an early snapshot deflect off a defender and behind. The resulting Lucas Digne corner was cleared and Andre Gomes eventually skied one from distance.
Lookman then pulled Manquillo back on a rare Newcastle foray forward, conceding a free kick that ended up being headed well off target by Lascelles.
A decent spell of possession followed and Tosun was picked out by Digne from the left but his header drifted high over the bar in the 14th minute and Dubravka had to intervene from another delivery from the same flank as Coleman arrived in the box.
Richarlison came closest to opening the scoring immediately afterwards but Schar blocked his shot from the angle following Sigurdsson's centre.
Newcastle scored off their first real attack, however, with 18 minutes gone. Jacob Murphy was allowed to surge down the left after referee Lee Mason elected not to award a free kick in Lookman's favour in the other half.
Rondon drifted off Mina in the centre and was not tracked by Digne and the Venezuelan striker rammed home the cross.
Richarlison tried to respond straight away but his shot was gathered by Dubravka while Rondon easily got between the two centre halves to collect Atsu';s pass but dragged his shot wide.
Everton were enjoying the majority of possession but doing very little with it until Lookman drifted in from the right with half an hour gone but sliced his shot horribly into the stands.
A foul by Fernandes a few seconds later gave Sigurdsson an opportunity to send one in from the right but his free kick was overhit and a subsequent corner came nothing as it was cleared and Gueye put a cross straight into the keeper's arms.
Two more corners, this time from the right followed but went begging a couple of minutes later as the first failed to beat the first man and the second was cleared.
A great chance arrived at the feet of Sigurdsson as the ball was worked back in but Fernandes made a superb blocking tackle to prevent an almost certain equaliser.
Everton kept coming, and after Lookman appeared to be fouled in the box but got nothing again from Mason, Sigurdsson's shot was deflected wide. Mina caused havoc stretching for the delivery from the right, the ball broke to Richarlison at the back post and he fired it hight into the net from a couple of yards out.
Denadre Yedlin's shove on Richarlison gave Everton another set-piece opportunity not far outside the Newcastle box as half-time approached but, again, the cross from Digne was overhit.
One of the best moves of the first half almost ended with the Blues going ahead. Digne combined with Gueye and flashed a cross into the six-yard box but the Turk's reaching attempt to turn it home was saved at point-blank range by Dubravka.
The first chance of the second half fell to Fernandes but the Barcodes' defender missed his kick as Atsu's deep cross fell to him at the back post.
And whole the home team huffed and puffed without any end product, Atsu tested Pickford a few minutes later as he cut in from the Newcastle right.
A rare piece of invention on the night saw Sigurdsson back-heel it smartly on the edge of the box, Lookman mis-controlled slightly but the ball broke to Digne who lashed an awful effort high into the Park End.
Yedlin left one in on Digne setting up a free-kick chance from the Blues left, the American picking up a booking in the process but, again, Digne couldn't beat the first man.
Richarlison then put a cross-cum-shot into the side-netting before Bernard came on for Tosun and Walcott replaced the off-key Sigurdsson.
Pickford sent Walcott into the clear but his chest control let him down and his eventual shot once Yedlin had recovered was deflected behind and Gueye made a mess of the shot after the corner was cleared to him.
Silva's final change saw Lookman withdrawn in favour of Calvert-Lewin with 12 minutes left.
Schar's deliberate handball that denied Bernard a cross opportunity presented with a free kick at the byline and Mina tumbled to the turf under big appeals from the Park End for a penalty.
Atsu was penalised for a foul on Gomes outside the box and the free kick was cleared but yet another corner followed which Digne served up but Bernard mis-kicked his shot.
Pickford made a vital save in the dying minutes to keep Everton level, a strong-handed stop to deny Atsu.
A reckless Fernandes tackle was fortunate not to draw a red card from the referee but one more set-piece chance for Everton was wasted by Digne whose free kick flew over from 30 yards.
Atsu was in again but made it easy for Pickford with a tame shot a couple of minutes before the Ghanaian scythed Bernard down near the byline. Once more Digne took responsibility and again his delivery found the first defender's head.
Kick-off: 7:45pm, Wednesday 5th December, 2018
Referee: Lee Mason
Last Time: Newcastle United 0-1 Everton
Everton: Pickford, Coleman, Zouma, Mina, Digne, Gueye, Gomes, Sigurdsson, Lookman, Richarlison, Tosun
Subs: Stekelenburg, Baines, Keane, Davies, Bernard, Walcott, Calvert-Lewin
Newcastle United: Dubravka, Yedlin, Fernandes, Lascelles, Schar, Manquillo, Diame, Murphy, Ki, Atsu, Rondon
Subs: Woodman, Clark, Longstaff, Shelvey, Muto, Perez, Joselu
If there is a positive in the aftermath of Sunday's derby defeat — apart from the overall performance, of course, which was largely applauded despite the result — it's that Everton now have two home games in the space of five days in which to quickly re-establish the momentum they took to Anfield and which had lifted them into sixth place.
Erratic and unpredictable Watford are the visitors on Monday but, first, Marco Silva and his side host struggling Newcastle United under the Goodison Park lights tomorrow evening.
The Barcodes come into the game sitting in 15th place, three points above the relegation zone which, without the significant investment for which Rafa Benitez has been agitating, is likely to haunt them all the way to May.
Three successive wins over Watford, high-flying Bournemouth and Burnley was followed by a fairly comprehensive home loss to West Ham on Saturday, a sequence that illustrates both the inconsistency that has blighted Benitez's men but also their ability to score goals when they can get things right going forward.
They took a shock 2-0 lead at Old Trafford in October that was eventually wiped out by Manchester United and it's those defensive frailties that Everton will be looking to exploit as the Toffees look to make it five home wins in a row.
Silva has been keen to field an unchanged line-up as much as possible in recent weeks but, given that next Monday's match will be the third fixture in eight days, he could look to make a couple of changes to the side that started at Liverpool with an eye on keeping legs fresh ahead of the busy Christmas schedule.
The one change that was the topic of much conversation among Evertonians prior to the derby, that of Ademola Lookman for Theo Walcott, could be forced upon the manager by the latter's ankle knock that forced him out of Sunday's game with an hour gone.
Lookman has impressed every time he has come off the bench in recent weeks and many feel that he has more than earned the chance to prove that he is worthy of a regular place in the starting XI. Silva admitted during his pre-match press conference that the England U21 international has already done enough to warrant his first start, a hint perhaps that it will be forthcoming tomorrow?
While he was often overlooked by Ronald Koeman and than Sam Allardyce after him because of perceived weaknesses to the defensive side of his game, Silva appears to have been working with him to ensure he tracks back and against weaker teams on paper like Newcastle, his attacking qualities should come to the fore.
Should it be Walcott who makes way because of injury, Bernard could keep his spot on the left flank but only if Silva does not opt for a natural striker for this one. Both Cenk Tosun and Dominic Calvert-Lewin have been champing at the bit for another start but Richarlison's form in the central striking role, particularly at home, has made it hard for either forward to get a look-in.
It remains to be seen whether Silva will move the Brazilian back out to the left and play one of Tosun or Calvert-Lewin but it is an option.
Elsewhere in the team, it's hard to see many changes being made unless the manager does feel the need to rotate over fitness concerns. Kurt Zouma could come in for Michael Keane to give him a rest, Leighton Baines has been forced to watch from the sidelines while Lucas Digne has been excelling, while Tom Davies hasn't featured in a couple of months but Silva will be wary of making too many disruptive changes unless forced to. Idrissa Gueye could be a doubt after receiving treatment late in Sunday's game. Morgan Schneiderlin is likely to be ruled out through injury.
With Everton's recent form the way it has been, the attacking talent that they possess and Newcastle's problems, this ought to be a game that the Blues win and it would be a big disappointment if they aren't able to. Three points to consolidate their hold on sixth place with one more game at Goodison to come before the daunting trip to Manchester City would be just the tonic after the misery experienced at Anfield.
Kick-off: 7:45pm, Wednesday 5th December, 2018
Referee: Lee Mason
Last Time: Newcastle United 0-1 Everton
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Mina, Digne, Gueye, Gomes, Sigurdsson, Bernard, Lookman, Richarlison