Match report Everton 0- Newcastle United 2.

KO: 12:30, Goodison Park. 30/Jan/2021 

Newcastle United generally ruin weekends. Fact!

This time I feared the match would have an impact on the Saturday morning treat of a trip to the supermarket to peruse the booze aisle (lockdown life). The early kick off on Merseyside caused a bit of a trolley dash around the local Morrison’s (got to keep it in the family).

As I sit supping a Saturday lunchtime cup of tea and finishing a bacon roll, watching Jake Humphrey and Leon Osman discuss how awful my football team are, I think to myself what would I like to see happen today? How about Shelvey pinging 40-yard passes into the feet of Wilson. Schär going on mazy runs out of defence. Almirón and Fraser outsprinting defenders and whipping in balls. Chances, shots on target, maybe big Andy coming off the bench and barging three defenders out of the way to nod the winner into the back of the net.

However, I feared for us. I feared playing against a good Everton side who sit comfortably at the top end of the Premier League. A side packed with international stars and coached by a world class manager who has won trophies wherever he’s been. A team that Newcastle United could be with a bit of TLC.

Goodison Park – the first time we’ve played the Toffees at their place on a Saturday since 2010 when we won 1-0 thanks to a Hatem Ben Arfa wonder goal (remember him). There is something about a trip to the blue half of Merseyside that does get the juices flowing. In fact, my first Newcastle away game came at Goodison on Sunday 1st October 1995 when we won 3-1 thanks to goals from Ferdinand, Lee and Kitson. What an introduction to Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle United, Ginola turning defenders inside out and big Les powering home headers. We could beat anyone back then. I remember a good goal by Kieron Dyer confirming a 2-0 win on a Sunday afternoon back in March 2000 and Chilean Clarence Acuna securing a solid away victory in 2001. And who can forget last seasons antics: 95 minutes of dire tripe followed by chaos in the away end thanks to Florian Lejeune.

In the week that saw the closure of the January transfer window when a right back, an extra centre back and an attacking midfielder would have been nice, we signed… a coach. Graeme Jones. Much of the PR focused on that fact that he is a “local lad” who has supported the club since he was a boy. Sound familiar? Further awful patter followed with Bruce claiming on Friday he’d received and signed letters telling him he’s been doing a good job. Who writes letters these days? Perhaps it was Bruce’s twist on the fact that he’d been handed a note from Lee Charnley with the words, “lose this weekend and you’re out” (wishful thinking perhaps).

The manager made one change from the defeat to Leeds, with Manquillo in for Murphy, opting for 4 at the back. Lewis remained at left back. Hayden, Hendrick and Shelvey in midfield, protecting Lascelles and Schär. A front 3 of Almirón, Fraser and Wilson. A sign of consistency from Bruce, which is positive. Is this his “best team” that he’s never had the chance to play? Everton made four changes from a midweek draw with high flying Leicester. Holgate, Godfrey, Gomes and Davies all dropped to the bench, with Coleman, Sigurdsson, Doucouré and Iwobicoming in. Mina, Keane, Digne, Rodriguez, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin and our good old friend Jordan Pickford completed the line up.

The game started with Everton attacking and floating crosses into the box for Darlow to deal with. Lascelles was booked for a rather kamikaze foul on Richarlison after 3 minutes. Mina nodded free header over the bar on 15. Midway through the first half Newcastle started to have a few chances. Wilson and Shelvey both had shots deflected wide of Mina. Wilson powered a header at goal to be tipped over by Pickford and Shelvey hit a free kick over the bar. On balance we were probably having the better of the ball and the better chances. However, Darlow had to make a good save from James at short range shortly before half-time.

A bitty, stop-start first half came to an end with neither side having been able to establish much momentum. Newcastle looked to be approaching the game differently though. Not sitting back and allowing Everton to have all of the ball and dictate the play. We’d looked quite threatening and managed to keep Everton’s attacking threats mostly quiet. The possession stats showed Newcastle having had 44.8 % of the ball, compared to Everton’s 55.2%, making you almost have to rub your eyes and blink. The pundits agreed at half time that Newcastle were the better side and had created the better opportunities. Something we haven’t heard for a long, long time!

However, as the Newcastle players emerged from the Portakabins in the Goodison car park, I couldn’t help thinking of the Watford game last season when we’d had a bright first half but then just completely fell apart in the second, conceding 2 penalties. The type of performance which has since become a prototype for a Bruce ‘response’.

The second 45 started with Newcastle on the front foot and on 52 minutes Wilson had a  glorious chance which he put wide. The front 3 worked really well together, a driving run from Almirón provided Fraser with an opportunity to cross it low. However, Everton quickly responded and on 54 minutes Calvert- Lewin tried to curl a low shot into the bottom corner, only to see the ball palmed around the post by Darlow. Kieran Clark replaced Lascelles, following what looked like an injury picked up by the skipper. Everton then made a change with André Gomes coming on for Awobi. Newcastle were continuing to show the attacking impetus from the first half with the front 3 sharing some nice touches between them. On 66 minutes Bruce introduced St Maximin, who replaced Fraser.

On 72 minutes we were awarded a corner and Shelvey trotted over to take it. Our number 8 put a deep ball in then – a GOAL, a GOAL, a GOAL!!!!!! Callum Wilson! One of those headers you just dream about, pulling off the defender and glancing it out of reach of the diving keeper. One of those you scored in the playground back in 1998 and wheeled away with your tee-shirt over your head. What do you do though? I couldn’t remember how to celebrate; it’s been so long since we scored first in a game of football. I think to myself – has that just happened? Then the what’s app groups started going wild and it sunk in. We had actually scored a goal. A quality, quality goal. A goal from a set piece. Even. At last, something to get you off the sofa. Something to jump up and scream about!

Everton responded well though and were still dangerous of course – a dangerous ball across the box on 78 mins nearly saw Calvert Lewin capitalise. However, Newcastle remained the dominant force in the game. Maquillo chased after the ball on the edge of our box and put a cracking challenge in on Digne which saw Newcastle awarded a thrown in. We attacked again and Shelvey went close with a free kick. Things were starting to look slightly comfortable. Everton didn’t seem to be offering much going forward. We nearly made it two, cracking through ball from Almirón, Wilson takes it around a flailing Pickford but can’t quite squeeze it in. We are playing football!

The fourth official held up the board – 5 minutes of added on time. The nerves started to jangle a bit – could Newcastle United actually win a Premier League game? Silly talk surely. Don’t get carried away, I was thinking. Sit tight. Although I wasn’t really sitting, move hovering over the edge of the sofa.

Everton were awarded a corner, the big lads wandered forward. Was this it? Was this the equaliser coming? The ball was cleared nicely to Lewis who played a nice 1-2 with ASM. Lewis was running strongly down the left flank into space and the camera panned back to show Wilson in acres of space: “give it” I started to shout, “give it!”. Lewis floats it over to Wilson, who’s 1 on 1 with Pickford. Goal!!!!! Now this is getting silly! Another goal – a counter attack. Wilson tucks it away coolly. The game is over, we are going to win a game of football!

The full time whistle is blown! We’ve done it! 3 points, 3 glorious points! “OH STEVE BRUCE IS MAGIC HE WEARS A MAGIC HAT, HE SAID ‘LET’S GO AFTER THE CHAMPIONS LEAGE, I’LL HAVE A BIT OF THAT”– sang nobody ever, but let’s enjoy it. Go, celebrate, as much as you can in lockdown 58. Crack open the cans, somersault down the street, climb the lampposts. Enjoy it because Newcastle United have won a game of football and scored two goals. It may not happen again.

However, it’ll only be good if we build and go and win against Crystal Palace, a team we’ve already beaten this season. Then it’s Southampton at home, don’t lose that and we could be on to something. Can we actually get a run together? Can we pull away from the relegation zone?

Jake Humphrey summed it up nicely, “Newcastle fans don’t want the unreasonable, they just want heart, discipline, desire, belief” and we got it. For once we don’t have to worry about the manager or the owner or not signing anyone in January, we can just go out (stay in) and enjoy a good old fashion 2-0 victory.

ADAM MORRISON