Newcastle 2 Everton 1 Match Report
Nov 2011 07

You could write these match reports before the games even kick off.

David Moyes made two changes to the team that was beaten 1-0 by Manchester United a week ago, with Phil Neville and Royston Drenthe replacing the suspended Marouane Fellaini and seemingly despised Diniyar Bilyaletdinov. John Heitinga and Phil Jagielka carried on in the centre of defence, which came as a surprise seeing as though Sylvain Distin had recovered from the injury that kept him out against United.
Everton started brightly and created the game’s first real chance; Ryan Taylor misjudged Louis Saha’s flick, allowing Seamus Coleman a chance to shoot on the half-volley, but the Irishman blasted high and wide when he really should have done better.

Coleman has been struggling lately. It seems like opposing teams have sussed him out, leaving him looking a bit too limited to cut it as a Premier League-level winger. In fairness to him, he’s a natural full-back and looked brilliant there during his loan spell at Blackpool, so there’s no reason not to think he’ll end up a long-term fixture in defence once Neville replaces Moyes as manager and appoints Tony Hibbert as his assistant.

As is usually the way, Everton were punished for Coleman’s miss when Heitinga turned Danny Simpson’s cross into his own net after 12 minutes. It was hardly a Kolarov-style whip from Simpson, but it’d be harsh to blame Heitinga when Tim Howard, the world’s quietest tourette sufferer, declined to give him any kind of shout.

The Blues responded well to going behind, with Jack Rodwell and Leon Osman drawing saves from Tim Krul, who is pretty good despite looking like the archetypal dodgy flapper, while Saha smashed the ball out of the stadium when through on goal – an effort made doubly frustrating by the fact it was a waste of Jagielka’s first accurate pass of the season.

Once again Everton were made to rue their wastefulness in front of goal, as Ryan Taylor slammed a belter of a half-volley beyond Howard on 29 minutes. Taylor then almost fluked himself a second when he over hit a cross that came back off the bar, and Everton hit the woodwork themselves after Saha reacted quickest to a loose ball and was unlucky to see his first-time shot strike the post.

Moyes was forced to make his first substitution just 41 minutes in when Neville went down under what looked like a fairly light challenge; suggesting he probably shouldn’t have been on the pitch in the first place. Distin was the replacement, and while it was a very negative change to make when 2-0 down, I think it was really more of an admission that Jagielka and Heitinga were struggling to cope with the physicality of Demba Ba and Leon Best.

With Heitinga shifted into midfield things were looking bleak. That was until Drenthe’s corner was met by Rodwell, who powered a superb header past Krul to make it 2-1 just before half-time. The goal sent Everton into the break on a high, and they used the momentum to make a strong start to the second-half.

Tim Cahill, who hasn’t scored in about fifteen years, came on to end the Heitinga midfield nightmare and boost Everton’s push for an equaliser, but the chances dried up after Dan Gosling (remember him?) blocked Saha’s goal-bound strike with his arm. As Gosling was on the floor and didn’t really move it’d be harsh to say he should have been sent off, but it was a stonewall penalty regardless.

Arguably the worst moment of the game arrived on 81 minutes when James McFadden made his first appearance since returning on a free transfer. He was never up to much first time around, so the sight of him emerging from the dugout looking like an extra from Rab C. Nesbitt probably did little to worry Newcastle’s defenders.

McFadden has never had any pace, which might explain Moyes throwing him in despite appearing as though he’s been on the Yak diet, so we could only hope that he had at least matured as a footballer in the three and a half years since the manager decided he wasn’t good enough. Sadly, his attempt to curl one in from an impossible angle when there were numerous blue shirts to aim for confirmed that he still thinks like a nine year old.

This loss drops Everton to 17th after Wolves’ win over Wigan yesterday, and just a point separates them from Bolton in 18th. It’s been a horrible run that has seen Everton earn just three points from six difficult fixtures – and worryingly they were six fixtures that accounted for twelve points last season.

Despite Everton playing fairly well and deserving at least a point, it’s hard to begrudge Newcastle the win or their impressive start to the season. Alan Pardew doesn’t have a particularly big squad to work with and was given only a fraction of the fees received for Andy Carroll, Kevin Nolan and Jose Enrique to find adequate replacements. He also had to deal with his pre-season preparations being disrupted by Joey Barton, who has become even more of a pain in the arse since learning how to read.

The injury which forced Yohan Cabaye off in the first-half on Saturday left Pardew without three of his four first choice midfielders, but instead of dropping his arse and packing the centre of the park with defenders he opted to give two young a lads a go in their natural positions. Obviously there’s no way this Newcastle team will qualify for the Champions League, but their positive approach will ensure they do alright.

Everton’s next six matches include home games against Wolves, Stoke, Norwich and Swansea. These, along with the trip to Bolton, are games that Everton really need to win if they’re to spend the second half of the season thinking about Europe rather than worrying about a possible relegation scrap.

Hopefully there’ll be money to spend on a striker in January, but until then Moyes needs to freshen things up and show a bit more confidence in his players. Drenthe has made a positive impact, but even with him in the side it’s hard to see where goals are going to come from when Saha, who isn’t suited to playing as a lone striker anyway, is supported by a midfield that always contains two holding midfielders (one of which is quite often a natural defender in Neville or Heitinga) and a full-back on the wing.

The defence has never really recovered from Lescott’s departure and is only getting worse (their one clean sheet this season came in a game where the opposition missed two penalties), so It seems like as good a time as any to switch Coleman to right-back. The only way he’s going to develop as a defender is through playing games, and even if he does leave gaps by bombing forward there will be two defensive midfielders waiting to cover.

I sympathise with Moyes, who has watched his team fall apart in front of him over the past two years, but he still has a number of highly paid internationals to choose from, and rarely passes up an opportunity to defend the board in the press. He’s never going to be a gung-ho manager, and that’s fair enough, but his tactics are becoming unnecessarily negative to the point where his team are now incredibly predictable and easy to defend against.

A couple of wins will change everything, but it’s easier said than done.

Written by Matthew

Si Will make me famous and I am ungrateful