A brace of goals from Callum Wilson and one each for Joelinton and substitute Murphy condemned Everton to another home loss and staring into the abyss as games are running out in this second, a late consolation from Dwight McNeil being all the Blues could muster.
Thursday night at Goodison Park for what, if things went truly badly, could be the last ever under-the-lights game in the Premier League at the Grand Old Lady.
Newcastle the visitors after spanking Tottenham on Sunday and Everton in desperate need of three points – who could ask for more of a scenario tailor made for ninety minutes of nail biting?
In Thursday’s press briefing, the primary questions were on squad availability and the manager advised that both skipper Seamus Coleman and midfielder Amadou Onana had trained but, any decision on their inclusion in the team to face Newcastle would be made immediately ahead of the game itself. He also advised that Andros Townsend had now returned to ‘on grass’ training but, was still some way off a return.
When asked about Calvert-Lewin and how he’d reacted to a full ninety minutes at Selhurst Park, Dyche said: “It’s good to see Dom back out there, that’s for sure. He got more minutes in than what we thought, the tempo of the game was slightly lower than some, so we could allow that to happen. He felt good, obviously, and we were monitoring it during the game. He’s recovered from it well in the sense of the physical side of it and the recovery period. He looked sharp again today in training.”
On the request from various fan groups that the team return to arriving on a coach for the Newcastle game, to give the fans the give a colourful, loud, passionate and raucous welcome to both the manger and the players, Dyche commented, “if it helps the players understand the situation better and helps them in the game, then I have to pay tribute to the fans for demonstrating their passion for the club so demonstrably.”
Speaking to the Matchday magazine, Dyche outlined the bigger picture for the club as he sees it saying, “My job is to be a custodian in this period. On another day the Club might have wanted a ‘flamboyant’ manager but the timing of me here now is probably appropriate and I think people see that. I get the feeling the fans see it. Perhaps three or four years ago they wouldn’t have wanted me. I’ve got no problem with that at all. Three or four years ago, maybe I wouldn’t have suited it but now I certainly feel like the timing is right.”
He continued adding, “The connection I’m trying to build through myself, the staff, the team into the fans is real. It has to be authentic. Beyond that, of course, is more future successes, but it has to start with that bond. It has to be kept real and kept bonded. We want a team that can fight and play. You can look at other clubs and other teams and what they have but I think the people here want to retain a sense of, ‘This is Everton’ and ‘We are Everton’.”
With stand-in right back Mason Holgate unavailable due to his one game suspension, Sean Dyche weighed up all his options Sean Dyche before finally announcing his starting eleven: Jordan Pickford (c), Ben Godfrey, Michael Keane, James Tarkowski, Vitalii Mykolenko, Alex Iwobi, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Idrissa Gana Gueye, Amadou Onana, Dwight McNeil and Dominic Calvert-Lewis.
While Everton are languishing in the bottom three, Newcastle are riding high in the top three and looking good for a Champions League berth next season, and a double over the Blues would go a long way towards that goal.
The Magpies boss Eddie Howe is a self-confessed Evertonian but, he was demanding his team be ‘robust’ against the Blues when he outlined his thinking in his Thursday media gathering. “We’re going to need to be very strong mentally, physically – we need to be robust. We’re going to need to stand up to the challenges that we face and then show our quality.”
Speaking in more general terms about the opposition he would be facing, Howe added, “I think Everton have got some very strong players. They’ve had a difficult season with changing manager. Sean’s come in with his vast experience and is almost the perfect man for the job because he’s been there many, many times and he’s always found a way to keep his team up. He did an incredible job at Burnley and now coming into Everton, I think he has his style and his way of playing, and I think the positive thing for them is he has the players to execute that plan.”
An obvious question for the former Burnley and Bournemouth manager surrounded the inclusion, or not, of former Everton winger Anthony Gordon and he responded saying, “I’m not party to what happened and what went on. I can only really comment on the player that I’ve seen, and he’s been very, very good – trained really well – as I’ve said many times, (he’s) very passionate, wants to achieve, wants to do really well in his career. What happened at Everton, I can’t really comment on, but he’s fine and he’s in a good place.” He added, “I think the beauty of it is he’s seen the Everton crowd many times. He was at the club a long, long time, so he will have no surprises about what to expect. I’m sure he’s seen other players go back and receive mixed receptions, so hopefully he has seen enough to be robust enough to deal with that.”
Focussed on finishing the season as strongly as possible but with St.Maximin unlikely to feature, Howe named his starting line-up: Pope, Trippier (c), Schar, Bosman, Targett, Longstaff, Guimaraes, Willock, Almiron, Joelinton and Wilson.
On an evening loaded with tension and nerves, our referee was Andre Marriner.
If pre-game team bus welcomes were worth points, Everton would be home and dry as another loud, rapturous, and blue smoke filled Goodison Road was thronged with Blues fans willing the team on as they arrived for the game. And a jam-packed Goodison roared as the sirens sounded and Z-Cars blared from the PA system as the team took to the pitch – spine tingling.
An early clash saw Botman take one in the face from DCL before the first Newcastle attack fizzled out for a goal kick to the Blues, with Doucoure caught offside trying to get on the end of a ball over the top from Keane. A decent raid by the Blues saw Iwobi, having started on the left side, smote a shot that went high and wide.
Doucoure fed Gana Gueye for a shot that was saved before Newcastle countered and won the games first two corners, both conceded by Godfrey, the second after deflecting a shot from Guimaraes. A free kick to the Blues saw Pope line up his wall, the shot from Gana Gueye cleared the wall but, didn’t have enough dip to trouble the Newcastle keeper.
The opening quarter hour had flown by with both sides competing hard and Wilson beginning to cause the Blues defence some issues with his strength in the air. Everton defended another Newcastle raid involving Targett, Willock and Joelinton as the visitors looked to pressure the Blues in their own half.
Everton needed to be stronger in midfield and a ball from Iwobi was too strong and Pope gathered the second attempted cross from McNeil. Everton on a break through Doucoure saw him feed DCL who was unable to get a shot on target but, an encouraging sign. Dwight McNeil was next to chance his arm and his swerving shot from outside the area was held by Pope.
Godfrey on a charge lost out to Botman and a slip by Schar saw Pope hack the ball to halfway, before the Blues got the ball forward again and Botman hoofed a clearance over the stands. A decent attack by the Blues saw Doucoure again heavily involved and looking to find DCL, the ball eventually going out for a goal kick off Iwobi. The home crowd again raised their voices as a short stoppage saw a couple of Newcastle players get some treatment.
Calamity for the Blues on 28 minutes as Joelinton and Targett combined down their left and the shot from the former cutting in off the flank was partly saved and Wilson was in hand to roof the rebound for the first goal of the game.
Goodison was momentarily silenced and a cross from Longstaff found the head of Wilson but, easily held by Pickford. Newcastle won a corner off Mykolenko taken by Targett and Mykolenko put the cross out for another corner that was cleared. Iwobi and Onana worked the ball to McNeil for another shot that disappointingly was easily saved by Pope but, at least the Blues were doing their best to stay in the game.
Everton were competing, Doucoure and Onana working hard in midfield, they just needed to find some quality in their build-up play and especially the final ball. Longstaff went down and needed treatment and from the restart, the visitors won another corner off Iwobi, not taking any chances. Doucoure headed the set piece clear and a pull back by Onana on Guimaraes saw the first yellow card of the game brandished by Andre Marriner.
Newcastle cleared a cross from McNeil and into the final five minutes of the half and a challenge by Mykolenko on Trippier saw him go down for another stoppage in play as he received some treatment, before hobbling off the pitch. Everton won their first corner and a cross from Iwobi reached Michael Keane on the edge of the six yard area, his effort going just wide of the post.
Into added-on time and McNeil tried a through ball for DCL who was slid the ball home but, ruled offside as VAR checked and denied the Blues a halftime equaliser. Everton had shown plenty of endeavour but, the lack of quality in the final ball was again proving costly.
Half Time: 0-1
No changes by either manager for the second half that started with the visitors pushing forward to win a corner off Tarkowski, Almiron seeing his shot from outside the area blocked and cleared.
And at this point folks, your intrepid (?) but frustrated match reporter lost radio signal on the train to the north of Scotland – updates from this point gleaned from the BBC match reporting.
Everton won a corner conceded by Almiron that was cleared and a foul by Keane on Wilson prevented the Newcastle striker from getting away. Everton on the attack again saw Iwobi feed DCL for a decent shot that Pipe saved before Targett was the first of the visitors to see a yellow card. Joelinton then fouled Iwobi as the visitors tried to stifle any momentum out of the Blues.
Another through ball for DCL from Keane again saw the Blues number nine again ruled offside and the home crowd voiced their displeasure towards the lines person. Approaching the hour mark and the Blues needed a lift, something to re-energise the crowd for the time remaining.
McNeil saw another effort blocked and Wilson fouled Tarkowski as he ventured forward in support of the attack, the free kick failing to produce anything for the Blues. Newcastle got forward and Almiron fed Wilson who fired a rising shot high and wide, and the Blues countered with DCL feeding Onana for a shot that also missed the target high and wide. On 66 minutes, Newcastle won another corner conceded by Gana Gueye that failed to produce.
Two changes by Newcastle saw Burn replace Targett and Murphy replace Almiron ahead of the visitors winning two more quick corners. A rising shot from Willock was turned round the lost by Pickford for another corner and a foul by Tarkowski on Wilson gave Newcastle more possession as we entered the final twenty minutes.
Disaster for the Blues on 72 minutes as a cross from Willock saw Joelinton head the visitors second goal from close range, Everton reacting by withdrawing Amadou Onana to send on Neal Maupay.
Isaac replaced Longstaff in the third change by Eddie Howe and barely a minute later they added a third goal as Guimaraes fed Wilson for a shot that flew into the top corner with just a quarter of an hour left on the clock. The travelling Geordie fans were now revelling in the Blues misfortune as their side went in search of more goals.
Isak saw a shot blocked and Keane had to concede another corner as the pressure continued, Schar seeing a header blocked from the Trippier cross. Everton got forward to win a corner off Botman and they reduced the arrears on 80 minutes, Dwight McNeil scoring from long range to give the home fans some hope.
But that hope evaporated inside a minute as Newcastle went straight down the other end and substitute Murphy made it 1-4. A late double change by Sean Dyche saw Ellis Simms and James Garner replace DCL and Idrissa Gana Gueye but, it was only a token gesture as the Blues were now a well beaten side and Newcastle looking like genuine contenders for a top four finish or better, and guaranteed European football next season.
Newcastle gave Anthony Gordon a cameo appearance replacing Wilson and they won another corner inside the final minute of normal time from which they nearly went nap, Schar firing home a fifth from outside the area to rub even more salt into Evertonian wounds before VAR for once ruled in the Blues favour – an ironic pyrrhic victory of sorts.
Into added on time and Newcastle were still piling forward, Murphy firing high on a pass from Guimaraes – just end it ref will ya? Maupay picked up a yellow card on 95 minutes for a foul on Guimaraes, showing a touch of frustration… and that was that.
Newcastle by far the better side with the kind of striking options that Everton have lacked all season, and it’s going to take something monumental from the Blues to pull this relegation battle out of the fire.