Heitinga (og) 12, R Taylor 29 – Rodwell 45 +2
It’s one of those quirks which football often throws up that as Sir Alex Ferguson celebrates 25 years at Old Trafford, the teams currently in the top four of the Premier League are the same ones that were in the bottom four of the top flight when he took charge.
Perhaps no surprise for the Red Devils, their cross-city rivals and Chelsea, but Newcastle? Few would have had them marked down as early-season pace setters. That following this win over Everton they went second, albeit perhaps only briefly, is even more surprising.
There is a revolution going on at St. James’ Park, ditching all the characteristics usually associated with the club. Gone are the big money, big name, marquee signings. In have come cheap, unsung but technically excellent imports. Gone have gone regular disruptive forays onto the front pages of the tabloids and in has come collective hunger for success.
Out too has gone the usual defensive profligacy with Alan Pardew insisting his back four does extra training, something which has seen them concede just eight in 11 games – the joint best defence in the Premier League.
In truth the revolution began last season. Pardew has only lost seven of 33 league games in charge and Everton – back in March – are the only team to beat Newcastle at St James’ Park in 2011. On Saturday, the Newcastle got their revenge with Ryan Taylor’s wonder strike condemning the visitors to their fifth defeat in six games.
The Toon Army, who immaculately observed a minute’s silence for Remembrance Day, was uncharacteristically quiet following the initial roar which greeted kick-off. It was as if they didn’t dare believe they a win would see them go second.
After just 12 minutes the home side were gifted an opener which will have settled their nerves. The goal came from a relatively simple cross from Danny Simpson which Tim Howard would have taken easily. However it was directed past him and into his own net by Johnny Heitinga.
Just before the half-hour mark came Ryan Taylor’s wonder strike. The player launched a long throw into the Everton area from the left which Jack Rodwell headed straight back to Taylor who had the time to chest it down and launch a half-volley into the top corner. It was a special moment for Taylor as he celebrated, Bebeto-style, the birth of his son Henry six weeks ago.
Just before the break Rodwell pulled one back with a near post header and given the body language of the two teams as they trooped off, an Everton win would not have been a surprise. However, in the second 45 Newcastle dug very deep to hold on for a precious win. Everton were no mugs and David Moyes will have been left wondering what his side have to do to get a similar result but with Wolves and Bolton next on the horizon he will no doubt fancy his chances of picking up some points.
Following their efforts against Stoke on Monday night, Newcastle looked like they were running on empty and the international break cannot have come at a better time for Pardew’s men as it’ll give them the chance to patch up their injured players for the next three challenging games.
As things stand they are, along with Barcelona, Juventus, Benfica, Porto and Manchester City, one of only six unbeaten teams in Europe. Will that still be the case after their trips to Manchester and the visit of Chelsea? With a work rate and team ethic like today’s I wouldn’t bet against it.
Newcastle (4-4-2): Krul, Simpson, Coloccini, Steven Taylor, Ryan Taylor; Marveaux (Ameobi 53), Cabaye (Gosling 36), Guthrie, Gutierrez; Best (Ben Arfa 73), Ba.
Everton (4-5-1): Howard, Hibbert (McFadden 82), Heitinga (Cahill 56), Jagielka, Baines; Coleman, Neville (Distin 40), Rodwell, Osman, Drenthe; Saha
Did you know… Until Manchester United beat Sunderland on Saturday, Newcastle were in second place, the first time since February 2002 they have been above the Red Devils in the Premier League.