Wednesday night ended Everton 1 Newcastle 1.

Newcastle taking a shock early lead against the run of play and reaching halfway with the scores then level following Richarlison’s 38th minute equaliser, after a bit of a battering first half.

The expected continuation of that never really happened after the break, with Newcastle even having a chance or two to win it at the end.

The Editor asked me beforehand to write about 3 positives and 3 negatives from the game, so here goes…

POSITIVES

Benítez Knows Best

Rafa’s somewhat surprising decision to opt for ‘damage limitation mode’ and play the 5-4-1 usually reserved for encounters with the likes of Man City and Liverpool, shows just how highly he rates Marcos Silva’s ever-improving Everton.

So, he and his staff will obviously be delighted that the game plan worked and we dug deep to come away with a valuable point. It wasn’t pretty and our limitations were all too apparent but so too was our greatest strength.

Do we lack quality? Yes. Is our squad strong enough? Yes. Is Rafa getting the best from this group of players? Undoubtedly.

He’s still one of the best tacticians around and, more often than not, the diligent defensive work done on the training ground is there for all to see on matchdays. Long may we continue to reap the rewards of his hard work.

Gutsy Defending

Time and again Everton launched crosses into our box and time and again, our defence stood firm. While there were a handful of nervy moments here and there, the entire back line shone tonight.

The central trio worked particularly hard – tracking runners, cutting out through-balls, blocking shots, heading out crosses and maintaining focus right up to the end. Heads could have dropped after Richarlison’s equaliser but all credit to our defence for holding out.

Particular praise needs to go to Fernández for his phenomenal last-ditch tackle and Dúbravka for his fantastic point-blank save in the first half. A point well earned.

Travelling Fans

The Mag recently ran an article that highlighted just how many of Newcastle’s midweek games over the last number of years had been away from home and it made for astonishing reading. Wednesday night’s trip to Goodison Park was Newcastle’s 56th midweek Premier League game (ie. Monday to Friday) since promotion in 2010 and an incredible 38 of those have now been away from home!

Yet, amazingly, the Toon Army’s lust for away trips remains undiminished. With little regard for cost or inconvenience, they still travel in their droves to offer their vocal and passionate support and they were in fine voice once again at Goodison. If only those inside St James’ Park on matchdays were as vociferous in their support (or dislike of our owner).

NEGATIVES

Blunt Up Front

With so much effort and concentration going into maintaining defensive solidity, Newcastle offered little going forward. On the rare occasions when The Magpies did carve out any chances, they didn’t get enough men into dangerous areas and those who did make it into the box, lacked conviction in their finishing. Here’s looking at you, Christian Atsu!

Although Salomón Rondón did get on the scoresheet, the Venezuelan front man was once again asked to focus more on being the first line of defence rather than leading the line in an attacking sense.

While Ritchie’s suspension and Kenedy’s surprising omission deprived us of our two usual wide men, the sad truth is that neither of them have been particularly impressive so far this season. So, with none of our wingers doing much to aid our cause, the time has surely come to try and inject a bit more creativity into the side by starting Ki and Shelvey together in the middle.

Modest Ambitions

While it could well be argued that the end justifies the means, the very fact that Rafa saw fit to go to Everton and play 5-4-1 in the hope of nicking a result is a sad indictment of a club once affectionately known as ‘The Entertainers’.

We’re now a million miles off the ‘Big Six’ and I think we all recognise that containment is our best policy when facing most of those sides in pursuit of the Champions League places but we’re reaching a whole new level of desperation if we need to go ‘backs to the wall’ and cross our fingers for a result at Goodison Park.

We all need to hope and pray that a takeover happens soon because God only knows how low we’ll sink if we’re forced to live in austerity beyond this season. We really don’t demand a club that wins but how nice it would be to once again have a club that at least tries…

Goals from set-pieces

While we rode our luck at times, it would be difficult to argue that we didn’t deserve to come away from Merseyside with that hard-earned point. The boys kept their shape and their concentration and threw themselves in harm’s way to ensure that we didn’t leave empty-handed.

Indeed, they do the same every week but don’t always have anything to show for it – although Newcastle’s total of just nine goals conceded from open play does at least hint at a well-drilled side who have become fairly adept at withstanding opposition pressure.

Sadly, however, our defending of set pieces leaves a lot to be desired. Richarlison’s equaliser was the 7th goal that the Magpies have conceded from a set piece this season – the league’s joint-second highest, alongside Everton and Southampton and just one below Cardiff.

Stats from BBC Sport:

Everton 1 Newcastle 1

Goal:

Newcastle: Rondon 19

Everton: Richarlison 38

Possession was Everton 76% Newcastle 24%

Total shots were  Everton 19 Newcastle 8

Shots on target were Everton 3 Newcastle 5

Corners were  Everton 14 Newcastle 2

Referee: Lee Mason

Newcastle United:

Dubravka, Yedlin, Schar, Fernandez, Lascelles, Manquillo, Diame, Ki, Murphy (Perez 64), Atsu, Rondon (Joselu 74)

Unused Subs:

Woodman, Shelvey, Clark, Longstaff, Muto

Crowd: 39,350 (Newcastle 1,700)

(Match ratings from Wednesday night for all NUFC players HERE)

(The instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to the 1-1 draw HERE)

To feature like Kevin Christie submit your article to [email protected] and/or for more info go here



  • Paul Patterson

    I think ‘Blunt up front’ is a bit harsh. If we were more attacking minded I doubt we would have limited them to just one goal. It’s all about balance. I won’t be knocking an away point any time soon . .

  • robbersdog

    Rafa is very tactically astute, he rarely gets it wrong and he’s managing to squeeze the maximum out of a very average squad.

    If we had a manager like Pardew, McClaren or Carver, we wouldn’t have a prayer this season, and we’d already be down and out. Right now, Rafa is all that stands between our club and oblivion and, like the fans, he deserves a better owner.

  • tonytoon

    A very negative article after a brilliant defensive performance. We all know our deficiencies so let’s just appreciate what we’re good at. Guess what – Rafa knows what he’s doing.

  • Simon Ritter

    We conceded 14 corners (10 in the first half) so the claim that we are weak when defending set pieces is dubious. Most teams would expect at least one goal if they took 14 corners. A hard-earned point could have been all three if we had taken our chances in the second half when Everton ran out of inspiration.

  • Kenny

    I would put Rafa in the top 5 managers in the World, his tactical ability is up there with the best.
    he`s wasting his time at Newcastle.

  • KennySamsung

    Out of 120% possession? attention to detail!

    “Yes but Atsu does get in the position to miss”
    I can just hear the so called experts positive spin on this.

    People only remember the result!

    Nobody else in the world would have got that result last night except Rafa. Players who give their all is what I expect and to an extent I think we achieved that.

    Sack the Bored!

  • Wor Lass

    The reason we have conceded so many from set pieces isn`t because the defence isn`t good enough – it`s clearly one of the best in the PL. It`s because we take such a battering most weeks and concede so many corners and free kicks outside the box. Rather than thinking about improving our defending (although I`m sure Rafa will always be doin that) we need to improve the quality of the team in more forward positions so we can have more posession and take the pressure off the back 4/5. As far asI`m concerned they`ve been heroes this season.

    • Kevin Christie

      Agree 100%!