A PENALTY needlessly conceded by one left-back and eagerly converted by another brought Everton a long-awaited first home victory of the Premiership season last night.
Playing without the suspended Duncan Ferguson, Everton won courtesy of Mic-hael Ball's spot-kick after Carl Serrant had up-ended Don Hutchison in the area. There was little danger in the 17th minute when Hutchison nud-ged David Unsworth's long ball towards the byline. But when he was comprehensively brought down by a mistimed lunge, the 19-year-old Ball, now Everton's recognised penalty-taker, fired into the top corner.
It would be easy to be disparaging about this first win in seven Premiership attempts at Goodison Park by pointing out that Everton had little to beat. Certainly, without the injured Alan Shearer, Newcastle had no cutting edge whatsoever and only roused themselves for a half-hearted flurry of pressure near the end.
But even allowing for that, there were some encouraging signs for Walter Smith in the way Everton broke their duck.
Whenever they are without Ferguson, the two-pronged question is whether they will play differently and whether they will play better.
The answer to both last night was a guarded yes. The quick and agile striking combination of Ibrahima Bakayoko and Danny Cadamarteri invited the ball to be played to their feet and that was what the midfield engine room of Hutch-ison, Tony Grant and John Collins tried to do. They were not always successful, but they at least attempted something that Evertonians with long memories would have recognised as football.
Despite that, chances to add to Ball's penalty were not abundant. The two best ones came in quick succession on the half hour, both to Bakayoko. He had a strong shot from Grant's through ball well saved by Shay Given and then glanced a header wide from Hutchison's flighted centre.
Ruud Gullit tried several permutations in his efforts to bring some life to an insipid Newcastle. He switched to three at the back and wing-backs at half-time and replaced two of his many ineffective players in the second half.
Their best chance of getting something they did not deserve from this match lay with the space that Keith Gillespie found on the right flank, but too often his final ball was poor.
It was perhaps to be expected that a side which has waited so long for a home success should become jumpy within sight of the win.
Dave Watson's slice over his own bar was one signal of that. But as Gullit said: "We could have played for another 90 minutes and not have scored."
Everton needed plenty of help to find the net themselves, but it was not a night for the faithful to quibble.
Everton (3-5-2): Myhre; Ball, Watson, Unsworth; Collins, Hutchison, Short, Grant, Bakayoko (Milligan, 87); Dunne, Cadamarteri (Jeffers, 90). Substitutes not used: Simonsen, Cleland, Bilic.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Barton (Hamann, 68), Serrant (Albert, h-t), Batty, Charvet; Dabizas, Lee, Gillespie, Andersson; Dalglish (Brady, 61), Speed. Substitutes not used: Harper, Solano.
Referee: N Barry (Scunthorpe).Reuse content