The six flights of stairs that managers must climb to reach the press room at Goodison Park have dissuaded many a beaten man from hosting a public inquest at Everton, and having witnessed Newcastle's abrupt return to mediocrity Graeme Souness had good cause to expend his energy within the confines of the visiting dressing-room yesterday.
Newcastle's irate manager may have remained silent on an alarming display if unfortunate defeat to David Moyes' struggling side, sending his assistant Alan Murray to meet the press afterwards, but at least his collection of highly paid, underachieving internationals were not spared the bluntness of his assessment. Souness locked his squad in their dressing-room for almost an hour as he dissected a level of performance that, should it continue now that early season injuries have abated, will only revive the debate on his future.
The Scot could have stepped forth and invited a fine from the Football Association by blaming the referee, Howard Webb, for this result, the official's failure to spot a goalline handball by Everton's James McFadden in the 40th minute an undisputed turning point, and though it was to his credit that he did not, it was a shame he elected not to share his thoughts with the Newcastle faithful.
"Graeme is a very passionate man and passionate about the way his team plays," ventured Murray. "And though we should have been at least one goal ahead by half-time he knows we didn't play well today and he is really feeling it." Souness would have been good value after a contest between two teams who are not the sum of their parts, that could have seen four players sent off, that staged a magnificent tribute to George Best and was ultimately decided by a simple header from Joseph Yobo that brought Everton their third win in four games and a necessary response to last weekend's humbling at The Hawthorns.
Newcastle, slow and subdued at the start of both halves, should have been awarded a penalty and a one-man advantage when Shola Ameobi drove Emre Belozoglu's corner towards the Everton goal only for an outstretched hand from McFadden to divert the danger. A minute later Tim Cahill and Celestine Babayaro came to blows inside the Newcastle penalty area only for the mass of bodies to again disguise a multitude of sins from Webb, who was otherwise quick to punish five visiting players with a yellow card for late challenges - but not Alan Shearer when he appeared to throw a deliberate elbow into the throat of his marker, David Weir. "There was a lot going on out there," admitted Moyes; "Our boys were determined. We knew we had to play better than last week and compete for everything and I thought we did that really well."
While possession football has not been a problem for Everton this season, creative football has been, and it is not difficult to comprehend why they had scored only four League goals prior to yesterday's game. They are one of the least threatening teams around, their midfield blessed with individual talent yet struggling to find any cohesion, but it says everything about Newcastle's second-half display that James Beattie, Cahill and Andy van der Meyde all squandered chances to make the game safe after Yobo's intervention.
Everton's game plan centred on the quality of Van der Meyde and Mikel Arteta's crosses or the offering of a defensive error from Newcastle, a valid approach with Jean Alain Boumsong and Titus Bramble in opposition and their most productive outlet in the opening 45 minutes. Cahill capitalised on Bramble's slip to set up Van der Meyde on the stroke of half-time, the Dutch international forcing a fine save from Shay Given and looking on in horror as McFadden skied the easiest of rebounds four yards over the crossbar. Fifty-four seconds after the restart, however, Given was beaten as Yobo towered over Peter Ramage to head an Arteta corner, ironically won by McFadden, beyond the Irish international, one of the few Newcastle players to earn his wage.
"I thought we deserved the points. We should have scored more and their 'keeper made a couple of excellent saves," said Moyes. "We got away with the handball but we had a few decisions go against us at West Brom last week, but that's football."
Everton (4-4-2): Martyn; Hibbert, Yobo, Weir, Neville; Arteta (Osman, 79), Davies, Cahill, Van der Meyde (Kilbane, 76); McFadden, Beattie (Bent, 84). Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), Kroldrup.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Ramage, Boumsong, Bramble, Babayaro (Luque, 51); Solano (Bowyer, 61), Emre, Parker, N'Zogbia; Shearer, Ameobi. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Faye, Clark.
Referee: H Webb (South Yorkshire).
Booked: Everton Beattie; Newcastle Babayaro, N'Zogbia, Bramble, Parker, Ramage.
Man of the match: Arteta.
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