Just like Kevin Keegan's black and white minstrels of 1994-95, the Newcastle class of 2010-11 will head to Manchester on the back of an unbeaten 11-match start to a top-flight campaign. It remains to be seen whether Alan Pardew's Magpies will get their wings clipped at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday week, as Keegan's did at Old Trafford 16 years ago, but for the time being they are flyinghigh in the Premier League.
At the end of their lunchtime kick-off the new Newcastle were one of only six top flight European teams still unbeaten in their leagues – with Manchester City, Barcelona, Juventus, Porto and Benfica. Nobody expected them to be in such high-class company when Joey Barton followed Kevin Nolan, Jose Enrique and Andy Carroll out of the door and at times yesterday it was like watching Surreal Madrid as they overcame Everton and moved up into second place – temporarily, at least.
Pardew's men pocketed a "joke" of an own goal, as David Moyes described John Heitinga's 12th minute effort, went 2-0 up courtesy of a wonder goal by Ryan Taylor, then – after Jack Rodwell halved the deficit in first-half injury time – survived a "stonewall" penalty claim (to quote Everton's manager again) and ended up clinging to victory by their finger-nails. "Our resolve, our defensive quality, and the crowd got us over the line," a relieved Pardew said.
With Cheik Tioté and Gabriel Obertan already on the injured list, and Yohan Cabaye and Sylvain Marveaux joining them before the hour mark, the Newcastle manager could do with the breathing space of the international break before gathering his troops for the assault on the blue side of Manchester. "It's important that we go there unbeaten," Pardew said. "They're one of the best in Europe. We couldn't be better placed."
It was jolly decent of Everton to give Newcastle a head start. The Magpies had yet to get into their stride when Danny Guthrie played the ball out to the right in the 12th minute and Danny Simpson dispatched a low cross that was heading for the arms of Tim Howard until Heitinga turned it past the bemused goalkeeper.
Seamus Coleman had already scuffed a chance at the other end and Everton had another three clear chances in a two-minute flurry midway through the first-half. Tim Krul made a fine diving save from a Rodwell header, Leon Osman fired into the arms of Newcastle's Dutch goalkeeper and Louis Saha blazed over with the home goal at his mercy.
Just when Everton were threatening to get on level terms, Ryan Taylor struck for Newcastle. The makeshift left-back did so in stunning fashion, after Everton failed to clear a left wing throw-in in the 29th minute, striking the bouncing ball with his right foot from just outside the left edge of the penalty area and hoisting it over Howard and in off the underside of the American's crossbar.
Everton continued to press, Saha smacking a shot off the woodwork and Royston Drenthe firing a drive into the side-netting, but they had the crossbar to thank for keeping out another Ryan Taylor ambitious effort.It was two minutes into first-half injury time that they finally found the back of the home net, Rodwell heading in a right-wing corner.
It might have been followed by another nine minutes into the second-half. Saha appealed in vain for a penalty when he had a shot deflected wide and replays showed that Dan Gosling, on for the injured Cabaye, had caused the diversion with his left hand.
Newcastle were on the back foot for most of the second-half, soaking up pressure on the edge of their box. They managed just one shot on target, Demba Ba firing at Howard.
It was another of those days when the defensive mettle of Pardew's charges was put to the test. Roared on by their first 50,000 home crowd of the season, they managed to hold out, matching a club record unbeaten start achieved not just by Keegan's cavaliers but the Magpies of 1950-51: Jackie Milburn, Frank Brennan et al.
Newcastle (4-4-2): Krul; Simpson, S Taylor, Coloccini, R Taylor; Marveaux (Sammy Amoebi, 53), Cabaye (Gosling, 38), Guthrie, Gutierrez; Ba, Best (Nen Arfa, 72).
Everton (4-4-2): Howard; Hibbert, Jagielka, Heitinga (Cahill, 56), Baines; Coleman (McFadden, 82), Rodwell, Neville (Distion, 41), Osman; Saha, Drenthe.
Referee: Andre Marriner
Man of the match: R Taylor (Newcastle)