"I was reminded of the old golfer's saying," Graeme Souness reflected while toying with his tea cup. "The one about the harder you work the luckier you become. You can see why Everton are third in the League on that basis: they worked very hard." It was a barbed and backhanded compliment, born of the Newcastle manager's certainty that this was a match that should have been crushingly won. There was also the frustration of knowing that Everton, a club that surely has to be overhauled if the Champions' League is to return to St James' Park, stand 10 points clear this morning.
There was fortune in the point Everton won. Souness could point to the clearance off the line from Alan Stubbs, the spectacular volley from Jermaine Jenas that crashed down from the crossbar and the rifled drive from Craig Bellamy that rebounded from Alessandro Pistone's backside. Souness considered Newcastle were denied a penalty when Kieron Dyer was bundled over, a decision that caused him to hide his face in the folds of his overcoat.
However, this was also a story of Everton's remarkable resilience, based upon what David Moyes called the finest team spirit he has known as a player or a manager and Newcastle's inability to finish a game. This was the sixth time in 15 matches they had taken the lead and failed to win. The cost is already 13 points and, if Newcastle continue to stumble, it will be measured in millions of pounds of lost revenue from European competition.
Before setting off for last Thursday's Uefa Cup match in France, Bellamy had, in his melodramatic way, suggested that Newcastle could not afford to lose another home match, if they were to qualify for the Champions' League. Since Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea have still to come to Tyneside this campaign, this was quite a requirement.
Bellamy had also commented that as a striker his finishing, a quality that had often eluded him especially in one-on-ones, was vastly improved. As he ran on to a lovely, short through ball from Patrick Kluivert that took out both Everton's central defenders and left him with just Nigel Martyn to beat, here was a chance to prove his words. He did so emphatically.
But, as always with Newcastle, their play carried a fragility about it. That Everton would score from a set-piece was not in itself surprising - for all the reconstruction carried out by Sir Bobby Robson Newcastle are habitually vulnerable to free-kicks and corners. However, that they would equalise from a beautifully curled, almost Beckhamesque, free-kick from Lee Carsley might have drawn breath.
The smart money had been on the kind of goalmouth scramble from a corner that finished with Tim Cahill back-heeling wide from less than four yards. Had Marcus Bent shown slightly more composure when rounding Shay Given, Everton would have taken a lead that would have been inconceivable after 35 minutes.
Moyes is frank enough to admit that Everton in third is slightly inconceivable even to someone running the club. He had not expected much from a November that featured three away fixtures "but we have not even started our rebuilding programme and we are averaging two points a game. Everybody knows what that means." It was the closest he would come to saying Everton are still on course for something astonishing.
Goals: Bellamy 5 (1-0), Carsley 56 (1-1).
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Taylor, Hughes, Bramble, Bernard; Dyer, Bowyer (Ameobi, 82), Jenas, Robert; Bellamy, Kluivert. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Milner, Ambrose, Brittain.
Everton (4-5-1): Martyn; Hibbert, Weir, Stubbs, Pistone; Osman, Gravesen (Yobo, 90), Carsley, Cahill (Watson, 86), Kilbane; Bent (Ferguson, 88). Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), McFadden.
Referee: N Barry (Scunthorpe).
Booked: Newcastle: Bramble, Jenas. Everton: Cahill, Hibbert, Bent.
Man of the match: Jenas.
Attendance: 51,247.Reuse content