Date:Saturday September 18 2010
Well wasn't that fanbloodytastic? A performance, three points and apparently lots to look forward to. A new French-Geordie Prince has also staked his claim as the hero of the terraces, with Hatem Ben Arfa producing a wonder goal out of nothing to secure the win.
But with Hughton's decision to drop Alan Smith and Jonas Gutierrez for Ben Arfa and Cheik Tiote, Newcastle fans were also given a glimpse of the Ivorian's tenacity and ample ability. He too, is sure to become a big favourite at St James' Park.
With a predictably boisterous away following, the eleven on the park also stepped up their game after last week's disappointing defeat at home to Blackpool. The new pairing of Joey Barton and Tiote immediately put their stamp on the game, almost literally.
And it was Newcastle who bossed the first half encounter creating more of the early pressure with a number of corners in quick succession though in truth, neither side had any clear cut chances. Wayne Routledge headed over, while Jagielka went close for the Toffees. Joey Barton's free kick was a good height for Tim Howard to make the save and he was never really in trouble when Kevin Nolan's cross came off Heitinga and dropped just under his bar.
The only real blot on an otherwise almost impeccable trip, was an injury to Steve Harper. The greasy surface saw Jermaine Beckford's slide clatter into the oncoming keeper. It initially looked like a leg or an ankle injury with the impact on the replays but the early verdict is of a broken or dislocated collar bone.
With Tim Krul on in place of Harper, Newcastle's impetus dropped a little and it looked like the game would reach halftime at 0-0. But that reckoned without the French fancy footwork of Ben Arfa. Having already displayed some neat touches and a good turn of pace, nonetheless few in the ground could have predicted what came next. With the ball at his feet 25 yards out, the young Frenchmen first turned away from two opponents, rolled his foot on the ball before turning again to face the Everton goal, deftly sidestepping his opponent and with almost no back lift he smashed a shot into the top corner past a bewildered Tim Howard to the delight of the away fans.
The second half became much more of an even affair, but once again the Newcastle backline weathered an Everton storm admirably and the football was refreshingly slick and up-tempo.
At one end, Kevin Nolan was refused what was clearly a stonewall penalty which would have seen the young right back Coleman sent off. And at the other Everton hit the post, only to see the rebound fall invitingly into the hands of the grateful Tim Krul. Krul also made some timely interceptions and when it was probably easier to score, Fellaini missed the best chance to equalise (probably distracted by his earlier attempt to knock Williamson's front teeth out. Which saw him only booked)
So lots of positives to take from this. Tiote showed that he has natural athleticism and pace. Something we've cried out for in the middle but also comfortable on the ball. He's also more adventurous and willing to fill the gaps left when he's not tackling or breaking things up. Something that Smith, for all his professionalism and attitude, doesn't do. A defence that is only a right back short of being something that we've never had for decades. Solid, dependable but actually good footballers as well.
Ben Arfa stood out miles because it's something that we haven't had at St James' for a very long time. A natural flair and ability to take people on and get the crowd on their feet, and what a strike! But just going about his job reasonably quietly today in spells but always doing his bit, and at various key stages reminding people just what he can offer as a professional footballer, Joey Barton. Maybe the two new men made the real difference today but Joey Barton was on song again and so were Newcastle Utd. Coincidence? Maybe not, and either way, long may it continue.
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Date:Saturday September 18 2010
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