NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - MARCH 05: Phill Jagielka of Everton celebrates his goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Everton at St James' Park on March 5, 2011 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Apologies for the lack of a gamethread - cheers to SCPhilly Fan for starting one up. I have just got home from St James' Park so thought I would give my immediate reaction to a battling win by Everton.
I must admit I didn't go into this game with great expectations, mainly due to the rubbish display the lads put in against Reading. At best I thought it would be 0-0 in a game lacking in creativity.
But credit to Everton they came out determined to make an impression after that inept showing in mid-week. Moyes made two changes with Billy and Seamus Coleman making way for Tony Hibbert and Jermaine Beckford. That meant a place in central midfield for Phil Neville alongside Jack Rodwell with Mikel Arteta pushed out wide and Hibbert in at right-back .
Arteta began his career at the Toffees on the wing but eventually moved inside to try and exert more influence on the game. However, back out on the left he flourished today, perhaps aided by Newcastle's makeshift right flank, which included a chronically unfit looking Steven Taylor.
Arteta demonstrated his new found form with a surging and shot run early on that drew a smart save for Steven Harper as the Toffees started well.
Everton were in control, but as ever this season a failure to take chances cost us. It was difficult to see what exactly happened given I was sat at the other end of the ground but I don't think it will reflect well on the Everton defenders. They gave Kevin Nolan too much space in the area to fire in a shot that Howard parried, only for Leon Best to head home at the far post from point-blank range.
I feared the worst to be honest such was our fragile confidence, but credit to the players they stuck to their task and carved open their opponents to level the game. Leon Osman won the ball on the half-way line and ran at the heart of the Newcastle defence before laying it off to Arteta on the left hand side of the area. The Spaniard then played a clever ball with the outside of his foot back to Osman who had the freedom of the St James' Park penalty area to control, pick his spot, and fire past Harper. Game on.
Five minutes later it was 2-1. Mikel Arteta won a free-kick just to the left of the penalty area which allowed Leighton Baines to swing in another Delicious cross that Phil Jageilka managed to get a toe to. The ball span goalwards, past a wrong footed Harper and onto the cross-bar before bouncing the right side of the line for Everton fans.
A flurry of crosses and corners meant it was an uncomfortable ending to the half for Everton and I was never wholly convinced about our ability to repel Newcastle going into the break.
I feared we would sit back and try and hold on to the lead. We did do that, but credit to the Blues they also broke with pace and in numbers, as ever led by the inspirational Arteta, who looked back to something resembling his old self.
He went on another searing run early in the second half that saw him get to the byline and put the ball right onto Saha's head, only for the Frenchman to somehow head over from eight yards - I feared we would regret that miss.
Saha in fact should have had a hat-trick in the second half. He was inches away from tapping home an open goal after more good work from Arteta and late in the game his left-footed snap-shot went just wide.
Seamus Coleman, whose demotion to the bench was to more to give him a rest than for poor performance, gave us extra legs as Newcastle began to exert some pressure.
Phil Neville went off with hamstring injury while Victor Anichebe came on and immediately picked a fight with Kevin Nolan, who broke his leg in this fixture two years ago.
Both players were booked for the spat, though I have since heard Nolan apparently kicked out at Anichebe, which is a bit cheeky considering what had gone on before - did anyone who watched the game on TV spot anything?
Newcastle desperately lack fire power upfront and it showed in this game as cross after cross went by without incident. They worked hard and put us under pressure, but a Ameobi effort pushed wide by Howard and a Leon Best header was rightly ruled out for a push on Jagielka was the best they could muster.
Holes were appearing at the back too and if Everton had been a bit more clinical they could have made the finish more comfortable. Anichebe broke free on a few occasions but seemed to lack ideas when he got into the box while Coleman perhaps should have done better when he was teed up by Arteta as he could only fire tamely to Harper's right.
Five minutes of stoppage time seemed to last 10 as Howard Webb gave Newcastle as much time as possible to force an equaliser, but it wasn't to be and the traveling Evertonians - who had once again come in great number - went home happy.
In a topsy-turvy season I am still not sure what is the real Everton, but I know which one I prefer! Arteta will take plenty of plaudits today but special mention has to go to Leon Osman and Jack Rodwell, who imposed themselves in midfield.
Jermaine Beckford was full of running and had a few decent efforts on goal while the Saha could have had four goals on another day.
A fuller analysis to come on Monday but for now I'm going to enjoy my Saturday night after a hard-earned win by the Blues that lifts us back into the top ten and within shouting distance of the top six.
Maybe the season isn't completely over after all?