Everton-Newcastle United Preview
A sudden surge to the middle of the table and a stolen point in the Merseyside derby later, all is right with Everton as Sam Allardyce hasn't even worked a miracle yet.
The Toffees look to extend their best run of the season Wednesday when they face a struggling Newcastle United squad at St. James' Park.
Everton (5-4-7) have surged to the top half of the standings with two wins and a draw in their last three league matches while going unbeaten in their last four (3-1-0). The Toffees scrambled to a 1-1 draw at Anfield on Sunday, claiming a point when referee Craig Pawson controversially awarded a penalty inside the final quarter-hour after Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren sent striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin to the pitch after getting two hands on the Everton player's back as he chased a long ball sent by Wayne Rooney.
Rooney calmly converted the penalty for his first career Merseyside derby goal as Everton could walk back across Stanley Park to the blue side of Liverpool knowing they were gifted a point through either Calvert-Lewin's smart play-acting or Lovren's foolishness depending on your supporter's colours.
"A few balls flashed across the face of our goal, which on some days do not go to their players, on others they do. But we dealt with those well," Allardyce told evertontv. "I cannot remember Jordan Pickford having to make a top-quality save to keep us in the game.
"I do not know why he put his hands on Dominic, when all he needed to do was stand up," Allardyce added about Pawson's decision to award the penalty. "The referee was outstanding, to give a decision of that magnitude in a derby at Anfield was very good for him. And it was definitely a penalty, in my view."
Rooney's eight goals in league play lead Everton and are his most since netting 12 for Manchester United in the 2014-15 season. He has a strong track record against Newcastle United, totaling 14 goals and seven assists in 22 lifetime matches versus the Magpies. He had a brace with an assist in a 3-3 draw at St. James in the most recent contest while playing for the Red Devils on Jan. 12, 2016.
Newcastle (4-3-9) have dropped back-to-back matches on the bounce and are winless in their last seven (0-1-6) in league play following a 3-2 home loss to Leicester City on Saturday that spoiled the 125th anniversary celebrations of the club.
Goals by Joselu and Dwight Gayle bracketed markers by Leicester's Riyadh Mahrez and Demarai Gray in the first 73 minutes. However, an own goal by Toons midfielder Ayoze Perez on 86 minutes in which he turned Jamie Vardy's cross past keeper Karl Darlow and into his own net, dropped Newcastle to 16th in the table, two points above the drop.
"I'm really disappointed," Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez told The Telegraph. "We had the draw and we made another defensive mistake and conceded another goal. We keep giving he ball away and making easy mistakes, we were in control at 2-2. We have to learn quickly."
That Newcastle defence, however, has failed to post a clean sheet during their seven-match struggles and have shipped 15 goals in the last five with only six in reply. They have taken a lead three times within the first quarter-hour of those matches only to be pegged back to level before halftime on all three occasions.
Newcastle have dropped three on the spin at St. James' Park on the heels of a four-match unbeaten run (3-1-0) there.
This marks the first meeting between the managers since Allardyce, between coaching jobs and appearing on talkSPORT in September, backed embattled Newcastle owner Mike Ashley with regards to their summer spending and said the Toon Army "should be happy to finish in the Premier League for next season and then build from there."
The two managers have sniped at each other occasionally, most recently after Allardyce's autobiography was printed last year and the two traded barbs through the media.
Everton have won three on the trot and are 6-0-1 in the last seven meetings between the teams. Newcastle have gone 292 minutes without a goal in this rivalry since Jack Colback netted in the 68th minute of their 3-2 home victory Dec. 28, 2014.
The Toffees have scored two or more goals in 13 of their last 17 league matches versus Newcastle.
Updated December 11, 2017