Everton 0 Newcastle United 1
CHRIS Hughton’s quiet transformation of Newcastle United has been a steady one, but at Goodison Park on Saturday the velvet evolution took perhaps its biggest step forward.
Entirely in keeping with the man himself, Hughton’s work in the transfer market has never been dramatic, nor very wide-reaching, but has produced a side reinforced with the steel so desperately lacking two seasons ago.
After four games of unchanged teams, Hughton unveiled a remodeled midfield with plenty of guile to complement the graft on Saturday.
Even in hammering Aston Villa, the Magpies’ football was often of the basic-but-effective variety.
Now Newcastle seem as well equipped to dismantle teams as batter them.
With two players making first starts in English football it is way too early to rush to excited conclusions, but playmaker Hatem Ben Arfa’s flair lived up to the hype while Cheik Tioté revealed himself to be a more expansive ball-winner than most.
Yet Newcastle retained the fighting qualities which allowed them to go toe-to-toe with one of the division’s toughest scrappers.
The widely-held feeling at Goodison Park is Everton have performed far better than their customary poor start would suggest. There were no such complaints on Saturday.