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Match Report: Everton 3 - 2 Newcastle United

An excellent first half performance from Everton secured all three points, but the Toffees had to survive a nervy finish against Newcastle.

Julian Finney

Roberto Martinez seems to be continuing the Everton tradition of never doing things easily, but regardless, after a night of contrasting performances at Goodison Park, his side remains unbeaten and now sit fourth in the Premier League table.

A sobering defeat in the League Cup in midweek had tempered expectations somewhat for Monday night's game against Newcastle United, but a string of changes signalled a return to a more familiar, and undeniably stronger Everton line-up. The regular back five was reinstated, with Tim Howard, Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka all returning, and James McCarthy received his inaugural Premier League start in midfield.

Also making his full debut in a blue shirt was Romelu Lukaku, and the Belgian enjoyed a stunning first 45 minutes at Goodison. Within two minutes, he had the ball in the Newcastle net after being slipped through by Ross Barkley, but his finish was ruled out correctly for offside.

Lukaku's breakthrough was not long coming though. In the sixth minute Kevin Mirallas capitalised on a fortunate break to accelerate away from Davide Santon on the right flank. Nearing the box, the winger cut back for his compatriot to thump a first-time finish through the hands of Tim Krul and continue his excellent early form in an Everton shirt.

The Toffees' lead was justified, and they continued to threaten the visitors on the break, with Ross Barkley linking midfield and attack superbly. It was Barkley who would double Everton's lead too, after Lukaku slipped an inch-perfect ball between Fabricio Coloccini and the dreadful Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. The midfielder's diagonal run took him away from his marker, and his intelligent finish wrong footed Krul.

Everton's dominance grew as the half went on, with McCarthy and Gareth Barry dictating the tempo of the game admirably, and Seamus Coleman tirelessly raiding forward on the right, whilst also managing to keep the disappointing Hatem Ben Arfa quiet. For all the home side's nifty passing play however, their third goal came from the most direct of moves. A Tim Howard punt was allowed to bounce, Lukaku bustled his way through the Newcastle defence and an error from Krul allowed the striker to see off a challenge before thumping his second, and his side's third into an empty net.

The Chelsea loanee might even have had a first half hat trick, had he not strayed offside again before stroking the ball in from a tight angle, but that unsurprisingly failed to detract from a brilliant 45 minutes.

Things could hardly get better for Everton, but their performance level would dip significantly after the restart. Newcastle manager Alan Pardew made changes at half time, and the introduction of Yohan Cabaye gave the away side some much-needed impetus going forward. Yoan Gouffran was unfortunate to see his shot rebound off the inside of the post after he had lifted it delightfully over Howard, but minutes later Newcastle had their goal.

Gouffran was again involved, drifting in from the left and laying off to Cabaye who, under little pressure, struck a phenomenal shot past a helpless Howard in the Everton net. Martinez's side continued to have the lions' share of the possession, but weren't nearly as potent as they had been in the first period. Lukaku seemed to tire as time wore on, and Mirallas and Leon Osman offered little going forward. The same could be said of Leighton Baines, who enjoyed one of his weaker outings after last week's dead ball heroics.

The closest opening came after the hour mark, when Mirallas sent a low ball skidding across the six-yard box. Krul got a hand to it, but Osman was unable to convert under pressure from Mathieu Debuchy, and the danger passed.

The introduction of Gerard Deulofeu injected a little excitement to a drab closing period, with the young Catalonian picking his way past defenders at will on occasion, although his final ball was frequently found lacking - much to the chagrin of Lukaku.

As proceedings ground towards a halt, Newcastle again found the net; the previously anonymous Loic Remy capitalising on some poor defending from Jagielka and Sylvain Distin to prod home, but few Magpies fans would argue that the score line flattered their side.

The full time whistle was a welcome sound, and no doubt left fans with some feelings of frustration after a fragile second half performance, but taken in context tonight's win was a good one. Roberto Martinez will have positives to build on and mistakes to learn from in the weeks to come, but for now his Everton side sit in the Champions League places, three points off the top and five above a certain Mr Moyes.