I didn't really think Newcastle manager Chris Hughton would make two changes to the lineup to begin the game at Everton. I thought he would start Cheick Tiote in place of Alan Smith and leave the rest of the lineup alone. After all, he had up to three substitutions to use if his squad broke down.
But this was a day of luck, aside from Steve Harper's injury. Hughton made two changes before kick-off, and had to use all three substitutions in the end because of Harper's injured shoulder.
So the fans and pundits thought that Hughton would start Tiote in place of Smith. Easy call.
But Hughton seemed to surprise a lot of folks with his replacement of Jonas Gutierrez with Hatem Ben Arfa. Most thought he would sit Joey Barton, not Spiderman. The usually more conservative Hughton would have started both Barton and Spiderman and replaced one of them with Ben Arfa in the second half.
But Hughton made the right call. Ben Arfa scored his first goal for Newcastle in his first start. And it was the true definition of a wonder goal. No one saw it coming. He challenged everton defenders from well outside the center-left of the box. After some nifty footwork, he put his head down and hooked the ball into the top right corner of the net from 40 yards away. He didn't even see the ball once it left his foot. It was simply a stunning goal. Shades of Emre against Reading in 2006 (but Emre's shot followed an amazing run). Ben Arfa strike was the football equivalent of a three point shot while being guarded.
Ben Arfa's strike completely beat American international goalkeeper Tim Howard, who had an otherwise good game. But all it takes to lose a game is one shot out of your reach.
One goal. That was all Newcastle would need, aside from a lot of luck.
Here are Archie's appraisals of each player's performance over at Shite Seats. Well done, lads.
It was a tense second half, especially when the tallest Lad, Mike Williamson, was fouling Fellaini (perhaps twice, and certainly one in the box). But the calls (or lack thereof) went Newcastle's way. Throw in some wobbly saves by substitute goalkeeper Tim Krul in the final 3 minutes and Newcastle hung on to notch their second win of the season.
Two wins down, eight to go. They should make it. Stoke visit St. James' on Sunday September 26th.