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Weblog: The football punter

Everton and Newcastle to serve up a thriller

Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event, 8pm Monday

Everton fans have been starved of entertainment during Sam Allardyce's five-month stint at the helm but they could get some respite in their clash with Newcastle at Goodison Park.

The markets anticipate more low-scoring fare - over 2.5 goals and both teams to score are both odds-against - but goals could be on the menu.

Punters confident of a low-scoring outcome might point to the cautious nature of managers Allardyce and Rafa Benitez, whose Newcastle team are the lowest scorers among the teams in the top half.

But the confidence is flowing at Newcastle, following a season-best sequence of four successive victories, and there is every reason for them to push for the victory.

However, Everton are the favourites and rightly so, having lost just two of their last 12 Premier League home games.

Newcastle were on Merseyside last month - losing 2-0 at Liverpool and sliding to 16th in the table - only two points above the relegation zone.

The tide turned for the Magpies with a convincing 3-0 victory at home to Southampton and they rose to tenth after coming from behind to beat Arsenal 2-1 last Sunday.

A top-eight finish looks a realistic target for Newcastle and the club's long-term future could be even brighter if the long-awaited buyout of owner Mike Ashley is completed this summer.

Everton have an advantage over Newcastle in that they already have an ambitious owner - Farhad Moshiri - who has funded several big-money buys.

But Moshiri has not been as popular with his choice of managers and there is pressure on him to call time on Allardyce's stay at the club.

Allardyce took charge in late November at a time when Everton were close to the relegation zone.

He has lifted the Toffees well clear of the bottom three but the style of football has not been pretty and Allardyce seems reluctant to accept that Everton's ambitions are a lot loftier than mere top-flight survival.

The manager's strained relationship with the Everton fans must improve if he is to stay for another season and there will need to be a softening of Allardyce's long-held view that the results justify his pragmatic, risk-free football.

He has shown himself to be stubborn in the past but the Newcastle game gives him a great opportunity to release the shackles and set the team up to attack.

A few more dour 1-0 wins may not be enough to save Allardyce's job but an entertaining home victory could go some way towards winning over the doubters.

Everton have been more positive in home games this season with 26 of their 39 goals coming at Goodison.

Newcastle can also afford to approach the game with a positive attitude and there may be more thrills and spills than have been anticipated.

Recommendation
Over 2.5 goals

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