Theo Walcott did his best to boost Sam Allardyce’s approval rating as the Everton winger clinched a 1-0 win against Newcastle United in the Premier League on Monday.
Allardyce has been under fire for Everton’s dour style of play since he was hired in November, and fans called for his dismissal following a draw at struggling Swansea City in their previous match.
The pressure on the former England manager was increased by his own club last week when Everton took the curious decision to send a survey to a group of supporters asking them to rate his performance on a scale of zero to 10.
Toffees chairman Bill Kenwright apologised for a gaffe that added to the perception Allardyce is on borrowed time with Everton.
Against that troubled backdrop, Allardyce – who has lifted Everton away from the relegation zone in his brief reign – couldn’t afford to see his side’s winless run extend to four matches against the club that sacked him 10 years ago.
Walcott ensured Allardyce wouldn’t hear a chorus of disapproval for one night at least, as the former Arsenal star netted in the second half at Goodison Park to lift Everton into eighth place.
Rafael Benitez’s 100th match as Newcastle boss marked the end of their four-game winning run as the Magpies remain in mid-table.
“Seamus' defensive header at the end was as good as my goal.
The fans were right behind us and it's a much needed three points” - @Everton goalscorer @theowalcott #PL #EVENEW pic.twitter.com/aWP5PFMv1S
Ayoze Perez had an early sight of goal from Mohamed Diame’s pass, but summing up the ugly nature of a scrappy opening period, it hit his shin and dribbled towards Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
Allardyce’s team weren’t faring any better. They could have taken the lead when Michael Keane guided Wayne Rooney’s cross towards the far post, but Phil Jagielka couldn’t keep his lunging effort on target.
Perez was having a night to forget and after he shot wide from a good position early in the second half, Everton made the breakthrough in the 51st minute.
Yannick Bolasie swung a cross to the far post and when Newcastle failed to clear, Walcott pounced on a fortuitous deflection and smashed into the roof of the net for his first goal since January.
Islam Slimani was anonymous in his first league start since joining on loan from Leicester and the Newcastle striker was replaced by Dwight Gayle, who should have snatched an equaliser moments after coming on.
Jamaal Lascelles headed down and Gayle was in position to strike from close range, but instead fired over as Benitez shook his head in frustration.