West Ham United 0 - 2 Everton
Half-time: 0 - 1
FA Carling Premiership 2000-01 – Game #31
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West Ham and Upton Park are fast becoming Everton's favoured team to play and favourite ground to visit following another brilliant display by the Blues which saw them walk away with a fine 2-0 victory - and it could have been much more.
Last season, Everton rampaged to a scintillating 4-0 triumph at the same venue and no one was expecting a repeat of that performance this season; indeed most Evertonians would have been happy with a point.
However, with the relegation chips down and the need for points paramount after a run of three games without a win, Walter Smith's side delivered the goods in surprising fashion to greatly reduce the threat of the drop this season.
Smith's team selection was, once again, unpredictable, as home-grown Tony Hibbert was handed his first team debut in midfield and Michael Ball was surprisingly passed fit after missing England's two World Cup Qualifiers last week. Francis Jeffers was named as a substitute.
The visitors started brightly. How Duncan Ferguson hadn't put them a goal up within the first 10 minutes perhaps only he knows. The Scot had three good chances to open the scoring early on with an 18-yard shot that just cleared the bar, a close-range side-foot that went just wide and an opportunity for a trademark header from Gravesen's enticing cross but he failed to connect and the chance evaporated.
With both defences in suspect form, there were chances at both ends during a fairly even first half and West Ham's Frederick Kanoute – their goalscorer at Goodison in the 1-1 draw earlier this season – sliced a good chance wide and Joe Cole then saw his goal-bound effort from 8 yards ricochet off an Everton defender rather than find the net.
For the Blues, Ferguson was enjoying the industry of Scott Gemmill, Gravesen and Hibbert and he had a curling left-foot effort well saved by Shaka Hislop before Paul Gerrard did well to palm Paolo di Canio's deceptive cross over the bar at the other end.
The breakthrough, however, came on the stroke of half-time, thanks to a moment of madness from veteran defender Stuart Pearce who was booked for a foul Ferguson before scything down Hibbert in the area barely a minute later, handing Everton a penalty and earning him a red card from referee Andy D'Urso.
David Unsworth stepped up to the penalty spot and duly despatched the opening goal past Hislop to send Everton into the interval with a priceless one-goal advantage.
With a numerical disadvantage in terms of score and personnel, Harry Redknapp's team came out fighting in the second half with a creditable wave of attacks on the Everton goal but mostly restricted to longer range efforts, most of their end product ended high and wide of Gerrard's goal as Everton held firm.
19 minutes from time, the result was effectively decided when a beautiful ball from Ferguson set up Niclas Alexandersson who fired the ball past Hislop for his first Everton goal.
Francis Jeffers came on as a second-half substitute and he could have extended the Blues's advantage with a guilt-edged chance in the dying minutes but he saw his effort career off the crossbar and Ferguson unfortunately hit the rebound straight at the goalkeeper.
|West Ham United:||–||Hayden Foxe|
|EVERTON:||Unsworth (pen:45'), Alexandersson (71')||Tony Hibbert|
|LINEUPS||Subs Not Used|
|West Ham United:||Hislop; Song, Stimac, Pearce; Foxe, Cole, Lampard, Carrick, Winterburn; Kanoute, Di Canio.||Bywater, Moncur, Schemmel, Soma, Trodorov.|
Gerrard; S Watson, Weir, Ball; Hibbert, Gravesen (79'
Jeffers), Gemmill, Nyarko, Unsworth;
Unavailable: Cadamarteri, Campbell, Cleland, Gascoigne, Gough, S Hughes, Moore, Naysmith, Pembridge, Pistone, Xavier (injured); Myhre (on loan).
|Simonsen, Jevons, Clarke, Tal.|
|West Ham United:||Claret & Blue shirts; white shorts; claret socks.||3-5-2|
|EVERTON:||Yellow shirts; yellow shorts; yellow socks.||3-5-1-1|
|Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|West Ham United:||Pearce (44'), Di Canio (45'), Kanoute (68')||Pearce (45')|
|EVERTON:||Ball (52'), Unsworth (58')||–|
|Sports.Com||Detailed Match Stats|
|REPORTS BY EVERTON FANS|
|Mickey Blue Eyes||Wasted weekend for the PMTs|
|Julian Cashen||Sometimes Salvation....|
West Ham in freefall
by Andrew Warshaw
|THE SUNDAY TIMES||
Hammers under threat
by Richard Rae
Ferguson lifts walking wounded
by Bill Edgar
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|Wasted weekend for the PMTs|
|Mickey Blue Eyes|
No, not Pre-Menstrual Tension. It stands for Permanently Moaning Twats, the tiny minority attached to every club who want to moan – whatever happens. Which just goes to show you should never lift a stone if you won’t like what you see under it. It’s bad enough going through the sport's problems without having to endure a low-grade engine whine in the background. Still, c’est la guerre....
No moaners on The Bus though. Not many either, including me, who thought we’d get something out of the Yammers game. Minibus travel provides both ends of the human spectrum, too: win, and the feeling is always terrific; lose, and mostly it’s like being buried alive with corpses venting a sort of putrid manic depression. What d’you expect in 17 cubic metres of tin-enclosed claustrophobia with your knees virtually under your chin for most of the journey? Most thought we’d lose....
Funny, but on the way down we made the usual pit-stop for replenishment of supplies, wherein I had one of me Revelatory Moments. Back on The Bus I assumed The Position and opened the DVD mag to scroll through the latest releases. I had just reached the release date for A Man for All Seasons when my ambling thoughts were interrupted by a sudden feeling that we were going to win 1-0. I promptly and loudly announced this to The Bus. I was almost swept away by a tide of mirthful scorn. I couldn’t blame anybody. The Soton match was still too raw in the memory.
So The Bus sped on.... Eventually, Canary Wharf hove into view, flickering in a permanent shroud of metropolitan pollution. But at least if we were about to submerge in a cloud of carbon monoxide, we would do it through filtered shafts of sunshine. Even some of the birds were coughing. Speaking entirely as someone who lives next to a broad river and permanent fresh air from the Atlantic, it made me shudder.
Then we were in Barking Road, choked by traffic and cheerily multi-ethnic. Alf Garnett must be rolling in his untended and unlamented bigot’s grave. And there was the pub target, The Central, a genuine cockney establishment. We disgorged with rusty limbs from our mobile tin can. The locals looked on through Ritchie’s Bakery shop window and grinned.
We fell on the bar like caravan travellers reaching an oasis in the Empty Quarter. Quickly, we occupied the best remaining tables fronting Barking Road. The first beers didn’t touch the sides, a sparkling cascade of cold purity making its way across a steam table. At times like that you feel like you’ve earned some mordant exaggeration. The place quickly filled up and we were soon joined by Dom, Stevie, Phil and The Squire. The yarns flowed easily on a river of beer.
No question who walked away with Yarn Of The Day: t'was The Squire. He simply can’t resist an attentive audience, even in the middle of a pub agog with the buzz of human conversation. His winner consisted – as so many do – of an episode from his schooldays. Somehow the conversation got round to skiing and he was busy miming a downhill skier, you know, leaning forward, both arms jerking back and forth…. when he suddenly said, “Reminds me of this bird at school we nicknamed ‘Franz Slammer’” and I said, “Don’t you mean ‘Franz Klammer’?” But he was waiting for me and said, “No. Slammer. She could give two of us a wank at the same time!!” I spilled me ale everywhere I will never be able to ski again without that image in my head. I’ll probably break me ankle....
So we made our way to the ground. Which, let it be known, has two names: The Boleyn Ground and Upton Park. The way ‘Arry’s season has gone, it bears more unfortunate resemblance to the former than the latter. Apparently, some of the Yammers fans are accusing him of tactical naďveté and inability to motivate their players.... Ho hum.
The double-decker Bobby Moore Stand rears up behind one goal. The other three sides are pretty much the same except they are now all seating. The new Doc Martens Stand is being constructed behind the existing main stand, all primed steel and concrete terraces. When it’s finished, the existing main stand will go and the whole stadium will re-orientate to accommodate about 40,000. One more nail in the tradition of our game. For the moment, though, Upton Park has the kind of intimate feel it’s always had. It may be worn around the edges but it still holds a lot of memories for all fans. Amazingly, the Yammers gates always hover around 25,000 – even during their spell in the second division.
Smiffy’s subs bench had a thin look about it: Simo and Idan, as usual, but with Jevons and Clarke too... Well, the kids won’t find out if they can do it if they don’t get some grass time. The Ears made up the collection. Out on the park we all got a surprise when Tony Hibbert played from the off. Nyarko was back to add to the, er, fun.
When you compared the two teams, you knew ‘Arry’s Boys had much more individual technique, what with Kanoute and DiCanio ‘n’all. Our biggest question was whether Alex Nyarko’s obvious lack of application and The Gravedigger’s sparse skill would be the deciding factor against us in midfield, as it was at Ipswich. Up front, we had The Big Yin with Nic busily engaged behind him.
It was a gruelling but not uninteresting first half, with us playing away from our end. Actually, we should have been two up but The Yin missed two chances – one of them an open goal when he sliced wide and the other a hard snap shot which whistled narrowly over the bar. Both were well inside the penalty area.
We had a couple of scary scrambles in our own penalty area but our luck held at the last moment – not before sodding time – and it got booted out of danger. Davey Weir had a tremendous first half of tackling and last-ditch interceptions. Unsy had some tricky moments at left back when Kanoute’s pace turned him over a couple of times; otherwise, he had a good solid game.
Midfield was scrappy, surprisingly so where West Ham were concerned. Even Nyarko was getting a second bite of the cherry because Lampard and Cole just couldn’t get to grips properly. I was particularly disappointed in Cole, who looks a superbly talented lad in dire need of a sharp kick up the arse.
Hibbert gave no quarter to anybody and chased everything without doing anything spectacular, which was most welcome given some of our recent midfield displays. Scott Gemmill, as usual, did most of the mopping-up left behind by The Gravedigger and Alex… beats me why the man doesn’t get more frustrated with the two of them. In the clear, Nyarko is an excellent passer of the ball but some fucker has to go and get it for him.
The half was petering out when we attacked sharply down the right and young Hibbert got to the byline just inside the penalty area, turned Psycho inside out and clipped a cross over. I was following the ball and so missed the foul, but it seems Psycho completely lost it, downed the tyro who’d just made a fool of him, gave away a completely needless penalty and then got sent off!
Unsy put the ball on the spot, Paolo had one of his mad brainstorms and moved it and he got booked too, and then an unperturbed Beloved Lard Arse stuck it in low and to the keeper’s left. Interestingly, he hits his penalties into either side of the goal, no seeming preference.
‘Arry had no option for the second half. They had to attack from the off – and they did. Not with much conviction though. Crosses zipped in uncomfortably from time to time and Kanoute, a quite brilliant ball player, caused occasional panic with his ability to kill a ball stone dead, even at pace; otherwise, we coped reasonably enough.
Gradually we steadied the boat and began to make more attacks, mostly through Nic with his dribbles and passing, the strength of which is an ability to stretch play wider… I made him our best player by a long way. No surprise then when he scored after making a wide left run.
The Yin won a tackle in the centre circle, slightly right side. Nic was off immediately and calling for the ball which duly arrived with him nearing the penalty area and Hislop hopelessly exposed. A left foot ground shot went home from the edge of the box and it was all over: no way back for the ten men.
We were mostly pinned back though until The Gravedigger went off with ten minutes left and The Ears came on to substantial booing.
Plainly, the fans have rightly and justifiably run out of patience with him. They’ve invested a good deal more than money and spreadsheets in the club. If he wants to treat them badly, not once, but twice… if he wants to make even more exorbitant money… then it’s his choice. It is also the fans’ choice how they react to his behaviour. Virtually everybody now says if he wants to go then fuck off quickly and get the maximum amount possible. Two can play at that game. So it will be mutually beneficial when he goes. Remember old friends as they were… then write them off.
Typically, he almost scored within five minutes of coming on when he got clear on the right, closing at an acute angle, with poor old Hislop exposed yet again to a one-on-one and no option but to race out. The Ears lobbed him, it hit the underside of the bar and then came out to The Yin, left side penalty area and a hapless Hammer desperately closing him down. He should have buried it. Instead, he volleyed it hard and low and Hislop got down to hold it in sweating, grateful hands.
A minute or two later and The Yin nodded one back across the box and it just grazed The Ears’ head with him staring at another empty net. Then referee D’Arsehole blew the whistle and it was all over.
Back at The Central we quaffed liberally yet again and swapped yarns with Hammers fans. They had the kind of faces we’ve had for most of the season. We understood. But the points were ours. Life isn’t miserable at all. It just IS. Make of it what you will; it goes on dispassionately. And it’s well worth the effort. To everybody but the PMTs, of course...
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There's been a slight lift in the mood lately. The nights are drawing out; you're getting home from work in the light; it's finally stopped pissing down with rain; and spring might finally be here... Being a typically straw-clutching Evertonian, I was hoping desperately that these changes for the better might be reflected in a long-overdue couple of breaks for the Blues.
After all, I reflected on the train down to London, West Ham are about the only team in the Division against whom we have a decent record over the years, recent results including famous 4-0 and 6-0 triumphs. Also, West Ham are deep in the doldrums. Not that we can take much comfort from this. I often think that any side in a bad run must fervently hope they come across Everton, whose charity in helping opposing sides end barren patches is only eclipsed by their generosity in allowing opposing strikers to score on their debut. How long had Nottingham Forest gone without a win when Big Ron brought them to Goodison a couple of years ago and mugged us? How long had Man City laboured at Maine Road before we laid down for a 5 - 0 humiliation?
It's to be hoped that we do get the King's Dock, or we'll be left years behind in terms of our stadium – even by clubs such as West Ham. A great looking new stand is taking shape behind their existing West Stand, and to be frank the existing structure is already about 50 years ahead of the Bullens Road stand. This is where I was sitting, machinations to get a ticket having left me stuck somewhat uncomfortably among the West Ham fans, with a packed stand of Evertonians in great voice to my left.
Yet again Wally managed to surprise with his selection. Neither Franny nor SuperKev was in the line up – despite the fact that we'd been promised that one of them would be fit – while Rhino started at left wing back and over on the right....er.. exactly who IS that wearing number 32? Tony Hibbert?
Actually, I'm delighted to see one or two of the youngsters get a chance. The surprise of it was that this lad hadn't even featured in The Evertonian under some unfeasibly exaggerated headline like 'Next Dixie Dean' or 'Definite Future England Captain', the dubious honour accorded to Kevin McLeod and Nick Chadwick in this month's issue.
Anyway, we had a fairly strong line up, Alexandersson supporting Dunc, and Nyarko back in the middle. Readers of my previous reports will know that I am one of the big Ghanaian's few fans. I think he's class and – if he could raise his work rate and combativeness – he could be a great player for us.
Unbelievably, we started to play the ball around well from the off. It was clear from the first few minutes that the West Ham defence had no answer to the aerial strength of Big Dunc. They seemed to be putting three men on him but were still failing to prevent him getting the flicks. One of the first things I noticed about Hibbert is that he has a tidy throw on him – easily reaching the penalty spot – and his accurate throws to the head of Big Dunc had the Hammers in disarray.
It's no exaggeration that Dunc could have scored three or four times in this opening 15-minute spell: he'd win the ball in the air against the odds, it would drop down nicely for him to hit and – bang!!! It doesn't trouble the keeper, but a few in the crowd have to duck. The most glaring miss came when a cross came in from the right, the West Ham defence stood still, Dunc ghosted in, onside and...... .instead of side-footing it in to the net, he unaccountably elected to send an awkward looking toe poke several yards wide.
With Gemmill and especially Gravesen working their socks off in midfield, Nyarko adding the touch of class, and Alexandersson offering Dunc decent support, we were well on top. But, inevitably, as we'd failed to capitalise on our dominance, the Hammers began to come in to it. To my astonishment though, rather than the usual capitulation, we actually began to show our defensive mettle, and while I felt a surge of panic every time Cole or Di Canio came up against Rhino, our three centre backs, Ball Weir and Watson all defended superbly.
Our determination was shown in one glorious scramble when, with the ball constantly falling at a Hammer's feet, we were flinging bodies at the ball from all angles in desperation to protect the goal. Even Nyarko made some great blocks and tackles while Big Dunc as ever defended set pieces superbly.
It was looking like nil-nil in a half we'd won on points when at long last we got a break. Pearce gets booked for a challenge on Big Dunc that was just ludicrously late and totally unnecessary. Then, moments later, suffering unaccountably from a rush of blood, lunges viciously at Hibbert as the youngster is going nowhere just inside the box near the byeline. Pen!!!!!!!! But will D'Arsehole have the courage..... my God he has!!! It's a red!!!! Cue 5 minutes of pandemonium, apoplexy from Di Canio, a West Ham trainer on the pitch remonstrating with the ref.... Meantime, a brief discussion between Rhino and Bally, Rhino obviously fancies it, finally gets everyone out of the box and sets himself....
I take my hat off to Rhino in these situations, even when I'm not wearing one. The lad gets his fair share of stick but by God he stays calm under these circumstances. Personally, I'd be so nervous I wouldn't be able to run up to the ball, let alone kick it hard enough to reach the back of the net. But Rhino simply trundles in, side foots it and - YES!! Get in there!!! Hislop guesses right, and in truth Rhino doesn't give it much welly, but it's so well placed it nestles beautifully in the bottom corner. Come on!!
Teams playing with 10 men invariably raise their game... while for us – a goal up and with an extra man – the natural tendency was to sit back a little. And so, to nobody's surprise, the first 20 minutes or so gave us that particular brand of torture with which Evertonians are so sadly familiar. With Dunc tiring, we went out of the game as an attacking force and West Ham simply camped in our half.
However, once again our defensive players deserve a lot of credit for the fact that we weathered this storm, as does Gerrard for one absolutely brilliant point-blank save. From a neutral perspective, Cole and Di Canio are wonderful players to watch but, for all the possession they had, we restricted them in the main to long range efforts – other than one Cole overhead that flashed across the goal.
As the half went on and the crowd got restless, West Ham were committing more and more men to attack. We had to get a chance on the break... and at last it came. Three on three, Dunc on the ball. Will he bugger round as usual, unable to work out which option to take? Will he hell. He'll curl a beautiful pass into the path of Alexandersson with the outside of his boot, that's what he'll do: Nic takes it down, hits a fairly tame left footer.... Hislop is too late with his dive... it sneaks just inside the post!!!! At last the hordes of Evertonians, who had maintained a tense, strangled silence for much of the half, burst out in joy unconfined. It's a grand old team to play for!!!!!!
And that, as they say, was that – other than a bit more drama when The Ears was introduced. Now, it sounded to me like he was treated to a chorus of boos when he came on. What bollocks. This lad is the brightest home produced talent in years. Any sane Evertonian is desperate for him to sign for the Club for the next five years. The best contribution we can make to persuading him to stay is by showing him how much we value him. So for God's sake let's support the little scally rather than give him stick. Any doubt as to why we need him to stay ought to be dispelled by the outrageous chip with which he hit the bar with the keeper floundering; this was a chance Jeffers made all for himself, and no other player at the Club could have done that in their wildest dreams.
A few negatives, especially the way we invited the 10 men to come on to us in the third quarter of the game, but really it's churlish to be critical as this was a massive, massive win with plenty of positives. If we can get Dunc and The Ears together for the last games of this season we will at last have a formidable strike force while Wally seems to have settled on our best midfield three and on this display in my opinion Pembo should stay on the bench. With the confidence of a goal, Alexandersson should come in to his own, while the back three were magnificent to a man. Walter could even have a selection headache next week as some of his favourites will be back but it would be difficult to change this eleven other than the necessary swap to accommodate Jeffers.
Next For the Chop - Mr Potato Head's Sky Blues
If ever there was a team we owe one to, it's City, after arguably our most humiliating defeat in the Premiership to date. However, their form is stronger away from home and this is a hugely important game for them. One good thing is that a point is a lot more use to us than it is to them, so they'll be forced to attack, hopefully leaving space for us to exploit. I'm loathe ever to predict an Everton win, but I think the fact that we are as good as safe might enable us to relax and after all we ARE a better team than City; HOME WIN!!
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|West Ham in freefall|
|Andrew Warshaw, Electronic Telegraph|
THE TEAM who were sixth in the Premiership at the start of December are now fading fast. This was another wretched, disjointed display by West Ham, who played the second half with 10 men following the dismissal of Stuart Pearce. But for injury-ravaged Everton, who have battled against the drop for five of the past six seasons, the three points will have rarely tasted sweeter.
Everton went into yesterday's fixture with only one fit striker in Duncan Ferguson and gave a debut to young defender Tony Hibbert. West Ham also fielded a debutant in Hayden Foxe, an Australian international who has been granted a work permit after marrying his French girlfriend.
Just before kick-off, Paolo di Canio was presented with a framed photograph by Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard for the Italian striker's sporting gesture at Goodison back in December when he spurned the chance to score a late winner after Gerrard had been knocked unconscious [Unconscious? Surely shome mistake? - Ed] in a challenge with Frederic Kanoute yards outside his penalty area.
Gerrard was back between the posts yesterday and his team's makeshift outfield should have scored twice inside the first eight minutes, Thomas Gravesen firing a shot over the bar then turning supplier for Ferguson, who missed one of the sitters of the season from four yards.
It took West Ham 18 minutes to register their first effort, Kanoute's snap shot flashing wide, followed quickly by Joe Cole's fierce volley from six yards that was blocked by the back of Hibbert.
Everton broke the deadlock two minutes before half-time amid huge controversy. Veteran defender Pearce, who had just been cautioned, was dismissed by Andy d'Urso for pulling down Hibbert just inside the area and David Unsworth put away the penalty.
As West Ham at last showed some urgency, Michael Ball and Unsworth were both booked, Rigobert Song's header was tipped over by Gerrard and Cole's overhead kick flashed wide.
But Everton refused to panic and doubled their lead 20 minutes from time when Niclas Alexandersson was put through by Ferguson and beat Shaka Hislop with a shot into the corner of the net.
It was Everton's first goal in open play for more than seven hours and only the bar kept out substitute Francis Jeffers' late effort.
|Report © The Electronic Telegraph|
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|Hammers under threat|
|by Richard Rae, The Sunday Times|
HOW on earth can a team as ostensibly talented as West Ham go six hours and 15 minutes without scoring a goal?
Answers on a first-class postcard to Harry Redknapp, because the manager would dearly love to know before the Hammers are dragged, young eyes wide with disbelief, into an unexpected relegation dogfight.
They are now level on points with Everton and Derby, but still eight clear of Manchester City which should be buffer enough, as Redknapp acknowledged: "We're going through a dodgy spell but, blimey, if I can't get any points out of the next seven games I'll start wearing a bullet-proof vest.
"I'll maybe change the way we play though, tighten things up. If we can't score any goals, we have to make sure we don't get beaten."
Not exactly the West Ham way, but needs must.
With two such profligate teams, no score after half an hour was only to be expected.
Less expected was that, between them, they created six good chances in that time, four to the visitors.
Thomas Gravesen, Everton's Danish international, was particularly wasteful, twice firing high when he should have tested Shaka Hislop. Gravesen turned creator shortly afterwards, beating the West Ham's Australian debutant Hayden Foxe on the right and putting in an inviting cross which striker Duncan Ferguson missed completely.
The big Scot was even more culpable moments later, turning another Gravesen cross wide when unmarked four yards from goal.
Only when defender David Unsworth's free kick slipped a foot wide of Hislop's left-hand post did West Ham shake themselves awake.
Joe Cole should have broken the duck when he was twice presented with clear shooting chances, but both times the young midfielder gave the visiting defenders enough time to block.
Then, with half-time nearing, Stuart Pearce decided to live up to his nickname. Seconds after being booked for a badly late tackle on Ferguson, 'Psycho' all but cut Tony Hibbert in half.
It was an appalling tackle and a red card was inevitable, although for some reason Paolo Di Canio had one of his petulant little outbursts upon seeing it. The Italian was booked and continued to protest after Unsworth buried the resulting penalty.
Judging by the way they began the second half, being a man short suited West Ham, temporarily at least. It created more space, made the game simpler, and only a desperate block by Steve Watson prevented Di Canio from scoring. Rigobert Song rose well to the subsequent corner, but Everton keeper Paul Gerrard touched his header over.
After that, Cole went close with an overhead kick and Michael Carrick shot wide from distance, but the longer the match went on the more likely it was that they would be caught on the break.
It was Gravesen who did the necessary, beating Cole on the halfway line and finding Niclas Alexandersson in space on the left. The Swede shot across Hislop and in at the left-hand post.
After that, West Ham's efforts were half-hearted, not that they had ever been particularly spirited in the first place.
In fact it could have been worse. Substitute Francis Jeffers, returning from injury, robbed Foxe late on and produced a brilliant chip from 25 yards which came back off the bar with Hislop standing watching.
|Report © Times Newspapers Ltd|
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|Unusual sighting of Ferguson lifts walking wounded|
|by Bill Edgar, The Times|
THE familiar refrain that too much football is played nowadays applies only to the leading clubs, a description that no longer fits Everton. Unhindered by European concerns or extended cup runs, they will contest 42 games this season, 20 fewer than their illustrious predecessors endured in the 1984-85 campaign. If Steven Gerrard represented the blue half of Liverpool rather than the red, dilemmas over when to rest his fragile body would dissolve because his desire to play no more than once a week could be met happily. Why, then, have Everton suffered so severely from injury? Eight senior players were missing on Saturday, a figure typical throughout a campaign in which, partly in consequence, relegation remains a possibility. While the club will continue to address the problem of its large debt this summer, Walter Smith, the manager, may try to work out why he has so many non-functioning assets.
If Smith’s purchase of Paul Gascoigne and Duncan Ferguson last summer almost guaranteed constant occupation of the treatment room, the general explanation is probably plain bad luck.
Surprisingly, Ferguson was not among the missing eight on Saturday and his performance suggested that Everton’s season might have taken a different course had he made more than nine league appearances. Outstanding in the air, his flick-ons regularly found Niclas Alexandersson, a makeshift striker, but it was a pass with the outside of his left foot that set up the Swede to complete the scoring 18 minutes from time.
David Unsworth, who converted a penalty, and Merseyside’s less heralded Gerrard — Paul — in the Everton goal, who displayed great agility, ensured that Everton drew level on points with West Ham United by inflicting a fourth consecutive home defeat on their opponents.
The penalty was conceded when Stuart Pearce was sent off for living up to his nickname and clattering into Tony Hibbert. If the thought of a Psycho alone in the shower is not chilling enough, Harry Redknapp, the West Ham manager, no longer can dismiss relegation talk.
“We’ve hit a brick wall,” he said, and he knows that the man most capable of running through it will probably be suspended for three matches.
|Report © Times Newspapers Ltd|
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