COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL
Down in the London Underground at Euston it was just bedlam, no real formation of queues for tickets, and no real information of where to go and how to get there. I had to ask a gentleman working there which way I should go. He didn’t actually know himself but did direct me to Platform 6. I also noticed line engineering work had been scheduled for this weekend on the Hammersmith line so, whilst I wasn’t too concerned about getting to the Boleyn Ground as I had plenty of time, I did feel it may impact on my plan to catch the 17:53 train back home.
Regardless I persevered and my spirits were lifted when I heard somebody’s phone go off to the sound of the Z-Cars. Looking over, there was a good little rabble of Evertonians so I must’ve been going the right sort of direction. We had to change at Whitechapel but I then figured out I could get the District line direct to Upton Park and was off the tube at around 12:30pm. I gobbled a quick fish and chips outside the Duke Of Edinburgh pub, a place I remember from the last time I was here with plenty of TVs. As I headed in some fell asked me if I knew of a pub where away fans tend to go. Good question. I certainly don’t know.
I went in just as the teams came out at The Emirates. The day was all coming to plan. Its nice to see the pub hasn’t changed, with even the same bearded gent behind the bar working like a Trojan. The match on the telly was superb, with both Arsenal and Manchester United playing some awesome football. Unlike most of the supporters in the pub I was cheering on Arsenal, who won 2-1 with two Nasri strikes.
I got myself into a conversation when I overheard some West Ham fans bemoaning Steve Gerrard for diving the other night, saying it was actually a foul by Gerrard. I had to agree with them, naturally… Gerrard’s always at it. After the match, it was onward to the Boleyn Ground.
The last time I came here, I’d left it a little late getting to the ground and the queue was enormous, ensuring I missed the first five minutes or so. There were no such problems this time, however, and I was in my rather wobbly seat nicely in time for Blowing Bubbles. The teams came out and the West Ham fans made quite a bit of noise, whilst Everton’s support was rather flat.
With Fellaini suspended, there was a lot of talk before the game of Segundo Castillo getting an outing but this wasn’t to be with Moyes preferring Jack Rodwell in the centre, placing Anichebe out wide in place of Pienaar, and Saha up front in place of Yakubu, both of whom had failed late fitness tests. Otherwise, it was as you were form the team that sneaked past Fulham last weekend.
I feel a little sorry for Castillo. I guess if we were still in the cups as well we’d have much more games, and hence much more opportunities, but it seems he’s just not getting a look in at the moment, even when we’ve got injuries and suspensions. He did take his place on the bench though, along with Nash, Hibbert, Baines, Vaughan, Jutkiewicz and Gosling. West Ham played with three up front more or less, with ex-red Craig Bellamy, trouble-maker Luis Boa Morte and young hot-shot Freddie Sears spearheading their attack. Mark Halsey, one of the better ones in my opinion, was the referee. Before play got under way we observed one minute's silence for Remembrance Sunday.
West Ham attacked towards our end (the Centenary Stand Lower) in the first half. We didn’t attack towards any end at all in the first half as it was all West Ham and, such was their dominance, I was pretty relieved to be going into half time at 0-0. Tim Howard ensured that was the case with a splendid save from a goalbound Freddie Sears drive which he tipped onto the crossbar. We were all at sea and the only attacking contributions I recall from Everton both failed to test Robert Green. Both were half-volleys and both drifted high and wide from Saha and Osman.
Anichebe looked lost out on the wing, Rodwell looked anything but a Premier League footballer, and the midfield can be grateful for a generally solid defence which kept us in the game up until half-time. So frustrated and bored was I that I went down to get a pint at half-time thinking I could watch the game on the monitors downstairs, though unfortunately they were switched off so I went back up again. Half-time bought me solace as we were somehow still in this game at 0-0.
Moyes changed it a bit for the second half, putting Anichebe up front alongside Saha, whom I thought needed some support. Whilst still under the cosh a bit, we at least now had a bit more purpose about our attacks and Arteta was putting in some wicked deliveries from set-plays, causing a bit of angst in the West Ham penalty area. Rodwell really oughta have scored from a corner when he headed wide from just a couple of yards out.
West Ham actually took the lead on the counter-attack. A ball in, I think from a free kick, had Cahill contesting with a defender. Cahill went down with meek penalty protests and West Ham were away. A ball forward was fantastically backhealed by Scott Parker. This stunned Yobo and Jack Collison, a first-half substitute on in place of the injured Mathew Upson, needed no second invitations to spank the ball beautifully past Howard. Whilst it was very much deserved, it was also very frustrating as Everton had just begun to show a bit of attacking intent.
A change was clearly needed and it was certainly forthcoming with Vaughan on to replace Rodwell, who’d had a bad afternoon. Everton continued to attack with a bit more purpose, with most opportunities arriving from set-plays, though Robert Green was covering everything pretty well and without too much difficulty. We had a lot of attackers on the field though and continued to press. Saha, Anichabe, Vaughan, Cahill, Arteta, and Osman were all on the pitch at the same time so you hoped something could come of it. The away support was now up for it, led mostly by a chant-starter just a few seats to the left of me.
The goal arrived with just eight minutes remaining when Saha got loose down the right hand side. He put in a peach of a cross which Lescott buried with his head to rescue a point for Everton… or so it seemed.
Everton scented blood but were certainly aided by West Ham’s nervy defence. Anichebe, again on the right hand side, found a bit of space and cut the ball back for Saha who drove goalwards. The ball took a kind deflection off a defender and found the corner of the net, past the stranded Robert Green. Unbelievable!!! We now had six minutes to cling on to the win… or so it seemed.
West Ham now capitulated pathetically and surrendered possession to Everton almost immediately. Everton took full advantage of this and were now moving the ball around quite nicely. You felt there was another goal and so did Everton. Cahill intercepted a pass and played the ball to Saha. He looked up and curled the ball beyond Green with power. That was 3-1. Absolutely incredible!!!
Baines replaced Anichebe as Everton played the clock down. Before the game I was tipped off that getting the tube back from Upton Park could be a bit problematic with the traffic so as I saw Hibbert getting stripped I made a dart for it.
I still had to queue for a while but, after being led to the wrong platform by the useless steward, I managed to get on the train. I wasn’t sure which way I was going but was saved when a very helpful West Ham fan took me under his wing and took me to Euston Station. I was there in time to buy a few ciders and grab a seat on the 17:53 to Manchester Piccadilly.
Whilst changing at Piccadilly I got chatting to an Everton fan who’d left with 10 minutes to go and so missed all the fun. He said he couldn’t believe it as we’d played so badly. I couldn’t argue with him. We were dreadful today. Come to think of it, we’ve been dreadful in our last three games... but winning breeds confidence and with Saha now amongst the goals, Fellaini, Pienaar and Yakubu to return next week, Arteta and Cahill still to get anywhere near top gear, and the defence now shoring up a bit, I’m pretty confident we can get in amongst the top five and hopefully stay there.
Come on you blues!
- Howard: One minor criticism from me was a first half corner which he punched when he could’ve caught but otherwise he was solid and made a couple of good saves in the first half. The one he tipped onto the crossbar from Freddie Sears was top draw. He would have got my man of the match if not for Saha’s late show. Now looking back to his best. 8
- Lescott: Nice to see him back on the scoresheet so hopefully he can kick on from here. I don’t think he did very well though and looked very nervous at times. 5
- Yobo: Kept them out for most of the game but was well stretched for the West Ham goal. Also looks a little nervy at times. 6
- Jagielka: He’s become our Mr. Consistency. Very calm and solid throughout. 7
- Neville: I thought he had a good solid game and got forward well as we pressed late on. 7
- Rodwell: Oh dear oh dear. It’s the first time I’ve seen him play and I’m told he’s a better player than what I saw today. He looked very, very average today and was completely lost. All part of the learning curve I guess though and it’s important for young players to know what it’s like to play badly and to struggle. He’ll be a better player for it in the long run. You have to remember, he is only 17. I never realised he was so tall. 4
- Arteta: Largely ineffective and ponced around a bit though, one dreadful first half free kick which hit the wall at knee-height aside, his set-piece contributions were excellent. 5
- Osman: Struggled a bit but kept us ticking over late on with some tidy passing. 5
- Anichebe: Was also lost in the first half, particularly when he got switched to the left wing. He looked a bit more focused in the second half. Needs to take players on more. I remember one mazy run he went on when he looked almost unstoppable. Nice assist for the second goal. 6
- Cahill: Never really got going though was always a threat from set-pieces. 5
- Saha: You can see the difference in class he offers compared to most (all?) of his teammates. His confidence must be flying now so hopefully he can keep it going. I pray he stays fit as, Fellaini aside, I can’t see where our goals are going to come from.
- Vaughan (for Rodwell): He always freshens things up with his vigour and he did that again today, putting defenders under pressure. It’s his work off the ball which impresses me most. 6
- Baines (for Anichebe): Not on long enough. Can’t judge.
- Hibbert (for Saha): I left as he came on so have no idea.
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