If David Unsworth has sported the look of a harrowed man over the past few days, he will have left Goodison Park with a rueful smile this evening having left the post of caretaker manager with a thumping 4-0 win to savour.
Having lost 4-1 at Southampton on Sunday and seen his team fall apart in similar fashion against Atalanta the previous Thursday, the former defender knew that it was only a matter of time before a permanent successor to Ronald Koeman was appointed. He looked as hurt as he said he felt about those results in his pre-match press conference yesterday and for stepping into the breach in hugely difficult circumstances he fully deserved to leave his temporary post with a victory.
And how! One look at the Blues’ recent form and a patched-up back four featuring the much-maligned duo of Cuco Martina and Ashley Willlams and Mason Holgate who only proved his fitness last night suggested that confidence-sapped Everton might be in for a difficult evening. Instead, with controversial new hire Sam Allardyce watching on from the Directors’ box, Wayne Rooney claimed a first hat-trick for his boyhood club in the most spectacular fashion and the home side kept its first clean sheet in the Premier League since the opening day of the season.
Despite the emphatic nature of the scoreline, it wasn’t an entirely comfortable evening for a home crowd that was quiet and circumspect during an opening quarter of an hour that offered no hint of what was to come. That the supporters were able to go home happy was also down to a vital penalty save from Jordan Pickford 13 minutes into the second half and what was, apart from Jason Cresswell’s shot that crashed off the face of the crossbar, a woeful attacking performance from West Ham on David Moyes’s latest chastening return to Goodison. Rooney’s world-class intervention eight minutes later, followed by atonement for Williams, merely confirmed that it was going to be the Toffees’ night.
When viewed as a whole, this was not a great performance but in the context of the panic that had gripped the club after Sunday’s defensive debacle at St Mary’s Stadium it was certainly good enough and there were some very encouraging individual performances.
With his years advancing, many observers have suggested that Wayne Rooney’s best position could be in a deeper role than he occupied under Ronald Koeman and, finally, Unsworth took the much-called-for step of dispensing with two holding midfielders at home to accommodate the veteran in that more influential role.
Rooney responded by largely running the game from midfield, offering the kind of industry and vision that has been sorely lacking from Morgan Schneiderlin while still chipping in in his customary striker’s position for Everton’s second goal after 28 minutes. His deployment as a roving “No.8” probably also left him perfectly positioned to score the third from inside his own half.
Still, it took Everton a while to get going but once Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson started to find their rhythm, the home side were able to gather some momentum. It was the Icelandic international, enjoying his most productive display yet in a Royal Blue jersey, whose persistence and footwork enabled him to prod the ball forward into the box for Dominic Calvert-Lewin to chase.
He was upended by Joe Hart, Rooney stepped up to take the penalty and though his England team-mate made a good save with a strong hand, the rebound sat up invitingly for the Everton man to head home.
The second goal involved one of the better moves of the game from Unsworth’s side. Jonjoe Kenny, another player putting on his best performance of the season, rampaged forward Seamus Coleman-style, fed the ball wide the Tom Davies on the right and continued his run into the box. The young fullback missed his kick as he met Davies’s low centre under pressure from his marker but the ball carried through nicely to Rooney and he swept a simple shot into the empty side of the goal.
That left the Blues 2-0 up at the break following what had been, the goals aside, a largely uneventful half during which the awful Hammers had failed to muster a shot on goal. Much of that was down to a much more disciplined defensive performance from Everton underpinned by a better shape and more attentive marking than was the case in the previous two outings.
Moyes’s half-time team talk was no doubt designed to gee his charges up and they emerged from the dressing room on the front foot to begin the second half. Indeed, they succeeded in pinning their hosts back in their own half for a good six to seven minutes after the restart and Cresswell came within inches of halving the deficit but was denied by the woodwork.
Nevertheless, as the Blues continued to squander possession with infuriating regularity, the Hammers were handed a route back into the contest when Williams needlessly hauled Diafra Sakho in the area and referee Michael Oliver again pointed to the spot.
Manuel Lanzini took responsibility for the penalty but Jordan Pickford guessed the right way, parrying his shot away superbly to safety. It was a vital save as you sensed that at 2-1, with West Ham’s tails up and Everton buckling, it could well have got worse.
Instead, the game was sealed by a slice of opportunistic magic from Rooney. Kenny’s long ball forward was flicked into space ahead of him by Calvert-Lewin which drew Hart well out of his area to clear it upfield. It went straight to Rooney five yards inside his own half and with one expertly clipped first-time shot he arced it over the despairing ‘keeper and Angelo Ogbonna and into the West Ham goal. The boyhood Blue’s first Everton hat-trick sealed in sublime fashion.
Rooney would get a deserved ovation when he was replaced by Beni Baningime with five minutes left on the clock but in between Williams scored Everton’s fourth, a looping header from a corner after he had lost his marker.
The Board’s going to agree terms with Allardyce just before the game, and the team’s going to beat West Ham 3-0 aren’t they? We’ll wonder what the panic was about but be stuck with a manager no one wants #EvertonThat— Lyndon Lloyd (@Everton1an) November 28, 2017
And so to the impending transfer of managerial duties from the truest of Blues to the far less felicitous Allardyce with the stabbing irony that this result confirmed what many had felt — that even hampered by injury to three more first-teamers this Everton side was far better than performances and results have suggested this season and that a number of players had let Unsworth down badly since he assumed the helm six weeks ago.
Unsworth may always regret that he wasn’t able to draw better out of the team and either give the Board of Directors more time to avoid the kind of panicked decision that has led them down the road to appointing the man who was sacked by England in disgrace not that long ago.
It was just Sod’s Law that the ink was probably still drying on Allardyce’s contract as the Blues rattled in four goals, alleviated at a stroke the fear that had taken hold after Sunday and removed much of the need for a relegation specialist at all. It leaves the Everton support having to back a manager that the vast majority didn’t want and the Board having to balance Allardyce’s transfer needs in January with the longer-term needs of the Farhad Moshiri/Steve Walsh project which has been put on hold by the new man’s hiring.
That’s an issue to wrestle with in the coming days. Rooney may have grabbed the headlines but this was “Rhino’s” night — may he treasure it along with the appreciative chants he received from a grateful Goodison as he steps back down to the Under-23s to resume his impressive work building the club’s future on the pitch.
Reader Comments (35)
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1 Posted 30/11/2017 at 07:54:36
The downright apathy of some of them has been a sight to behold. Its hard to know if Unsy would have got them to care without the introduction of Fat Sam but there is little part of me that feels uneasy that we may have been hasty with this call because of the "manner" of the defeats which is solely down to having mercenaries at our club
We shall wait and see...
2 Posted 30/11/2017 at 08:08:28
Really? So the blue bubble we all live in does not allow us to even consider the reality that a team that has seriously under performed for David Unsworth suddenly found some commitment and desire but that was not linked to the club signing a permanent manager.
C'mon guys pop the bubble, get real, those players know Sam won't take any shit and they will have to try at least from now on.
Unsworth a great blue, yes but not cut out to lead this group of players. His several calls a day with the Chairman clearly show in his press conference quotes of blue cliches. Great to hear but results and performances were woeful.
3 Posted 30/11/2017 at 08:15:22
4 Posted 30/11/2017 at 08:20:28
5 Posted 30/11/2017 at 08:20:42
“That's an issue to wrestle with in the coming daysâ€ No it isn't. It's been done to death. Some accept him, some never will.
Get behind the Everton manager (and get over yourselves).
6 Posted 30/11/2017 at 08:29:55
7 Posted 30/11/2017 at 08:36:16
8 Posted 30/11/2017 at 08:50:14
Forward me your email ad and I will sent you an information pack on how to deal with it. After 30 years (with the exception of a brief spell in the nineties) of being in this position, I consider myself something of an expert on the matter.
We don't appoint managers we create some of the richest failures in sport. The only stipulation being they play pug ugly football for as long as they are here.
9 Posted 30/11/2017 at 09:04:34
Looked like a team for the first time this season. Seemed to be more understanding between players and more coherent and joined up play. Long may it last.
It proves that a team is about balance and commitment, not just squeezing in the expensive signings for the sake of it.
One more thing, Seamus would have been proud if he put in a shift like Kenny last night .
10 Posted 30/11/2017 at 09:05:07
11 Posted 30/11/2017 at 09:05:52
Allardyce is corrupt and complete unfit to be Everton manager and it makes me sick to my stomach that he we will be. This is a dark day in the club's history.
13 Posted 30/11/2017 at 09:21:50
14 Posted 30/11/2017 at 09:23:44
Some fans can still go round holding their stomachs and making dramatic resignations but I suspect it is not how Unsworth and the players feel about the future.
15 Posted 30/11/2017 at 09:29:21
The penalty save by Pickford was pivotal. A goal at that stage might have sparked a West Ham fight back and not many of us in the ground would have put money on a positive outcome for our team. That period demonstrated why we need Allaradyce. We are far from out of danger but we can now approach the games ahead, some of which look winnable, with greater confidence. I also expect the team to be less of a soft touch away from home.
Getting rid of Koeman was the right decision while we can be grateful to Unsworth for taking us out of the relegation places. I am not sure any manager on a short term appointment would have been able to do much more than that over the past few weeks.
16 Posted 30/11/2017 at 09:53:53
I am one of the people who do not like the appointment of Sam Allardyce and feel let down badly by the board. However, it is what it is and we now have to give the big man all of the support he needs to get us up that table and away from the quagmire of relegation.
If I have one request please, Sam, do NOT dump our youngsters.
17 Posted 30/11/2017 at 10:24:29
Pickford's penalty save, as previously mentioned, was pivotal in the game, although not to detract, Lanzini had put his previous 3 spot kicks in the same place. Well studied, young man.
Thanks to Unsworth for going where Angels fear to tread (along with many other managers) and helping us through this difficult time.
I'm hoping that Sam will have a point to prove about being labelled a long-ball merchant and will bring more than expected to the role, as I don't think we currently have the personnel, ie, big lumps to play that way.
18 Posted 30/11/2017 at 10:53:33
Altogether now... "We found love in a hopeless place."
19 Posted 30/11/2017 at 12:04:47
20 Posted 30/11/2017 at 12:33:26
However we get there, as long as we get there quickly, that will suit me. Then we can bring in a manager that reflects our motto.
21 Posted 30/11/2017 at 12:40:24
One swallow does not a summer make; there were times in that match that we were shaky at best and downright awful too. The first half started quiet but the confidence was wobbling until Rooney's penalty and then the second which eased nerves but still you felt it was not put to bed.
Sure enough, the second half was all West Ham until Pickford's save (the turning point) and the icing on the cake, Rooney's three-iron from 55 metres... class!
All-in-all, it was the best we have played for some time, with confidence improved, but I fear other, better teams than West Ham, may exploit us... so much still to do.
I'll take the three points. What's disappointing to see is, despite the win, Rooney still gets stick, Allardyce has not signed yet (?) and the abuse has started before he walks in the door.
In a better world I would never have chosen Allardyce, I feel somewhat betrayed of the promises made and the expectations that lie in tatters. But the truth is there is still an awful lot to do, players still needed to make a team and a manager who knows how to get the best out of a squad.
Our Premier League status was in severe jeopardy, hopefully not as bad this morning, but still only a couple of defeats away from the zone and we have to play the same teams we started the season with in a few weeks time, one after another almost... so some changes in attitude are required and approach too.
Time will tell if we end up with a fight on our hands or not, but I am glad to have Allardyce in the trench with me rather than Koeman when the heavy stuff comes in.
And finally, to all those who wanted the flair of another European manager with a successful CV... they seem to be thin on the ground, never mind if they would elect to come.. and unless Allardyce can something special (just a feeling) then the project is on hold until we have a stronger team.
22 Posted 30/11/2017 at 14:11:28
Despite Koemsn's mistakes on balance of squad, too many number 10's, no way of playing, bad man management, lack of fitness, togetherness and aggression, key injuries etc . We do have a number of good players now, some developing and too young for now but great promise. The likes of Kenny, Calvert-Lewin, Davies, Holgate have got invaluable experience. There is potential in this group to play some lovely football As we found out last night You cannot keep Billy Boots quiet!!
Add that to Sam's attention to detail, professionalism, organisation of defence, set plays, dynamic at 'em move the ball forward quickly and address the opposition weaknesses (Sam loves going against Arsenal) and then add the technical skills of this group then a high tempo, pressing, move forward quick style that suits the Goodison roar will hopefully be the signature style with Sam finally getting a big club presence and a budget to kick on then we may have our man.
If not then we know he does a professional job and we can then thank him at the end of the season with only one years compo.
Win Win! get behind big Sam and his professionalism! COYB's
23 Posted 30/11/2017 at 14:20:03
Great to see Unsworth get such a good reception even if some of you think it was the fear of Allardyce which motivated the team (I don't).
As an aside, Darren, are you saying that we should only ever appoint from within as "every" outside manager is a mercenary and fails to appreciate good football and our club? How soon will it be before you are calling for Allardyce's head? And yes, I know you wouldn't have appointed him in the first place. Are we to going to be able to look forward to more inimitable rants about zombie football?
24 Posted 30/11/2017 at 15:07:35
My own thoughts on this season are that I thought we were playing well up to the point that Wayne's off-field activities hit the headlines & I think this affected not just him, but the club as well. Thankfully it looks like he is now back on track in his personal life so hopefully onwards and upwards from here for all of us
25 Posted 30/11/2017 at 15:27:42
I believe Sam Allardyce will instill further belief in these players and will quickly get to know who's up for the battles ahead. Sigurdsson is starting to show his qualities and he will get better.
This is probably the best squad of players that SA has ever been in charge of and I hope he can do his thing.
Who knows, he could surprise us all. Huddersfield will be interesting!
26 Posted 30/11/2017 at 16:10:52
I'm looking forward to another confident performance from the kick off on Saturday. Take the game to Huddersfield and put them on the back foot.
27 Posted 30/11/2017 at 16:26:02
This result followed by my 'adopted' Canadian side, Toronto FC, reaching the MLS Cup Final with a one-nil win over Columbus Crew, really put the icing on the cake...
28 Posted 30/11/2017 at 19:10:56
29 Posted 30/11/2017 at 19:28:06
Allardyce is not my choice, but he's been appointed and he deserves a chance to prove he isn't only a greedy, money-grabber. A Lard Ice. not a bad name.
It was brilliant last night to see the score moving up to 4-0. I'm not delighted about Rooney's return, but last night he was inspirational and it was a wonder goal.
Long may it continue. Huddersfield next. The only time I saw them at Goodison was in 54-5 and we won 4-0. I'm hoping for at lest that on Saturday, though sadly I can't be there.
30 Posted 30/11/2017 at 19:47:46
I've no problem with Allardyce at this juncture,and think Shakespeare and Lee would be good additions. looking forward to Saturday.
31 Posted 30/11/2017 at 20:06:13
18 months to get the sheisters and older players out of the team. Hopefully more of the U23 grads make their presence felt and maybe DU gets his real chance. He was always on a hiding here. I hope he goes back to U23 with head held high and a pragmatic, sober view of what the future needs of the club are and continues to develop the very fine players that are coming out of his team.
We'll soon see whether Allardyce grasps the opportunity for a last shot of managing a great club and if he does, then I'll be grateful. I still do believe in the steel of English football, but it has to be modernized with technique and tactical fluency. Some of us armchair managers are professional coaches and are developing younger players. Doing a coaching course is an enlightening and very humbling experience.
The guys at the sharp end are doing hard work and Unsworth is one of the best. I hope the club doesn't underestimate what he has achieved as we need to develop more talented English coaches.
I hope we haven't seen that last of Unsy in the dugout. Maybe the coming months will be the furnace that's required to forge a new Everton team that can fulfill its promise. One that can play fast, play tight and express themselves with talent.
The alternative is sobering.
32 Posted 30/11/2017 at 21:08:12
Our resistance to ridicule from the press and the rest is the best let's take the positives from last nights result and beat Huddersfield.
Life as an Evertonian is rich in many ways, and has been a long slog albeit a few Golden Years, but humour dark and true and irony and knowledge of the game lends to us surviving this crisis, and moving on together.
Great to get a win in Armageddon next week, surely their dose of luck was done last night with their keeper staying on. The so-called FA panel should review that and he should be banned. Shocking..
Enough said, I think Sam will be good at the mind games. Next week, the RS, will be having thoughts, the RS rag Liverpool Echo no doubt will be spinning the usual BS..I sense that the pressure will get to LFC next week, but we need a striker.
Food for thought..
A tasty week ahead and fresh hope.
33 Posted 30/11/2017 at 21:25:40
But long term we have not made a positive step with 'Fat Sams' appointment. I will not miss a game and will be 100% behind our cause as I usually am, but I cannot hide my disappointment with the Leadership or lack of in this club at the moment. The one positive is that we have perhaps a maximum of 18 months to endure this latest farcical decision.
34 Posted 01/12/2017 at 13:33:00
When the team wins great! but he takes it personally when they lose. I'm not saying its a bad thing but the manager needs to be cool and calm. If the manager is emotional then the players will feel uncertain.
Whilst I don't want Sam, I think he's the manager we probably need right now.
35 Posted 01/12/2017 at 14:02:04
I think Unsworth would have been well up for Huddersfield, that he would have picked a good side and would have beaten them.
Then I think he would beat the Cypriot lot on Thursday. Now, some of you, and myself included may have thought that the Cyprus game does not matter. But I do not want the embarrassment of Everton finishing bottom of a group, below a team from Cyprus.
I hope we send out a decent team that can secure three points and save us from abject embarrassment, and also give the travelling blues something to cheer.
36 Posted 01/12/2017 at 14:05:36
So you were chanting the name of Rhino AFTER the match ... even though you thought we won 4-0 "in spite" of him?
Good to hear. When you suddenly appeared on this site to criticise Unsworth at every turn, often posting 3-4 times on the same thread. I thought you had something against him. Good that you can admit you were won over.
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