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Premier League
Saturday, 8th November 2008

West Ham United 1
Everton 3

by Gordon Thrower


Some things defy logic. The popularity of reality tv and Brussels sprouts and the fact that anybody would want to pay David Mellor for his opinion on football are mysteries that nobody will ever be able to satisfactorily explain. You can file the result of this match in the same folder.

The lovely girlfriend, bless her, starts the morning by switching on Breakfast TV.. It’s a girl thing obviously. Dumbing-down is the order of the day. You know the sort of thing: “later if there’s time we’ll be looking at the shocking situation that is developing in the Democratic Republic of Congo but first it’s over to Jackie for the very latest news from the set of Strictly Come Dancing.” The switching on of the tv is my cue to get up and go to work but inevitably there will be a few moments that creep their way into my subconscious as I sleepwalk my way to the bathroom. Thus it was that I spent five minutes, before I woke up properly the other morning, half-convinced that John Sergeant had been elected President of the USA. Even that would make more sense than the match I am now charged with writing about.

Is it me or does it always seem to be raining at the Boleyn on matchdays? I turned up drenched to the news that Scott Parker had recovered from the calf injury that had kept him out in recent weeks and would step into the team at the expense of Mullins, whilst new signing Tristan had already proved himself a true Hammer by promptly getting injured just as he seemed likely to play some part in proceedings. We lined-up thus: Green, Neill, Ilunga, Upson, Collins, Faubert, Parker, Bowyer, Boa-Morte, Bellamy, Sears.

Following a well-observed minute of silence of Remembrance the match started with a spell of possession for the opposition that ended up with a weak and wayward shot from Saha. That was about it for the first half from Everton. We started playing and the passing looked good as we started creating chances. Parker was the first to chance his arm as a 20-yard effort was tipped round the post by Howard. The first of a number of corners ensued but unfortunately we failed to make the most of them.

We then gained a free-kick on the right as Arteta cynically hauled down Faubert who had beaten the Everton man for pace. The yellow card that should have appeared didn’t for some reason. Bellamy’s delivery failed to clear the first man. Still on the right Sears then left his marker for dead only to over-hit the cross. The football was flowing and a move out of defence involving Boa-Morte and Bellamy saw the ball swept out to Faubert who, not for the last time that day, failed to get a decent ball in. Parker rescued the ball and won a free kick about 20 yards out. Bellamy’s fee-kicjk was deep and Collins did get his head to it but could only divert the ball wide. Bellamy was then unlucky to be given offside on a promising ball from the back. To be fair though, and in support of the Respect for Referees campaign I should point out that Bellamy was only onside by, oh, a mere two yards.

A rare Everton attack showed that Gerrard isn’t the only player on Merseyside who can dive as Arteta went down to the mystery sniper that hides behind the Bobby Moore banner thing (that is there purely as a tribute to the great man and is in no way a cynical ploy to stop a few kids watching the match for free from the top of some conveniently-placed garages). Collins took the rap for the sniper and Arteta found himself sufficiently recovered from the trauma to take the free-kick himself – straight into the wall.

A few minutes later we were forced into an untimely change. As a move broke down on the left Upson was seen sitting on the floor injured. Nobody could quite work out what had happened and, even now having seen the match on the box I am none the wiser. However, as the physio signalled over to the bench and the familiar portly figure of Mad Doctor Ges made its way onto the pitch it became clear that the England defender was to play no further part in the match. Collison came on and move into the midfield with Faubert stepping back to full-back as Neill moved inside to partner Collins.

We continued to push on and another neat move involving Green, Sears, Collison, Parker, Bellamy and Ilunga saw Cheri play the ball into the box. Sears’ first touch took him around the defender but his second touch, hampered by a loss of footing, precluded his taking advantage of the space he had made for himself and the ball slid out for a goal kick.

Bellamy was then penalised for handball in an incident identical to many that took place during the course of the day. This one was, however, the only one to be penalised – even though more blatant examples were to follow. Anichebe then fell over in a dive that Gerrard would have been embarrassed to have tried. Halsey gave the free-kick anyway though thankfully nothing came of it.

Still we poured forward. Parker and Sears combined to feed Bellamy who turned his defender before seeing a low shot deflected for a corner which once again came to nothing. Collison then embarked on a decent run at the end of which the ball came out to LBM who screwed his shot wide. Sears then went down the left before cutting the ball back for Bellamy. Bellamy’s attempt at playing LBM through was blocked but fell back to the Welshman who got underneath his shot and blasted over from 12 yards.

Then came the moment of the first-half. LBM played the bal down the left wing where Bellamy’s exquisite dummy left the full-bak for dead. Breaking into the box Bellamy pulled the ball back for Sears whose first time shot was tipped onto the bar by Howard and out for another corner. It was a fine move and only a fingertip prevented the goal the move richly deserved. Neill got on the end of the corner but planted his header went straight at Howard.

Parker then fed Ilunga inside the full-back and Cheri’s pull-back was only just cut out by a defender with Boa Morte loitering dangerously. Bellamy got in down the right and his follow up to his original blocked cross was ambitious but too high. LBM then slipped another through pass to Sears who unfortunately elected to shoot from a tight angle rather than cross to either Parker or Bellamy, both of whom were probably in better positions. Side netting was the result.

Just before the interval Parker worryingly went to the floor with nobody around him thus adding some time to the two extra minutes added on. This time passed uneventfully and the half came to a close.

The second half started much as the first had ended with Howard having to punch clear a cross with Collison sniffing around. A storming run down the left by Cheri ended up with him feeding Bellamy and Sears was unlucky that the resulting pass ended up going out for a goal-kick. An Everton free-kick awarded against LBM for, er, being fouled by Anichebe was cleared for a corner by Collins and Rodwell was given a free header from the resulting corner.

With 55 minutes gone LBM was replaced by Etherington. LBM hadn’t had a bad match and the not-so silent majority gave him a generous round of applause and he received a hug from Zola as he left. Which was nice. Shortly after this a move down the left found Bellamy on the edge of the box. His cross/shot was handled in the box by Osman. Like the incident in the first half that had seen Bellamy penalised, Halsey had a decent view. Unlike the earlier incident there was no punishment. This is a trend we see too often in the game – there are far too many referees who seem to think an entirely separate set of Laws apply to the penalty area and they bottle decisions that they will quite happily give a few yards away. Halsey himself had already shown himself willing to award free-kicks for such incidents but as usual cowardice prevailed.

Bellamy then burst toward the box before getting taken out by Neville who tried to look innocent but failed. Unfortunately, as had been the case all afternoon, the set piece was wasted as the ball went straight into the wall.

Then came the goal. A long ball was dealt with well by Collins – whose challenge saw preposterous claims for a penalty – Cahill’s theatrics fooling no-one. Etherington and Collison swapped passes and Sears held the ball up out wide. Etherington then played a dinked pass over the top to Parker whose clever first-time back heel found Collison, who had continued his run, in space. Collison took one touch before curling a superb finish into the far corner for superb goal which was well worth the price of admission on its own.

The goal meant that Everton – who would have celebrated a 0-0 like a cup final win – would have to at least pretend they were interested in going forward. Rodwell was replaced by Vaughan. Bellamy went down the right only to see his run blocked by Lescott in exactly the same way as Faubert’s run had been blocked by Arteta in the first. Lescott wasn’t as lucky as Arteta though and he did receive the yellow card that he deserved for the challenge. Nothing came of the free-kick. Again.

Bellamy had another effort from distance saved by Howard. Bowyer was then harshly pulled up for some infringement or other. The long free-kick was nodded on by Lescott whose header drifted across goal looking for a touch with nobody wanting to claim responsibility for it.

A long ball then saw Vaughan haul Faubert to the floor then hilariously asking for a free-kick for doing so. Everton won a couple of corners, a spell whih ended up with Green claiming well under pressure. The quick throw saw Etherington find space to feed Parker whose tired first touch let him down a little, allowing as it did a defender the time to clear for a corner.

The corner was, for once, cleverly worked between Bellamy and Etherington and it was only a fairly desperate clearance from Lescott that prevented Collins from doubling the lead.

The turning point, if there was one could be the moment that Etherington picked up a yellow card. A strong shouldr to shoulder challenge saw him win the ball fairly and squarely from Neville who threw himself to the floor. Etherington received his yellow card for kicking the ball away in frustration at a stupid decision and, whilst dissent is always a soft way to get a caution, it was hard not to feel sorry for the winger faced with such ineptitude from an official who had shown such profound ignorance of the game. It’s hard to show respect when you are being treated with contempt.

The crazy decision kept Everton on the front foot and a few moments later Osman fed Saha. A knackered-looking Parker failed to block the cross and Collins had let his concentration waver for just enough time for Lescott to head home. Somehow we were drawing with a team who would have been flattered if they’d have been three down by that point.

It got worse. Faubert stupidly tried to let a ball run out for a goal kick that was never going to go out. The ball came across to Saha whose shot took a wicked deflection past Green to send the opposition into a 2-1 lead that made a travesty of how the game had gone. The hitherto mute Everton supporters – who are every bit as bad when it comes to singing only when they are winning as their fellow Sousers – finally burst into song. Like their team they had done sod-all for 85 minutes. Parker, who should probably have been replaced a lot sooner, left to be replaced by DiMichlele whose arrival was announced over the tannoy as if Barack Obama himself had stepped onto the pitch. Or John Sergeant – for some reason I always get the two mixed up.

It got even worse. Faubert then gave the ball away yet again and Saha – who had probably been the worst player on the pitch – picked up a second with a shot from the edge of the box. If 1-1 had been flattering to Everton, 3-1 was the football equivalent of telling the fat spotty ugly bird your mate has lumbered you with because he’s got off with her better looking friend that she’s really beautiful in the hope you might get at least a snog at the end of the night once she’s put her kebab down. Yup that flattering.

That was about it. We’d somehow managed to lose 3-1 to a side who had spent 90% of the game defending for dear life. It was annoying as much as it was perplexing. I suppose the one managerial faux pas this week could be said to have been the failure to replace a clearly exhausted Parker a bit sooner – the midfielder’s failure to close down Saha directly led to the first goal. However, the more I think about the match the less clear it all becomes. We’re playing well but the results our play deserves at the moment aren’t coming and, such is the tight nature of the league this season there’s only a few points between Europe and the drop zone. One point from 18 is, statistically, relegation form and whilst I’m still optimistic enough to think that the R-word is not going to be on the agenda over the next few months, I’d like to see us getting the results that our play merits. It is a concern that players seem so tired towards the end of matches and that’s something that needs to be sorted out soon. Preferably before the next US election, which I believe starts next weekend….



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Virtually unemployed all game. Not at fault for the goals.


Lucas Neill
Coped ok after the enforced move into the centre, though I prefer to se him at full back.


Herita Ilunga
Another strong performance from the left back who looked tight in defence and strong going forward.


James Collins
Was having a decent game until he spoilt it with his lapse of concentration for the first goal.


Matthew Upson
Was doing ok in a largely untested defence until the injury that ended his match.


Scott Parker
A good return that might have been marked better had he not tired alarmingly quickly in the second half. MOTM for the influence he showed for most of the game.


Lee Bowyer
Not as influential as Parker when in the middle he “did a job” on the right after the reshuffle before, like parker, he ran out of steam.


Julien Faubert
Didn’t really show much in midfield, his distribution leaves a lot to be desired – or as one of my neighbours in the ground put it: “he couldn’t deliver a newspaper”. Disastrous in defence at the end as two errors proved fatal.


Luis Boa Morte
Decent in his link up play during the first half little went right for him in the second.


Fred Sears
Continues to improve. His pace and tenacity caused numerous problems for the Everton defence.


Craig Bellamy
Another strong performance that went unrewarded with a goal. His dummy on the left in the first half was a thing of beauty.


Substitutes


Jack Collison
(replaced Upson, 15) A fine run-out from the bench. Rarely wasted the ball and the finish for his goal was superb.


Matthew Etherington
(replaced Boa Morte, 58) Looked lively when he came on and played a significant part in the goal. His booking was ridiculous.


Davd Di Michele
(Replaced Parker, 86) Damned if I can remember him touching the ball when he came on.


Jan Lastuvka
Did not play.


Walter Lopez
Did not play.


Hayden Mullins
Did not play.


Kyel Reid
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Mark Halsey.

Attendance: 33,961.

Man of the Match: Scott Parker.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Lucas Neill, Herita Ilunga, James Collins, Matthew Upson, Scott Parker, Lee Bowyer, Julien Faubert, Luis Boa Morte, Fred Sears, Craig Bellamy.

Goals: Jack Collison 21  63                .

Booked: Matthew Etherington 81          .

Sent off: None.

Everton

Howard, Neville (c), Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott, Arteta, Osman, Cahill, Rodwell, Saha, Anichebe.

Substitutes: Vaughan (Rodwell 66), Hibbert (Saha 90+1).

Subs not used: Nash, Baines, Castillo, Jutkiewicz, Gosling.

Goals: Lescott (83), Saha (85, 87).

Booked: Lescott (69).

Sent Off: None.

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Scott Parker


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