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Premier League
Sunday, 8th November 2009

West Ham United 1
Everton 2

by Staff Writer


West Ham are back in the bottom three of the Premier League after going down 2-1 at home to Everton this afternoon.

A goal either side of the break for the visitors - who had gone seven games without a win prior to this afternoon - was enough to take all three points and leave Gianfranco Zola wondering just how his team managed to lose a game they controlled from the off.

An understrength Everton side arrived seemingly intent on holding out for a point and set out their stall accordingly, packing their half with bodies in an attempt to frustrate United.

However West Ham were clearly intent on taking their haul for the week to six points following the midweek win against Aston Villa and had the visitors on the rack from the very first minute when Zavon Hines was inches away from latching on to a Luis Jimenez through ball.

Despite all the hustle and bustle West Ham rarely threatened Tim Howard's goal, and from a total of 16 shots overall only four were on target. Compare that to Everton's five in nine and it's clear to see where the game was lost.

Louis Saha put Everton in front against the run of play three minutes ahead of the half-hour mark with a goal out of nowhere. Tim Cahill's hopeful low centre was speculatively driven by the former Fulham striker from the edge of the box into the bottom corner of Rob Green's goal, leaving the 'keeper rooted to the spot. Not the greatest way to mark Green's 100th consecutive Premier League start.

Spirits undampened, West Ham continued to push forward but were held at bay for the remainder of the half. 0-1 at the break where the crowd of 32,466 were treated to a video of a tanned Paolo Di Canio muttering something unintelligible and a version of 'We'll Meet Again' by a Vera Lynn tribute act, marking Remembrance Day.

The second half began in a similar fashion to the first with West Ham on the front foot but unable to make inroads in the final third of the pitch. Everton, meanwhile, were having no such trouble and for the second time caught United napping when their lead was extended on 63 minutes by Dan Gosling, who was criminally allowed a second chance having seen his initial shot well saved by Green.

West Ham's reply had to be immediate were they to get anything out of the game - and so it proved to be, for within a minute Junior Stanislas reduced the deficit to one with a delicate chip over the advancing Howard following a great through ball by substitute Diamanti. The goal is however likely to be credited to Everton's Tony Hibbert who had the last touch, hooking the ball into the roof of the net as he tried to clear.

With twenty five minutes still to play there was plenty of time for an equaliser but unlike against Fulham and Arsenal, it wasn't to be - despite the best efforts of Zola's side, superbly marshalled by the tireless Scott Parker who ran himself into the ground once again.

Young striker Zavon Hines, who had taken the plaudits in midweek for his superb 93rd minute winner against Villa could have repeated his exploits but sadly fluffed his lines, missing two gilt-edged goalscoring opportunities in the final stages. Twice put through on goal, Carlton Cole's stand-in failed to find the target on either occasion, screwing his first effort left of the target and his second to its right with Howard helpless on both occasions.

So yet again West Ham's defensive lapses proved to be their undoing, and the introduction of ex-Hammer Lucas Neill as a late substitution only served to rub salt into the wound.

Despite his less than warm welcome ('one greedy b*stard' being the most popular refrain, presumably in response to the former club captain's refusal to sign a purportedly lucrative contract extension last summer) Neill was a vital cog in West Ham's defensive wheel for the last two seasons and only now is the full extent of his absence being realised.

This season, West Ham have already conceded 20 league goals - around 1.7 goals per game. Last season with the likes of Neill and James Collins in the side they conceded just 45 all season - around 1.2 goals a game.

With Julien Faubert and Jonathan Spector both failing to convince as Neill's replacement, that right-back spot has proved to be Zola's - and West Ham's - Achilles heel thus far this season. Additionally, the failure to find a convincing replacement for James Collins and partner for Matthew Upson (James Tomkins, Danny Gabbidon, Bondz N'Gala and Manuel Da Costa have all featured at centre-half already this term) has hindered the defensive unit's progress.

So whilst the goalscoring problem of last season appears to have been resolved the urgent problem for Zola and partner Steve Clarke now is quite clearly at the opposite end of the field. This constant leaking of goals simply has to be addressed if the club are to avoid facing a repeat of the 2006/07 season, which so nearly ended in disaster.

The problem is, and as things stand, this time around there is no 'billionaire' - skint or otherwise - preparing to pump vast sums of money into player purchases during the forthcoming January transfer window. With the club in a state of limbo under current owners CB Holdings the fear is that quite the opposite will happen, with further sales sanctioned.

For those potential bidders waiting in the wings, time to save West Ham could be running out. Meanwhile all Zola and Clarke can do is try to figure out their best back four - and stick with it (injuries permitting).



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Comments to follow.


Julien Faubert
Comments to follow.


Jonathan Spector
Comments to follow.


Manuel Da Costa
Comments to follow.


Matthew Upson
Comments to follow.


Scott Parker
Comments to follow.


Valon Behrami
Comments to follow.


Jack Collison
Comments to follow.


Luis Jimenez
Comments to follow.


Zavon Hines
Comments to follow.


Guillermo Franco
Comments to follow.


Substitutes


Junior Stanislas
(Replaced Collison, 45 minutes) Comments to follow.


Alessandro Diamanti
(Replaced Jimenez, 57 minutes) Comments to follow.


Peter Kurucz
Did not play.


Fabio Daprela
Did not play.


James Tomkins
Did not play.


Mark Noble
Did not play.


Frank Nouble
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Alan Wiley.

Attendance: 32,466.

Man of the Match: tbc.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Julien Faubert, Jonathan Spector, Manuel Da Costa, Matthew Upson, Scott Parker, Valon Behrami, Jack Collison, Luis Jimenez, Zavon Hines, Guillermo Franco.

Goals: Tony Hibbert og 65                  .

Booked: None.

Sent off: None.

Everton

.

Substitutes: .

Subs not used: .

Goals: None.

Booked: .

Sent Off: None.

 

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Staff Writer's Man of the Match: tbc


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