Wednesday, 6th March 2002
A 57th minute goal from Trevor Sinclair was enough to see the Hammers to victory against an Everton side who had not won away from Goodison Park since the first day of the season, last August.
This game was never going to be pretty, thanks to a string of injuries for both sides. The Hammers, for their part started with no less than four full backs in the team; with Ian Pearce and Nigel Winterburn starting as full-backs, Seb Schemmel and Vladimir Labant were pushed into unfamiliar roles in midfield to accompany Joe Cole and Trevor Sinclair in the centre, as Glenn Roeder (rightly) stuck with the 442 formation which has reaped such great rewards at the Boleyn this season.
In the end Roeder's selection was fully justified by the result, but as top level football goes you'd be hard pushed to find a game as poor as this. The visitors were absolutely awful, devoid of any invention or creativity; if the truth be told, we weren't much better.
Goalscoring opportunities were limited throughout, but the few that were created were almost exclusively by the Hammers. Freddy Kanoute should have done better when set through by Paolo Di Canio, and the Italian himself saw his cheeky lob clear the crossbar by inches minutes later.
Trevor Sinclair and Joe Cole both has chances of their own before they combined for the only goal of the game 12 minutes after the break. Combined is probably the wrong word as Sinclair knew very little about Cole's shot which hit his side and deflected into the corner of the net, but he will take it nonetheless. Cole, who had been one of our better players finally got the reward for his industry and inventiveness.
A second goal may well have followed shortly after, but Paolo Di Canio's penalty appeal was turned down by referee Knight - despite the Italian appearing to have a very good claim after he was bundled down by two Everton defenders. One wonders if he will ever be given a penalty again.
The (sub 30,000) crowd did their very best to lift what was a dour encounter; the Bobby Moore stand gave us a rousing rendition of 'Glenn Roeder's claret and blue army' for a full five minutes in the second half, but even that failed to lift the players to anything resembling entertainment.
At the end of the day the vital three points were ours, although the manner in which they were won wouldn't have pleased the purists. It has been suggested in the past that Hammers fans were more worried about the style in which we played rather than the result. Personally I'd rather see us grind out a result like this than lose 4-3 in an end to end game, but maybe that's just me, who knows?
The win lifts the Hammers back into the Premiership's top half, and almost extinguishes the possibility of relegation, being as we are just three points from the magical 40 point mark. With Europe still technically possible there is still something to play for, but even the most optimistic fan should concede that we're just playing for a top half finish now.
A final word on Everton's excellent travelling support. Despite having failed to win away from home since the opening day of the season, the fans still turned out in their hundreds for a chilly midweek match some 200 miles from home. The 2,000 allocation was sold out some time ago, which led to West Ham offering another 400 seats for pay-on-the-door fans travelling from Merseyside. Their team may be division one standard, but those fans are certainly Premiership class.
David James (7) It's hard to justify only giving James a '7' when he didn't put a foot wrong all evening, but equally he wasn't tested whatsoever by the opposition, who found it hard enough to string three passes together, let alone have the guile to create a goalscoring opportunity of any note. His handling was good, as usual; the only time he had to make a real decision was on a first half cross which he dealt with by punching the ball clear. His kicking however was exceptional, how often were our counter-attacks started by James' quick thinking?
Ian Pearce (6) Despite clearly being some way from full fitness, big Pearcey seems to be getting to grips with the pace of the Premiership once again despite such a lengthy layoff. Again, the calibre of the opposition afforded him more time on the ball than he will have against more accomplished sides, but overall he dealt with Everton's (limited) forays on the left flank well. Also created two good goalscoring opportunities; once when he headed just wide, and then when a mazy run on the edge of the box set up Joe Cole for a good chance. Gave us all a scare when he went down in the second half after a tough challenge (none more so than John Green who was there before Pearce hit the deck) but fortunately all was well.
Nigel Winterburn (7) An inauspicious start for Nigel, but boy did he come to life after the break. Nige was back to his very best in the second half, tearing down the wing in support of the attackers whenever possible, and defending stoutly at the same time. The signing of proposed replacement Vladimir Labant appears to have kick-started Nigel again, and he's playing just about the best football of his short Hammers career right now. Man of the match.
Tomas Repka (7) Another good performance from the tough Czech. With head freshly shaven Tommy looked every bit the traditional East End hardman, and he went about his business in typical fashion by letting Kevin Campbell know who was boss in the opening minutes with a challenge which left the former Arsenal man writhing around in (mock?) agony. For Repka read James, he did nothing wrong but will not have an easier night's work than this all season.
Christian Dailly (7) The most improved player of the season by a country mile excelled again last night, albeit against mediocre opposition. The battle with Campbell was keenly contested, but if this were a boxing match Dailly would have won comfortably on points. Just times his headers so well, it's a joy to watch at times. And who thought we'd have been saying that after his first few games at Upton Park?
Vladimir Labant (6) Still clearly settling in at the club, Labant appears to be improving slowly but surely. Clearly a footballer of some pedigree, but it will take time for him to get used to the pace of Premiership football. Interesting to see Ludo Miklosko barking out Glenn Roeder's orders to the Slovakian throughout the game. When he learns to speak English, and stand up for more than 30 seconds we could well have one of the best full-backs in the country on our hands (despite the fact that he was playing in midfield).
Seb Schemmel (6) His first appearance in midfield, but not a bad decision by Roeder judging by Archie's apparent willingness to bomb forward at every opportunity whilst playing in his more accustomed position of full-back. Tonight he didn't 'pull up any trees', so to speak, but he was as tenacious and as committed as ever. You couldn't really have asked for much more from the Frenchman.
Trevor Sinclair (7) Pushed into central midfield late on at Villa last weekend, Roeder decided to employ Sincs there from the start in the absence of our regular midfield. Up against the tough tackling Lee Carsley, Sinclair more than held his own and earned his reward with the goal (despite not knowing anything about it). Even when central midfielder Richard Garcia was introduced late on Sinclair retained his place in the centre of the park. Good display, and on his way to Japan at this rate.
Joe Cole (7) Joe had one of those nights which leaves you pulling out your hair in frustration. Several times he jinked his way around the Everton defenders, only to produce a weak shot at the end of it. However it was from one such run that the winning goal came, and for that we can be indebted to the England hopeful. The run was typically mazy, the shot was going who knows where but fortunately it hit Sinclair on the way and went in. Just reward for Cole, who has still got his work cut out to prove to Eriksson (and to many Hammers fans) that he is the man for the World Cup.
Paolo Di Canio (6) One of those nights where nothing went right for the maestro. Too often his passes went astray, and some of his shooting was plain abysmal. His frustration boiled over when he remonstrated with the Bobby Moore after he was criticised for stopping play so that a poleaxed Everton defender could receive treatment. Sound familiar ...?
Frederic Kanoute (6) The most annoying aspect to Kanoute's game is that he could be outstanding if he was prepared to work hard for 90 minutes - which he is clearly not. At times the crowd were screaming at him to shut down defenders, or the goalkeeper, when he was instead statuesque. Drew the biggest cheer of the night in the second half when he finally decided to close a defender down. Limited goalscoring opportunities, and substituted - justifiably - for Jermain Defoe late on.
Jermain Defoe (6) According to reports the boy wonder has just see his salary increase five-fold, something nobody can really argue with after his exceptional performances this season. But here he was again on the bench, and tonight he was offered less than ten minutes to show what he can do. Warm applause from the crowd upon his entrance showed high highly the fans rate him.
Richard Garcia (6) Introduced late on for the flagging Seb Schemmel, the young Aussie was limited to a couple of solo runs which caused some consternation in the Everton back line. Hopefully a long career lies ahead of the 21-year-old whose patience has finally been rewarded by Glenn Roeder.
Referee (7) Barry Knight could be criticised for his willingness to halt play instead of letting the game flow on occasions, but overall he handled it well, refusing as he did to flash the cards willy-nilly as previous officials have done this season.
West Ham United: James, Pearce, Winterburn, Repka, Dailly, Schemmel, Labant, Cole, Sinclair, Di Canio, Kanoute
Subs: Garcia (Schemmel 80), Defoe (Kanoute 83), Hislop, Minto, Kitson
Everton: Simonsen, Pistone, Stubbs, Weir, Unsworth, Alexandersson, Blomqvist, Gemmill, Carsley, Campbell, Radzinski
Subs: Gravesen (Alexandersson 67), Linderoth (Carsley 67), Ginola (Campbell 62), Gerrard, Clarke
Goals: Sinclair (57)
Booked: Blomqvist (38), Pistone (89)
Man of the match: Nigel Winterburn
* Want to submit your match reports to KUMB.com? More details here ...