Filed: Tuesday, 28th December 2010
By: Staff Writer
The Hammers blew a golden opportunity to escape the relegation zone by failing to beat Everton at the Boleyn this afternoon.
A win for Avram Grant's side would have lifted West Ham above both Birmingham and Wigan - albeit temporarily due to most other teams in and around the drop zone having games in hand.
However Seamus Coleman's first half equaliser cancelled out Tony Hibbert's own goal to leave the Hammers languishing in 19th spot - with just Wolves, who visit the Boleyn next weekend, below them.
West Ham, missing a number of key personnel also rested Carlton Cole, whose brace just 48 hours earlier at Fulham had given United their first league win on the road since August 2009.
Freddie Sears made his second consecutive start since returning from a loan spell cut short at Scunthorpe, whilst fellow non-first team regulars such as Radoslav Kovac and Herita Ilunga also featured.
Despite starting with a fair few reserves it was West Ham that began the brighter, and the goal - a Hibbert deflection from an attempted scissors kick from Kovac - was well deserved following a sustained period of pressure.
But being in possession of such a poor defensive record it was imperative that United found a second goal to complement the opener - something they paid a heavy price for failing to do when Coleman stole in on the blind side to equalise in the closing moments of the first half.
Herita Ilunga - restored to the team in place of a rested Tal Ben Haim - had been forced to withdraw through injury on the half hour mark. The Congolese full-back, a shadow of the player who enjoyed an excellent first season in east London to be replaced by Jonathan Spector.
It was at left back that the quiet American had struggled so badly last season under Gianfranco Zola - and it was from the left side that the Everton goal arrived today.
Yet despite a number of supporters citing Spector as being at fault for failing to pick up the Blues youngster, it should perhaps be pointed out that he was tucking inside as the result of a request from head coach Wally Downes moments earlier.
The second half was a much closer affair with the visitors probably edging it. However the best chance to win the game fell to West Ham - a wonderfully slick passing move involving Kovac and Sears - and Carlton Cole, who failed to find the target when he should have scored.
Despite enjoying a healthy share of possession Everton failed to really test Hammers 'keeper Rob Green, who also happened to be named as the sponsors' Man of the Match. Yet they were well deserving of a point that keeps them above the relegation zone - but still in some trouble themselves.
West Ham have another chance to lift themselves out of the mire when basement club Wolves visit the Boleyn next weekend. Should Grant's side manage to secure a win, the manager will no doubt look back on a Christmas haul of eight points as a job well done.
Defeat? Well that really is unthinkable...
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