Everton 1 West Ham United 1
Tuesday, 6th January 2015
Job done. Or, rather, job nearly done and, in the end, job half-done. After taking a deserved lead, The Beast Lukaku, our regular nemesis, pops up in the first minute of stoppage time to equalise, so it's back to Upton Park next week...In a game of ebb and flow, Everton looked like a team who had lost four on the trot; out of sorts and unable to make their chances count. We looked like a side missing four key players, which we were. Carroll had a sore ankle, in addition to Song, Sakho, and Kouyate all being absent. Not that Everton were at full strength either, with the likes of Howard and Baines missing too.
That there should have been a total of 33 shots between the sides (one extra for the hosts), but only five each on target and a single goal a-piece does not tell the full tale. There was a good deal of determined defending; tackles, blocks, and deflections; by hosts and visitors both. Nevertheless, it's fair to say that we and they were somewhat wasteful in front of goal.
After a reasonably dominant first twenty minutes for the visitors, the Toffees got into things for the remainder of the half. Indeed, they probably had the better of the chances, though Lukaku was, blessedly, having an off-day for a change.
Adrian had a couple of awkward, fumbling low saves to make. The first was from Lukaku early on, the second from the same player just before half time. No criticism implied - in both cases our keeper did the most important thing and got everything behind each hard-to-hold effort. He reacted quickly to the first rebound, preventing Mirallas from tucking it away; on the second, Reid managed to smuggle it behind for a corner before Everton could pounce.
Our best chance of the half was probably on the half hour, when Valencia caught out Jagielka, who had a rather erratic 90 mins. Unfortunately for us, with Enner clear 40 yards out, an unkind bounce prevented him taking advantage of the Evertonian's error. He did eventually manage a flat cross into the box that resulted in a corner.
That seemed to be the end product of most of our pressure, in fact; as you may gather from the stats, clear-cut chances were rarities. The corner count by the end of the match was 15 to 4 in our favour, nine of them in the first 45. Somehow, though, we failed to fashion a single worthwhile chance directly from one of those first nine, however much we pressed.
It was a bit of a puzzle, really. Carroll may have been missing and Cole still on the bench, but Collins and Reid were both in the box every time. We even mixed things up, with a number of quick, short corners being tried to no avail. We simply couldn't create even one clean chance from them.
Robles only had two moments of real note in the opening period. Immediately after Adrian's first save, the Everton stopper comfortably tipped over a powerful long-range effort from Downing.
He looked a lot more nervy in the very first minute, when Valencia pressured him into dropping a Noble cross. To no avail - the Ecuadorian was offside, an offence he would commit all too often in his hour on the pitch.
Ten minutes into the second half, and our tenth corner finally bore fruit. We'd started much the same as in the first - mostly in charge, whilst still managing to concede one decent chance to the opposition; Mirallas lobbed Adrian and the bar only three minutes after the restart.
But only a little later, Downing had a shot deflected wide by Distin. Amalfitano's corner found Collins charging in at the near post, and Ginge put a thumping header inside the near post, past the helplessly flailing Robles.
It could have been two only two minutes later when another short corner was chipped in to Valencia. The Everton defence gave him far too much space, but his header was straight over Robles' head, and the keeper comfortably tipped over. If only it had been three yards to one side or the other!
The Goodison crowd were pretty flat and quiet throughout, becoming increasingly discontented the longer the game went on. Just before the hour, though, they thought they were back in it. Lukaku, of course, but whilst his header beat Adrian into the far corner, the whistle went before he ever touched it, he having already given Cresswell a judicious shove in the back.
From there on, whilst the substitutions flowed, the game didn't, becoming increasingly scruffy and scrappy. Everton, whilst not becoming frantic, were getting more nervous and urgent, and the crowd were starting to get on their backs.
We displayed our usual lamentable tendency to concede possession and territory in an effort to defend a slender lead. It's cost us before, and it would cost us again. Both sides had further chances, but Everton's evening was more or less summed up when Oviedo horribly miscued an attempt at a volley from the edge of the box.
And then up pops Lukaku. It was an excellent finish, but a fortuitous goal. In the midst of some scrappy defending on the right edge of our box, with O'Brien and Reid tackling each other, the ball squirmed out kindly for Oviedo to square it, and Goodison roared.
There was even enough time for Nolan to complete a personal stinker of a game by practically tackling himself in midfield. It wasn't, by any means, the first time he'd given the ball away badly in a dangerous position. The Everton corner that resulted was scrambled away for long enough for the final whistle to go...
One thing we can't complain about today is the referee. Toffees' fans will no doubt disagree, but I thought Mr Taylor had a pretty decent game. Just for a change, we got more than our fair share of 50/50 decisions too, which is precisely why I'm sure the Goodisons natives will be voicing their disgust!
As for Man of the Match, Downing ran the midfield for much of the match, until pushed out wide when Poyet came on. It would be easy to award him another one this season, as it always is when a creative player shines, or a striker is scoring.
All the same, I think Collins is the more deserving player this time. Not for his goal, that is merely the icing on his cake. Reid is back on form and also had a good game against a lively Blues forward line, but Ginge was Mr Block and Tackle today. He was beaten just once or twice but, in his usual determined fashion, threw himself in the way time and again. And again and again.
Did your heart sink when they equalised? Were you chewing your fingernails when Nolan completely bogged it up with only seconds to go? Still, whilst there was disappointement at the death, it was, on the whole, entertaining stuff, and it breaks that run of... errr... I've lost count of how many consecutive defeats to Everton. Particularly pleasing is the fact that we did it at Goodison, where we get something almost as infrequently as at Anfield (or so it feels)!
Back to the Boleyn in exactly a week and, betwixt and between, the little matter of a visit to Swansea to see if we can get the league form back on track. With any luck, both Carroll and Song will be available for that. The real question is will Sam drop his precious better-than-Zarate Kevin after a pretty dreadful night? We shall see...
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Player RatingsAdrian San Miguel del Castillo
A quieter game than of late. Had a couple of awkward saves to make, neither of which he could hold, and a couple more comfortable.
Had a good game in both directions, defensive and attacking today.
Did his fair share, but not unduly pressured and, by far, the least noticeable of the back four.
Definitely back on form. Playing like this, it's a shame he obviously has no intention of continuing with us. Let's hope Henry turns out to be another astute signing.
A defender getting MotM is a bit of a rarity this season. Ginge just about deserves it today, and not only for novelty value!
Ineffective for the most part, never really supported Valencia, and got away with two horrible pieces of play in the middle of our half. Not a good game.
After several good recent games, a bit of a mixed bag tonight. In particular, was a bit weak in the physical stuff today.
Workmanlike, rather than sparkling, on his first full game after injury, but put the miles in yet again and just about worth a 7.
Industrious for his three-quarters of the match, but the usual quota of hot and cold, in terms of passing, crossing, and general effectiveness.
Pretty much ran the game again whilst he was in the middle, and would have been an easy pick for yet another MotM. On the other hand, faded from things a little when asked to move to the flank, and Collins just about edges him.
Looked a little bit rusty, a little bit lost, and a little bit lazy about watching the offsides. Not sure he is suited to being a lone man up front, but I daresay we may see him having to try again against Swansea!
(replaced Valencia) Worked hard and gave Jagielka something to think about more than once.
(replaced Jarvis) Had a quarter of the game, but hardly got into it.
Joey O Brien
(replaced Amalfitano) Little to do, and little time in which to do it.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Ricardo Vaz Te
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Adrian San Miguel del Castillo, Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Cresswell, Winston Reid, James Collins, Kevin Nolan, Morgan Amalfitano, Mark Noble, Matt Jarvis, Stewart Downing, Enner Valencia.
Goals: James Collins 56 .
Booked: Carlton Cole 88 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Subs not used: .
Sent off: None.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.
Man of the Match: James Collins.