FA Premiership
West Ham United 2 Everton 2

Saturday, 4th March 2006
by Gordon Thrower

Sometimes you’ve just got to sit back and admit you’ve got away with it. Our opponents had recently put together a decent run and had, by all accounts, been a tad unlucky to see that run come to an end up in Geordieland so a tough match ought to have been expected.

The continued injury to Roy Carroll meant an starting line-up unchanged from that which had started the last match at Bolton in the cup, namely: Hislop, Scaloni, Konchesky, Gabbidon, Ferdinand, Reo-Coker, Benayoun, Etherington, Mullins, Harewood, Ashton.

In truth we started quietly, the two-week gap between games appearing to have done us few favours. However, it's often been the case this season that we have lulled the opposition into a false sense of security and thus it proved once more. A swift break from the back on 10 minutes saw some delightful one-touch football involving Benayoun, NRC and Ashton, the ball ending up with Harewood who, using Yossi's run for the return as a decoy, cleverly turned the other way befor placing asweetly-placed shot from the edge of the box low beyond Westerveld's reach.

The lead lasted all of 8 minutes. Ironically, whilst our goal had come during a spell when Everton had had the better of the possession, the equaliser came just as we were looking a tad brighter. Moving forward down the left Arteta swapped passes with McFadden (who really ought to move to Sunderland to team up with Dean Whitehead). Arteta burst into the box and laid off the ball square for Osman to comprehensively finish with a powerful drive that gave Hislop no chance. This prompted chants of "easy, easy" from the visiting support who obviously haven't quite grasped the idea that you really ought to have a lead before doing that chant.

It was a chant that was to come back to haunt them only five minutes later. Shaka's clearance was allowed to run on by Mullins. Marlon flicked it on towards Ashton who, despite not being blessed with an abundance of natural pace, still had enough speed to leave Weir for dead. There seemed to be little on for Deano as he entered the box but his low left-footed drive was sheer perfection as it beat Westerved at the far post. A fine goal.

The game continued to be open and entertaining. Here's something I never thought I'd ever have to write: We were treated to a good spot of refereeing from Mike Riley. The ball was played up to Ashton, who, with his back to goal, laid the ball off to Harewood. Several minutes later, but presumably as fast as he could get there, Neville came straight through Deano. Riley allowed play to develop with Harewood eventually, and somewhat selfishly, shot straight at Westerveld when maybe Etherington or Reo-Coker were better placed. The ball eventually went out of play to allow Ashton to receive treatment whereupon Riley promptly booked Neville for the foul. A good spot of refereeing from one not normally noted for tainting a game with anything as vulgar as competence - though I might have been a little more impressed had similar sanction accompanied any of the other four or five times Ashton was fouled from behind in such manner.

Everton were not without their own attacks and Scaloni - who we refer to as Len in our part of the ground what with Lionel being such a non-football name - had to be alert when clearing McFadden's flick away from the post. It might have been going wide but it was certainly close enough to cause concern. Stubbs was then given a free header from the resulting corner but thankfully he nodded it straight at Shaka. There was just time for someone to flatten Ashton from behind once more before the whistle was blown on an entertaining half.

Following half-time entertainment which included a baffling request for someone to pick up their hair-gel from reception the second period started and again we started quietly. Unfortunately, unlike the first half, we never quite got going at all. Keeping hold of the ball was something of a distant memory and time and time again the passing was, to say the least, somewhat sloppy. Early on in the half some good work from Matty found Marlon in space on the right of the box but his ambitious volley went well wide.

Such chances were at a premium. However, it has to be said that, for all their possession Everton rarely tested Hislop and, but for Riley who was obviously keen to make up for his earlier correct decision, we might have taken an, albeit less than deserved, 3-1 lead when Ashton was harshly adjudged to have looked at Westerveld in a funny way, that action being enough for Riley to disallow Benayoun's clever finish.

Anton then picked up a deserved yellow for pulling back Arteta. Old habits die hard and Neville ran half the length of the pitch to needlessly get involved, an action that provided us with the afternoon's quota of "handbags". AP got involved, responding to the obnoxious and least talented of a fairly talentless family (if you discount the sister that was a netball international) with a hand gesture that is the universal signal suggesting that Neville loves himself a lot in the physical sense. AP later apologised though frankly I can't see why - fair comment is always a fair defence. Neville escaped further sanction though Arteta wasn't as lucky having been identified by Riley as the chief handbag wielder.

With 20 minutes left the scores were level. A cross from the Everton left was missed, and missed horribly, by Len. As if distracted by Len's aberration Gabbidon made a complete mess of the ball which rebounded kindly to Beattie who lifted the ball over the helpless Hislop to equalise.

Five minutes later the fairly anonymous Benayoun departed to be replaced by Zamora, prompting a move back to right midfield by Harewood. However nothing much changed. A promising break by NRC ended horribly as he hit a shockingly overhit pass towards Marlon.

Further substitutions took place with Teddy coming on for the by now battered and bruised Ashton and we were also treated to the return of what we, in our bit of the ground refer to as "standard substitution no.1", that is the replacement of Matty by 10K.

None of the replacements made any real difference. We still couldn't hang onto the ball and, worryingly, Everton looked as if they might actually start to do something with all the possession we were gifting them. Most of the action came down our right hand side where Len was having a torrid time and the opposition had two gilt-edged chances to take all three points in the closing stages.

Firstly, with Len about five yards behind play, Arteta who was probably the pick of the players on display on the day, put across a superb cross. The excellence of the cross was matched by Gabbidon's clearance who managed to beat Davies to the ball to clear in front of goal. Then, as the clock was ticking down, yet another cross from our right saw Beattie unmarked at the far post where he could only volley into the side netting and it was the home support that was grateful to hear the final whistle after 3 minutes of added time.

In recent weeks there's been much talk of Europe with one or two people talking about Champions League. Can't see that myself - though a good run might see us earn a UEFA Cup place depending on how the labyrinthine qualification rules work themselves out. On the whole we've been spoilt by our performances this season - so much so that one like this stands out like a sore thumb. Given how well the season's gone I reckon we ought to allow them the odd blip like this one - especially in view of the fact that we still managed to get a point out of it somehow. Just don't do it again lads!

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Player Ratings

Shaka Hislop
No chance with the goals. Needlessly rushed the odd clearance.

Lionel Scaloni
A bit of a 'mare for Len who looked worryingly knackered late on. Not helped by the apparent disappearance of Yossi in front of him.

Paul Konchesky
Chose a good day to have a fairly decent runout with a certain Swedish gentleman in attendance.

Danny Gabbidon
Bit of an "oops" for the second equaliser, though his clearing header at the death redeemed him a bit.

Anton Ferdinand
Not his usual confident self and he allowed himself to be dragged out of position far too much.

Hayden Mullins
Did the ball-winning thing fairly well though again distribution wasn't the greatest.

Nigel Reo-Coker
Not the greatest of days for the skipper. On the odd occasion he did bring the ball out well his final ball was invariably awful.

Matthew Etherington
Goodish first half. Just about non-existent second half.

Yossi Benayoun
Another who had a poor afternoon. Failed to make any sort of impression at all.

Dean Ashton
His best performance since his move. Held the ball up well and battled bravely on despite receiving some often brutal treatment.

Marlon Harewood
Half-decent first half. Spent too much time running down blind alleys in the second.


Bobby Zamora
(Replaced Benayoun, 76) Failed to make any sort of impression and showed poor touch.

Teddy Sheringham
(Replaced Ashton, 84) I can't remember him doing anything of note.

Shaun Newton
(Replaced Etherington, 87) Like the other subs 10K was anonymous in the short time he was on the pitch.

Stephen Bywater
Did not play.

Christian Dailly
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Shaka Hislop, Lionel Scaloni, Paul Konchesky, Danny Gabbidon, Anton Ferdinand, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Matthew Etherington, Yossi Benayoun, Dean Ashton, Marlon Harewood.

Goals: Marlon Harewood 10 Dean Ashton 23                .

Booked: None booked.           .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Everton: Westerveld, Hibbert, Weir, Stubbs, Nuno Valente, Osman, Arteta, Neville, Cahill, McFadden, Beattie.

Subs not used: Turner, Naysmith, Carsley.

Goals: Osman (18), Beattie (71).

Booked: None booked..

Sent off: None.

Referee: M.Riley.

Attendance: 34,866.

Man of the Match: Dean Ashton.