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COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY

From my seat: West Ham (A)

By Ken Buckley :  08/11/2009 :  Comments (25) :
On a cold Remembrance Day down the East End, we got a win, another three points toward safety or a top 4 finish. Not a game that will live long in the memory banks but for sheer nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat, backs-to-the-wall drama, it was a cracker. Did we deserve to win? No. Did we play well? No... but we did win by taking the only two chances that came our way all game.

We started with a 4-4-1-1 formation that immediately became 4-5-1 as West Ham started much the brighter and had chances but their confidence and form no more than matched ours. Their latest find, Hines, who was very quick, got down the side of the box a couple of times, looked threatening but ultimately did little by way of end product.

They had a diving header go just wide and then the best player on the pitch, Scot Parker drove through but fortunately shot straight at Howard. In this period we hardly threatened the penalty area let alone their goal.

Then, just after the 20-minute mark and completely against the run of play, another long ball to the edge of the box was fought for by Cahill and his persistence got the ball to Saha who in the blink of an eye had shot and the ball in the corner of the net without anyone else moving. The finish of a world-class striker and our first shot on goal. The Blue hoards roared and the home fans silenced.

The Hammers came at us again but the goal seemed to have settled us and we got a bit more of a grip in mid-field with Fellaini doing some excellent covering and probing but then letting himself down with some very clumsy tackling and not enough care with some of his passing. We did have one more chance before the break when Saha headed wide from a corner.

Half-time and we all wondered how we were in front but happy with it at the same time. Now, if we could see off the expected Hammers charge for the first 15 minutes, then maybe we could get all the points...

The Hammers didn’t disappoint and came straight at us but we were dealing with what they had and at times just crowding them out. Zola only waited a few minutes into the half before he made a change, striker on for a mid-fielder. They seemed to gain more impetus but could not get beyond our thick blue line on the edge of the 18-yard box leaving us to counter when we could... but Saha was cutting a lonely figure and more often than not he couldn’t hold it up long enough for support to arrive.

Then, just before the hour mark, Saha limped off to be replaced by Yak, must have been a recurrence of the dreaded calf injury as he had looked lively.

The Hammers tried a couple from distance as they were finding it difficult to play through us and one went close just past the post from 20 yards.

Then, on the 65-min mark, the Yak received another long clearance and held long enough for Cahill to get in the mix and a tousle with their defenders broke out, Yak managed to poke the ball to Gosling who was making ground down the right, he shot right-footed and Green parried the ball back toward him and this time left-footed made no mistake. The roar was deafening and I am sure many of us didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or cheer.

Super Dan was heard again; before we could celebrate properly, we were undone by one of those goals that seem to haunt us. No more than a long punt downfield went over and between our centre backs with a Hammers forward in pursuit and one-on-one with Howard he poked it toward goal with not a lot of pace, Hibbert was coming round on the cover at great pace and just got to the ball as it was crossing the line but only succeeded in smashing into the net, choice words were heard not fit for delicate ears.

The Hammers now sensed they could repeat their feat against Arsenal and went for us with some gusto. Shots were blocked, last-ditch tackles made and the ball pumped up-field to no-one in particular. Yellow cards were flourished and of course Fellaini was one of them, not so much for blatant fouls — more like clumsy ungainly placing of his telescopic legs. Tim Howard made some good catches from crosses and some brave saves where boots were flying.

On 75 mins the manager decided if we were to see it out with backs to the wall well let’s do it properly; he replaced Gosling with Neill and went five at the back with Neill as an extra centre back.

The Hammers Hammered away and hearts were in mouths as crosses came in, scrambles taking place bodies littering the goalmouth. We did get forward when one of our punts found Yak and he beat his man but fired just wide.

Still the Hammers came as 5 mins went up the board, anguished cries of ‘keep ‘em out’ were most audible from the massed ranks of the faithful and we did — but not without one last scare right on the death when the excellent Parker put one right between keeper and defence but the incoming forward fell over and Howard scrambled away.

The sweet music of the final whistle was greeted rapturously — none of it for the performance but all of it for three priceless points gained.

Phew, I am still on a high... obviously not for the quality I had witnessed but it was one of those games that just gets you for the sheer grit, blood, mud and dogged last-ditch obstinacy that ends with a win.

Overall I thought it was a game played out between two teams both with injury problems to key players, as well as low on confidence, and struggling for form. For our team I thought players played well in parts and poor in parts which made for a helter-skelter type performance,

We cried out for what we haven’t got — a central midfield player who can get his foot on the ball and dictate a little. I heard many saying it was a good job we were not up against a decent outfit and the up-coming games look tough. However, IF Pienaar, Neville and Osman were to be fit after the international break then the team would look and play a whole lot different than today.

Today, I must mention the much maligned Hibbert who I thought had an excellent game in as much as he had to do his own job and talk Gosling through his game and when the chips were really down and we went 5 at the back it was Tony who was calling the shots and organising, forever pointing and keeping the other four focused and together.

I feel it’s of little use analysing individual performances or being over critical in a game such as this as it was obvious our manager had picked a team and a method of play not to lose first of all and get the win if we could. He succeeded.

A little matter of Man U away next and they need points — Fasten your seat belts and hang on to your hats.
See you soon
UP THE BLUES

Reader Comments

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Dave Wilson
1   Posted 09/11/2009 at 07:10:48

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Good stuff, Ken.

You're right, of course... it wasn’t for the purist but a couple of players stood up to be counted yesterday.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read something about Hibbert that starts along the lines of "a word for the much maligned Hibbert"; bar Saha, Tony has easily been our most consistent player this season and he was obviously inspired by the travelling crowd repeatedly chanting his name.

That said, he did very well to get to the ball as it bounced towards the net... but once he got there, surely he should have wrapped his foot around it.

Heart stopping stuff, if it can't be pretty, then I’ll settle for excitement any day.
Kevin Sparke
2   Posted 09/11/2009 at 08:13:46

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Sometimes in life you’ve just got to hold your hands up and say "I was wrong".

A few months ago after the FA Cup Final I argued that Hibbert should never play for Everton again — he wasn’t good enough for Everton and proved it in front of the World’s media at Wembley... the amount of times he was caught out of position before he was substituted was criminal.

Since then, he has been a rock of consistency and at times over the last couple of months he’s looked like the only defender who knows what he was doing... even when played well out of position at centre-back.

I was wrong about Hibbert — he’ll never be a flash player, his distribution is still questionable, he gives the ball away quite often when attacking... but he is a first class defender and has done every job asked of him this season as well as he is capable and is a true Evertonian.

Nice piece again, Ken — you saw more or less the same game that I did and your analysis of what we are lacking is bang on the money as far as I’m concerned.
Dominic Duerden
3   Posted 09/11/2009 at 09:31:21

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Hibbert was crap as normal. It's a joke he gets in the team. He’s an awful defender, crap in the air... but I am bored of talking about this.

Moyes's team selection is simply staggering, so stubborn it is untrue.

Owen Lennon
4   Posted 09/11/2009 at 10:31:54

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Great article, Ken, and what a relief those 3 points are!!!

I wanted to go the pub by ours to watch it but a few mates talked me into watching Chelski v Man U.... What a joke that match was! So boring it was unbelievable! And they're meant to be the poster teams of the Prem? You gotta be kidden me. Just shows how over-rated our league is.

As for us, I wish I’d have swerved my mates and watched what obviously wasn’t a classic for the neutral but would have been a great rollercoaster ride of a watch for any fellow blue. The moral of the strory.... Get better mates! COYB IMWT
Gareth Hughes
5   Posted 09/11/2009 at 11:39:36

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Kevin Sparke; are you for real? Hibbert a first class defender? His own goal yesterday was ridiculous. He wasn’t even close to the goal line nor under any pressure yet sliced it in.

Utterly ridiculous and embarrassing to see an Everton player do that. He should never play for us again, certainly once we get through this injury crisis. He symbolises one of the negatives of the Moyes regime, namely tolerance and reliance of poor players who try hard but completely lack class.

Michael Tracey
6   Posted 09/11/2009 at 12:02:10

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Must admit the own goal attempted clearance by Hibbert was shocking. Should of cleared it easily. Bought West Ham back in the game, why didn’t Neill start?
Dave Wilson
7   Posted 09/11/2009 at 12:04:45

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Because Neil has had his chance and we just kept shipping goals, so Moyes wanted to field his strongest side... simple really.
Michael Tracey
8   Posted 09/11/2009 at 12:09:41

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Really. It's Neill by the way Dave. Like we haven’t shipped goals with Hibbert in the side? You must admit though the own goal was poor, he should've cleared it and easily. Forced Moyes to bring on another defender to shore up the defence.

Neill has been steady in defence and set up some goals, can’t really say the same about Tony can we? The games that Neill is ineligible and Tony is a certain starter we have conceded 7 in 2 games. Glad we have Tony to shore up the defence then.

Dave Wilson
9   Posted 09/11/2009 at 12:23:27

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Heres a clue: Neil has started the games recently and we have conceded at an embarrassing rate.

Neil gets dropped: and, despite being under the cosh nearly all game, our keeper hardly had a save to make and guess what? We win!

The two centre-backs were totally to blame for being undone by a simple hoof, Hibbert should have pulled them out of the shit once he reached the ball but, let's face it, Neil wouldn't have even been in the same postcode as the ball so he wouldn't have been blamed.

Hibbert was the elastic that held us together yesterday and that's why the fans kept chanting his name.

Michael Tracey
10   Posted 09/11/2009 at 12:33:32

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Okay, Dave, whatever. The only game that Neill (yes, that's Neill with two Ls) has started and Hibert didn’t play was the 1-1 draw against Villa. So I guess yeah the goals are going in at an embarrassing rate with Neill playing... like the 5 we conceded against Benfica away and the 2 at home against Benfica as well. That's right, Neill didn’t play in them games but Hippert did.

Anyway, I’m not going to blame Hibbart for everything — just the things he does wrong. If Hibberd could pass the ball to a team mate, defend at corners, clear balls of the goal line and not give away needless fouls and get needless cards then I guess he would be quite good. But considering he fails to do that basically ever game then when we have a full squad to pick from he will not feature much and rightfully so.

Once a fully match-fit Neill is... well, match-fit, then Hobbit simply is not at the races. Maybe a career in Rugby League perhaps because they like the players to aimlessly kick down the field to the oppostion or hoof it out.

Neville is also an option at RB when he returns as he probably shouldn’t feature in the midfield if we have any aspirations of doing something this season.

BTW, the mispelling of Hibbo's name was deliberate as you just can’t seem to spell Neill’s name correctly — I don’t know whether it’s deliberate or you trying to be funny again by mispelling things because I remember how the last time I was in stitches.

Dave Wilson
11   Posted 09/11/2009 at 13:44:18

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I’m not getting into another debate with you about Hibbert, you so obviously have an agenda... but it hasn't worked has it?

Blaming Hibbert for us conceding 5 and 2 when he had to play out of position with two teenage full backs shows just how desperate you are to get your pin-up boy in. It isn't working.

Tony has still played in more Everton league victories than any other player I can think of, Neil on the other hand has not played in any, so just where you think comparisons can be drawn is beyond me.

What sickens me is, you actually want Hibbert to play badly and if he doesn't, you just bury your head and pretend he does. What's the point in talking to you?

I actually wanted Neil to play this week and was disgusted when the chant of "fat Aussie wanker" was booming aroung the Boleyn.

Brian Swift
12   Posted 09/11/2009 at 12:49:04

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Run this one past you guys:

Tony Hibbert to play centre midfield, we are desperate for a good ball winner. No doubting he can tackle, win the ball and give it to the lads who can play.

As a youth team player he was outstanding alongside Leon Osman. Play Lucas Neill right back. Any offers.... Swifty.

Kevy Quinn
13   Posted 09/11/2009 at 17:08:33

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The more times I see the Hibbert attempt to clear the ball from the line, the more I laugh. What the rocket was thinking when he was trying to clear the ball l'll never know.

Great result nevertheless, but make no mistake we were shite. But boy did we need that win. A late West Ham equaliser would have shattered the already low team spirit.
Ray Robinson
14   Posted 09/11/2009 at 18:54:44

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Imagine Tony Hibbert running in on the West Ham goal to nudge the ball over the line, then he’d have cleared it!

The OG said so much to me — it shows a player not comfortable with the ball, a player whose whole game is spent trying to get the ball off the opposition but who can’t do much with it when he gets it. It looked a panic "clearance" to me.
Alan Kirwin
15   Posted 09/11/2009 at 20:55:47

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Quite amusing to see some Hibbert bashers just keep going, whatever the reality of the situation.

Even more amusing to see Hibbert actually criticised for not clearing the ball. The fools doing this have obviously lost sight of the fact that Hibbert is our RIGHT BACK, and that the long ball came straight down the MIDDLE where our central defenders are expected to live.

The fact that Hbbert got anywhere near the fucking ball demonstrates this man’s excellent reading of defensive situations (much like Jagielka) and not for the first time he was in a position baling out,or almost baling out, the player(s) who fucked up in the first place.

There’s nothing wrong with criticism when it’s warranted, or even constructive (heaven forbid). But constant slagging off a player, any player, with no regard whatsoever for the actual facts of the matter is boring in the extreme and suggests an idiot on the loose.

Credit where its due. In the absence of almost all our other leaders, and given that Yobo and Distin don’t really talk on the pitch, Tony Hibbert has stepped up to be counted on every occasion.

And I’d go one step further. Whilst Cahill has always struck me as an Everton captain because of his personality and on-field impact (until this season), the guy is clearly way off the pace right now and struggling for confidence. It just isn’t working for him and he is unable to lead by example. Making him captain is a year late and now wrong. Hibbert, on the other hand, is exactly what a captain is about. Same mould as Neville.

Never be too stubborn or too stupid to change your mind when the facts change. Hibbert deserves the captaincy. End of.
Ray Robinson
16   Posted 09/11/2009 at 21:55:27

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Alan, whatever the merits of your argument — and it’s only opinion after all — you seriously undermine it with that "End of" at the very end. Don’t you see how arrogant that comes across?
Peter Bourke
17   Posted 09/11/2009 at 22:17:29

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Alan, Whilst I appreciate your opinion on Cahill, I believe this latest bagging he is coming under is not warranted. Except for the last Benfica game, he has been as good as anyone else in our team and has had a hand in most of our recent goals.

Again he played in a totally different position than normal and he performed admirably. Just because he is down on goals scored of late people seem to be on his back. Yes, I agree he is not in his best vein of form but he is still, week-in and week-out, one of our best performers.

It seems no matter what the topic of discussion, Tim Cahill is coming in for constant criticism for one reason or another. I think you'll find that DM considers Tim our most important player as he has no one else he can rely on to cover all the positions we are short in. To be a captain you need to be a leader and I have never seen the slightest sign that Hibbo is leadership material.

I have never posted anything negative about Hibbo as I admire any player who gives 100% for the jersey, but these people saying he had a great game on Sunday are way off the mark. His own goal was the result of him losing his man, poor anticipation and lack of speed to recover. Other than that, he was solid without being great.

Owen Lennon
18   Posted 10/11/2009 at 02:55:35

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He was half a yard from clearing it and the poor bugger slipped. Give the guy a break, you even said yourself for the rest of the game he was solid!
Gary Sedgwick
19   Posted 10/11/2009 at 04:40:39

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Hibbert should have cleared the ball is what all are posting and I agree with you all. However, Tony is predominantly a right-footed player, the same as I when I played the game as a youngster as a left-back. I recall a match I played in the Sunday under-16 league.

From a corner the ball came to me on the edge of the 18 yard box and I just swung my left foot at it. Lo and behold the ball nestled in the top right hand corner for a goal! My one and only but what a beauty! Later I pushed forward on the left, attempted a cross into the box with my LEFT foot and... forget it. The ball bobbled of the outside of my boot for a goal kick.

On Sunday Tony was in a similar position. He had tracked back, was in a position to clear the ball but had to use his "other" foot. Unfortunately for him this resulted in the goal for the "Hammers".

One can spout "This is the PL" but many, many PL players are only effective when they use their more natural lower limb. Had Tony not been around - it would still have been a goal.

Steven Pendleton
20   Posted 10/11/2009 at 11:07:58

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Clutching at straws there Gary to support his fuck up. You were playing under 16s for shit sake.

I’m sure if were playing in the premier league your expectations of your skills and execution would be somewhat higher.
Dave Wilson
21   Posted 10/11/2009 at 11:13:58

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Yobo and Distin misjudged the flight of a balll you woud expect an under tens team to defend, then they allowed the forward to sprint between them and then Tim howard was slow of his line, but forget all that, That twat Hibbert lets us down again, why didnt he just pull them all out of the shit ? how dare he make a mstake running towards his own goal at full speed.
Its is all his fault . . . . Bastard

.Peter the reason Cahill is "coming under a bagging" is because he has been shite all season . . .he’s not above crticism you know
Steven Pendleton
22   Posted 10/11/2009 at 13:57:08

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Starting to sense you are either related to Hibbert or blind, Dave Wilson, as your defence borders on embarrasing. At least just recognise his effort of clearing off the line was amateurish.

If you can’t see that then I hope you do have the excuse of being blind.
Dave Wilson
23   Posted 10/11/2009 at 14:18:52

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Steven

In case you didnt notice I didnt defend him in my last post, I overlooked all the other mistakes and made him entirely to blame.

I knew it was a fucken idiotic stance to take. but then hey, if you cant beat em join em.

BTW, not seing the other three players glaring errors, does that make a person blind too . . .or just stupid ?
Keith Glazzard
24   Posted 10/11/2009 at 17:02:55

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Ken - sorry I’m late, but at least I missed the Hibbo-thon.

A word about Gosling. Playing in that position is a big responsibility and.without giving marks out of ten yet, I think we can see him growing up before our very eyes (much as Rodwell is doing).

But one aspect which really interests me is how he has scored his two goals this season. Bang. No messing - and both feet. He could easily be a 10 a season midfielder in a couple of years time.

The Great Gosling goal is, of course, quite properly part of Evertonian heritage, but perhaps we can now begin to see how and why he was up to the job of doing that so well.
Steve Kiamos
25   Posted 10/11/2009 at 09:17:18

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What a game, full of ups and downs. Plenty has been said about of performance and the overall lack of 'quality' passing so I won't go into depth with the whole match analysis.

Quick Ratings though:

Tim Howard: 7.5 - Some really important stops, couldn't blame him for the goal because everyone thought Hibbo had it covered. Saved us nicely, but could have been beaten on a few occasions towards the end.

Johnny Heitinga 7 - Tried hard all day, and was his usual physical self. Started to tire and was getting burnt for pace with West Ham's new subs but overall played pretty well.

Joseph Yobo 7 - Great game although was caught for pace on a few occasions, controlled everything with Distin very well, and seemed to be comunicated with eachother better.

Sylvain Distin 7.5 - See above. Absolutely killed it in the air, won everything.

Leighton Baines 6.5 - Attacked when given the oppurtunities, improved his crosses from Benfica, was solid throughout.

Tony Hibbert 5.5: Played okay I suppose, then the own goal came along. I cringed wondered when the chopping block will be forced. Then looked at our injuries/schedule.

Marouane Fellaini 7.5: FINALLY added that touch of class that he showed last year to our midfield. Used the ball well, won all the contested headers. Hopefully can get some confidence from this game and move forward.

Tim Cahill 7: Played his usual ragged, scrappy, bulldog type game. But was influential in both goals, in recent weeks I have cringed at some performances by Australia's 'saviour'. But against West Ham, I think more than anyone he just wanted a win as captain.

Dan Gosling 8: Rebounded from his shocker, and scored what proved to be the winner. Glad he is getting some run on the legs because he looks like he could turn to a solid pro. Great follow up for his goal, and could have almost had a second.

Jack Rodwell 6.5: Passed the ball well, defended well, worked hard all day. What we have come to expect from the young lad. Played well.

Louis Saha 8: Lively throughout, I gave him a large ratings because he was playing with one leg and scored an absolute cracker. What a pick up he has turned out to be, imagine this lad with Arteta/Pinaaer wipping balls into him? Scary thought!

Yakubu 6: Great physical presence trapping the ball giving a few nice balls here and there. Needs fitness to become the player that used to terrorize defences.

Lucas Neill N/A – Was brought on as an extra defender but really didn't do much, and got booed everytime he went near the ball.

I was quite happy with the win as we managed to further ourselves from the bottom of the ladder. With the break, players should come back fresh and hopefully get a few back from injuries (Osman, Pienaar)

Then we face Man U, and pray for a minor miracle. COYB!

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