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Venue: Goodison Park, Liverpool
Premier League
 Saturday 5 March 2016; 3:00pm
2 3
 West Ham
Lukaku 13'
Lennon 56'
Half Time: 1 - 0
Antonio 78'
Sakho 81', Payet 90' 
Attendance: 39,000
Fixture 28
Referee: Anthony Taylor

Match Report

It was Groundhog Day at Goodison Park. Again.

At some point you just move past anger into a surreal depressed acceptance and marvel at Evertons penchant for late capitulation in the arena that is meant to be their fortress. After repeated body blows of this ilk this season against Leicester and Stoke and at Bournemouth and Chelsea (those are the most painful examples but there are others, of course), you would think that surely surely, for pitys sake! some lessons would have been learned about how to protect a lead.

With five wins in the last six in all competitions, the team standing again on the threshold of a first Wembley appearance for four years and the prospect of fresh investment, this game really was the siren song for the Evertons season. A win would have pulled them within five points of fifth place and put them right back in contention for Europe, the prospect of rescuing another massively disappointing league season well within their grasp.

Instead, though they had done all the hard work in largely nullifying an enterprising and dangerous Hammers side, taken a deserved 1-0 lead, and then doubled that advantage despite losing Kevin Mirallas to a pair of stupid yellow cards with 65 minutes of the game left, they tossed away three precious points by simply failing to address the imperative to defend in numbers to see the game out.

Romelu Lukakus dreadful 68th-minute penalty, one that would have been comfortably saved by Adrian even if the Spaniard hadnt illegally leapt two yards off his line before making the stop, will be highlighted as a turning point. Had he managed to finish with any of the conviction that a striker of his ability should, then you would have thought that even a defence as porous as Evertons could have seen the game out from 3-0 up.

Even a man down, 2-0 should have been more than enough, though. Up to the last quarter of an hour when, once again, the whole shape and look of the team appeared to be disrupted by a seemingly needless or misguided Roberto Martinez substitution, the Blues were in remarkable control of the game. Instead of pulling his men back behind the ball and just grittily seeing out the final 15 minutes, he withdrew the industrious Aaron Lennon in favour of another striker in the form of Oumar Niasse and the tide of the game changed soon afterwards.

Whether the change in personnel had a direct influence will be debated but everything changed immediately afterwards. A man down and 2-0 up, surely you just do everything to get over the line with three points. Surely you just Pulis it for the last 15 minutes pull men behind the ball and just make it as hard as possible rather than throw on another attacker.

The raised eyebrows and unease at the deployment of a largely untested back three, apparently prompted by illness to Gareth Barry, when the team sheets were announced had been largely forgotten about half an hour into this match. Everton had started in assured fashion, betraying little of the nervousness or lack of intensity or tempo that has made watching Martinezs side at times this season so frustrating.

James McCarthys excellent early shot that was batted over the bar by Adrian was an early sign of their intent and, after John Stoness pleas for a penalty had been ignored by referee Anthony Taylor, they took the lead with impressive goal from Lukaku.

West Hams depleted back line was pin-pointed as an area to exploit prior to the game and the Belgian did so brilliantly by rolling past young centre half Reece Oxford and drilling a low shot in off the far post with 12 minutes gone.

Ross Barkley then tested the keeper with a similarly excellent effort, chesting a loose ball forward and unleashing a left-foot volley that Adrian pushed away with a diving parry as the Blues looked to extend their advantage.

The complexion of the match changed significantly 10 minutes before the break, however, when Mirallas received his marching orders and, most likely a permanent place in Martinez's dog house from Taylor for a second bookable offence. Already on a yellow card for simulating a foul when trying to win a free kick earlier in the half, the winger clattered through Aaron Cresswell with a clumsy late tackle that left the official with few options, although he looked to set to give Mirallas a final warning until Mark Noble got into his face, Steven Gerrard-style to remonstrate on behalf of his team-mate.

West Ham had seen a lot of the ball in the first half without being allowed to do an awful lot with it. A rash tackle by Jagielka on the edge of the box had given Dimitri Payet a chance from a direct free kick but he curled it well over, Angelo Ogbonna had a claim for a penalty himself waved away when he went down under the attentions of Ramiro Funes Mori and Joel Robles made a good save to deny Emenike just before half time as the striker connected with a low cross at close range.

Apparently concerned by the space that Payet was finding in front of his defence in the first period, Martinez withdrew Stones at the break and introduced Muhamed Besic to patrol in defensive midfield alongside James McCarthy. The change offered Everton more options in both defensive and offensive capacities and it was the Bosnians tricky footwork that would win the penalty that might have made it 3-0, but not before Lennon had precipitated a wave of mis-placed relief at Goodison by doubling the lead.

Operating more frequently on the left flank after Mirallass sending off, the winger came in off the touchline and exchanged a pass with Lukaku that took him between two defenders where he could slot past Adrian and make it 2-0 with 55 minutes on the clock.

It was the latest contribution from what had been a very different Lukaku to the one Evertonians have been watching for the best part of the last month. The striker was strong, in command his touch and his all-round play had been excellent for the first two-thirds of the game; that was until he stepped up to take a disputed penalty after Alex Song had tripped Besic right on 18-yard line.

It was a sorry effort from 12 yards by the Belgian but he had the chance to atone minutes later when he was put through by a defence-splitting pass into a one-on-one confrontation with Adrian from which the goalkeeper emerged the victor by sticking out a leg to divert Lukakus attempted flick past him behind for a corner.

From the chance to put the game away, Everton eventually succumbed in bitterly familiar fashion in the closing stages and it again throws up huge question marks over the soft centre in Martinezs defence where three crosses into the box produced three goals in 12 minutes. First,Michael Antonio, a player who should have been highlighted as an aerial threat following his winner against Tottenham on Wednesday, beat Funes Mori to Nobles curling cross following a corner to head decisively past Robles.

Three minutes later, Diafro Sakho rose between Funes Mori and Seamus Coleman to nod into the corner and wipe out the Blues lead; the Argentine defender, so impressive since arriving from River Plate last August, not covering himself in glory for any of the goals conceded by allowing himself to be out-jumped for all three.

With Niasse, who has unsurprisingly only looked lost in his brief cameos thus far, already on the field, Martinez appeared to give up on the idea of winning the game and belatedly opted for what he thought would be greater defensive solidity by throwing Barry on for Lukaku with a couple of minutes to go. Everton remained wide open in midfield, though, and as a last-minute cross was floated into the Blues box, Payet moved untracked by the substitute into a gaping hole in the middle of the penalty area to sweep home Sakhos flick and complete another miserable afternoon at Goodison Park.

Evertons recent run of results has had an impressive look on paper and has certainly fostered hope that, despite the questions over the his ability to organise his defence, the uncertainty over the collective mentality of his players and the paucity of his own ability to manage games from winning positions, Roberto Martinez was showing belated signs of getting to grips with another season of under-achievement.

It has proved to be another false dawn and the belief that the problems ingrained in this team are not going to change under his stewardship has been reinforced once more by what was, to be frank, an utterly unforgivable collapse. Tragically, what was an impressive performance for 75 minutes will count for nothing thanks to familiar failings at the back; what could have been a wonderful season has been critically undermined by the same weakness.

The players must take some responsibility, of course, but when it comes down to it, the manager has had opportunity after opportunity now to prove that the mis-steps that have plagued this season have been heeded and addressed.

Unfortunately, he is not learning from that history and both he and this Everton side look doomed to repeat it. Over and over again.

Lyndon Lloyd

Matchday Updates

John Stones coming in for Gareth Barry was Everton's one change for the visit of West Ham United this afternoon.

Bryan Oviedo has recovered from the knock he sustained against Aston Villa on Tuesday and starts. Baines, Deulofeu and Niasse start on the benchj with Tom Cleverley still suffering from a chest infection.

West Ham kicked off but Everton got possession despite and mounted the first attack despite a poor pass from Barkley, Mirallas's cross headed away. A ball flicked over the top saw Lukaku battling well and challenging Adrian. Some smart football led to a corner off Coleman's cross, delivered well by Barkley and it came out to McCarthy who lashed in a brilliant shot that almost caught out Adrian, with Stones being wrestled to the ground by Oxford, for a clear penalty -- not given.

But Everton gave West Ham a lot of room to advance and Payet lashed a shot that grazed the outside of the post.

Everton went ahead after a nice play down the left and an inviting ball from Oviedo that Lukaku touched on well as he advanced and fired past Adrian, in off the far post, a very well taken goal by the big man. Mirallas was rather unfairly booked for diving.

Lukaku and Lennon exchanged passes on right but the cross didn't come for Lukaku. Everton won a couple more corners that threatened, Barkley volleying a looping clearance back at Adrian's near post, forcing a smart stop.

West Ham seemed to have plenty of space when they advanced with the ball but were not getting effective possession into the Everton area, but Coleman did give a free-kick away wide right that looked very dangerous and won a Hammers corner, Ogbonna looking for a penalty as Funes Mori tried to restrain his run.

Lukaku fired in but straight at Adrian, who spilled it briefly. Mirallas made a clumsy challenge on Creswell and a strong West Ham protest earned him a second yellow, putting Everton in a very precarious position with 10 minutes still to play before half-time.

As tempers flared, Antonio was booked for a late tackle on Barkley. Everton tried to advance with neat passing but left themselves outnumbered with slow build-up play and West Ham were allowed to attack,Antonia going on late on Robles but not seeing a second yellow.

Emenike looked set to score off a superb cross in from Cresswell but Robles somehow saved it with his legs. Everton moved the ball forward well enough but the conviction was lacking and a lose ball from Lukaku ended the forward play, and saw Jagielka foul Payet in a very dangerous area, Payet looping it over the Everton bar. Everton held on to their lead at the break.

Besic replaced Stones after the break, while Bilic took defender Oxford off and replaced him with Andy Carroll. Besic was a liitle too strong and gave away a needless free-kick that Antonio almost converted. At the other end, McCarthy's drive won a corner that was wasted.

The 10 men of Everton went further ahead with a lovely worked goal that was all down to tremendous determination and skill from Lennon who exchanged passes with Lukaku before finishing with a lovely touch past a startled Adrian.

Slaven Bilic, his game plan in tatters, reacted by bringing on Sako and Song but it had little effect. Besic did well to earn a penalty that was lazily, pathetically executed by Lukaku, easily saved by Adrian, a horrible and possibly costly waste.

Lukaku then became provider but his cross was horribly overhit as Everton seemed determined to let West Ham back into this game from an incredibly strong winning position. Lukaku had another chance, running in between the centre-backs and flicking it past Adrian, expect for the interception of Adrian's extended foot to deny him.

Oumar Niasse was given 15 minutes, replacing the excellent Aaron Lennon. Robles was booked for dissent. (Why?) West Ham made the predictable breakthrough after yet another corner, Antonio heading in a good cross amongst a host of defenders.

Ogbonna was booked for tripping Niasse and Barkley fired a poor effort straight at Adrian. West ham attacked again, and Sako was there to glance in the header off Payet's superb delivery, stunning the Blues, who should have had this game sown up despite being a man down.

Besic had a shot that hit a defender but no penalty. Lukaku had a chance to run in again but hiss awful first touch stopped him cold. At the other end, Sako was thwarted by Robles. A great cross by Oviedo went past most, eaarning a couple of corners, the second one far too deep. Barkley seemed to have time to make space and shoot but his touch let him down.

With a minute left, Lukaku was replaced by Gareth Barry, a strange decision of you want to win the game? Or perhaps not given Lukaku's profligacy. And it was inevitable that Payet was there to finish a knock-down from Sako, a ball that Robles should ave fallen on, astounding nonsense from the Blues.

Everton: Robles [Y:76'], Coleman, Jagielka, Funes Mori, Oviedo, Stones (45' Besic), McCarthy, Lennon (75' Niasse), Barkley, Mirallas [Y:12', YR:34'], Lukaku (89' Barry).
Subs: Howard, Baines, Osman, Deulofeu.

West Ham United: Adrian, Cresswell, Kouyate, Ogbonna, Oxford(46' Carroll), Obiang (61' Song) , Noble, Lanzini, Payet, Emenike (60' Sakho), Antonio.
Subs: Randolph, Henry, Hendrie, Dobson,

Kick off: 3pm
Referee: Anthony Taylor

Michael Kenrick

From My Seat: West Ham (H)

We all gather in the Room of Nonsense for a couple of bevies and a footy chat. This focused on the man who has invested in our club and how things might pan out. We had some wild chat of how things are going to change for the better and some fanciful names of players that will now be attracted toward us. This conversation was the focus of the day plus the delight of the news that season tickets had been decreased in price... with only the arrival of the team via the electronic wizardry of the mobile phone to interrupt it. Stones in and Barry out caused some wild guesses regarding formations.With all this to take in we hardly noticed Spurs and Arsenal drawing 2-2.

Time for the walk up on a chilly day but all roads led to Goodison and conversations with those we found ourselves walking along with made us soon forget the chill. Most were expecting a tight game with 2-1 to the Blues being the favourite score. The fan zone was belting out the music and the fat van dishing up the fast food. Goodison road was awash with expectant fans taking photos.

Z-Cars rang out and the handshakes of goodwill took place and we were to attack the Park End first half with the Hammers having the kick off. It was soon apparent that we were playing three at the back with Stones to the right, Jags central and Funes Mori left. Coleman and Oviedo were our wing backs with Barkley and McCarthy our midfield two leaving Mirallas, Lukaku and Lennon our primary attackers.

We started well enough and with WHU winning only one of their last nine away matches I felt reasonably confident. This confidence was bolstered when from a well taken corner by Barkley the ball came out to McCarthy on the edge whose shot was both spectacular and true had the keeper tipped over at the last second, in the same passage of play Stones was hauled to the deck for a clear penalty but such is today's refereeing there is no such thing as a foul in the box from a corner or other set piece.

We were having the better of the exchanges and just before the quarter hour mark Lukaku got onto a good ball from Barkley and rolled his marker cut inside and shot across the keeper hit a post and this time rebounded into the net. Rom lapped up the adulation sweeping down from the terraces with waves and hand claps. Next it was Barkley who took a ball on his chest and in a seamless movement swivelled in mid -air, connected well and the ball flew toward top corner unfortunately for him and us the keeper got a hand to it and diverted the ball over the bar. That brought a gasp of awe from those assembled.

I was enjoying the game and with Lennon and Lukaku causing all sorts of problems for WHU makeshift back line the expectation of another goal was on everyones mind but then on 35 mins Mirallas who had been previously booked for a dive foolishly as well as unprofessionally cleaned out Cresswell in a tackle and our Ref Mr Taylor of Cheshire showed yellow quickly followed by red.

I did wonder if he may have given him his last warning if it had not been for the odious Noble in his face Gerrard and Terry style. Come on the ten men was what we were left with. Stones went to right back as our present manager went 4-4-1 and we saw out the first half with just scares from a Payet free kick given away by Jags on the edge, a WHU penalty shout and a sharp save from Joel to deny Emenike.

H/T 1-0

The chat centred on how well we played in that half but the sending off had put all in nervous mode. I heard a few saying I hope Bobby does not cock this up I wonder what those fans felt on the final whistle?

The teams re-appeared after the break and Stones had been sacrificed in favour of Besic presumably to assist McCarthy in the mid-field hunt and destroy department. Although it looked 4-4-1 Lennon had license to maraud with Rom which was a good ploy as they certainly needing watching as was demonstrated just ten mins into the half. Lennon popped up on the left and exchanged passes with Rom at some speed which got him between two defenders, in on goal and coolly slotted home to set the ground alight.

A two nil lead erm we have been here before with eleven men now its with ten. We were sort of celebrating going two ahead with a dose of apprehension. Ah the mind and world of the Evertonian eh. We were seeing a Rampant Rom though. He was like a charging bull with some finesse as bullied and harried their rearguard aided and abetted by the livewire Lennon. Their performance was helping the defence too as they could not go gung-Ho for fear of a swift counter from the deadly duo.

I thought we were coping well with a man short and from one of our attacks Besic drove for the box and was tripped, outside said the WHU players, inside said the Ref and duly awarded a pen. Oh joy! 3-0 and surely all over as Rom never misses.

Ah he did and players and crowd look and sound deflated but this only lasted a few minutes and we got back to how we were playing which was working for us as the players had settled to a rhythm that was holding WHU at arms length. Then with some fifteen mins to go the manager took centre stage by taking off Lennon and sending on Niasse. Now that did not go down well with the faithful especially as he did not looked distressed in any way.

I was a bit non-plussed as by swapping the hard working Lennon with a striker that hardly knows the club or his team-mates and given the situation we were in made little or no sense, well not to me anyway. The players seemed unsure with this change as the out balls were not where they were before and our new man seemed to give no clue as to where he was supposed to be playing or for that matter what he might do, it didnt look right and I was worried along with about 36,000 others.

That worry was not misplaced as in the final twelve mins we shipped three goals and this after Rom after his penalty miss had kept his head up and got through one on one with the keeper and as he slotted past him the keepers leg diverted the ball away, just think that could have been four.

The subbing of Lennon had been music to Bilics ears as he made a double sub of his own and sent on attackers now that the Rom Lennon partnership was gone and Niasse showing nothing of a threat. WHU now sent in cross after cross for the heads of Carroll and Co three of which were fruitful. Firstly Antonio won header by out jumping Funes Mori then heading home. WHU get a corner and Sakho was in between Coleman and Funes Mori and netted. 2-2...

The manager took off Rom and sent on the ailing Barry as a few thousand fans left the ground and they missed the final misery when a ball was merely floated into our box and seemed to elude all our players and leave Payet free to despatch. Hey Ho... lost at home again how many more of these games can the matchgoing fan take?

MotM ----- Lennon / Lukaku

Goodison was not a happy place at the end with voices of anger raised. Out of the ground and down Spellow lane the anger and animosity toward our present manager reached levels I have not heard before and it seemed unanimous. This is not a good situation with the FA Cup game at home looming. The faithful are turning.

Still as fans all we can do is let feelings be known and let the club owners whoever they are make a decision.

The atmosphere is getting toxic and that is not good news for anyone especially the players who cant be unaware of the unrest.

I have hated writing this as it is not the Everton I want to be writing about. Still I will be back next week and giving my support to the team and just hope that things have been sorted in one way or another to give us a little look at Wembley again.

Whatever happens UP THE BLUES

Ken Buckley

Everton lose in the most 'Everton' way possible

Keen to catch the crucial clash at the top of the table in the North London derby, Ste and I arrived at the pub early. It was just as well that we did too as it was pretty busy then and filled up more and more. Luckily by that point we had a pretty reasonable spec and were able to catch the cracker of a derby, Arsenal levelling late on to secure a point. Gary and Sue joined us a little later on.

It's with regret that we watch these games at the top of the table. The way this season has panned out it's deeply frustrating to see the talent in our squad as we sit in the bottom half (of the table). We've really missed a big opportunity this campaign.

We were all surprised to see John Stones return in place of Gareth Barry who was apparently suffering from a chest infection. Everton going three at the back, thereby adding a lot of responsibility on to the midfield duo of James McCarthy and Ross Barkley. Anthony Taylor, who's made controversial decisions in games against West Ham previously, refereed. Everton attacked the Park End in the first half.

The way we were set up in the first half, I couldn't really see how we were going to get a goal in the game as having one less man in midfield looked as though we were going to struggle to create opportunities. It wasn't long after I'd explained this to those around us that we only went and scored when Romelu Lukaku exploited bad positioning by the young Reece Oxford, raced into the penalty area and thrashed the ball accurately past Adrian. Everton ahead. Perhaps not deserved at that point, but ahead.

We really kicked on from there and produced more opportunities in and around the goal with James McCarthy and Ross Barkley both testing Adrian with speculative efforts, Barkley's volley in particular was as impressive as it was audacious.

Of course things were going too well, and things became more difficult when Kevin Mirallas was sent off for two yellow cards. His first dive was stupid, but the foul which followed when already on a yellow card was idiotic. Though Aaron Cresswell made more of it than was necessary and the West Ham players did what they could to get Kevin Mirallas sent off, it was the right call and could arguable have been a straight red card as it was dangerous. Should he have been booked for a yellow? Well yes, I hate diving and he should have been punished, though it's the lack of consistency which maddens me. You see them sort of dives all the time in games and more often than not the referee waves it away and play goes on. It's difficult to overlook how much time was spent on the floor by Emenike also.

We got to the break a goal ahead. At half time Everton played a tear-jerker of a video on the screen of a teenage musician who recently lost his battle with cancer, passing away on 31st December 2015. They then played a song he'd written in a lovely gesture. They are great at this sort of thing Everton.

Onto the second half and John Stones was sacrificed with Mohammed Basic added to the midfield as we went to something of a 4-4-1 system. We performed splendidly in the second half and put in a real effort and things were looking rosy on 56 minutes when Romelu Lukaku and Aaron Lennon combined perfectly to put Everton 2-0 ahead to the palpable delight of the crowd.

Things were looking even better a little later when Anthony Taylor awarded Everton a penalty when Besic was tripped as he burst through towards goal. Replays show it be just outside the box but we were awarded the penalty anyhow. I didn't much like the little argument between Lukaku and Barklery prior to the penalty. These things should be decided before the game and I didn't much like Adrian's gamesmanship before Lukaku struck the penalty. Actually I don't like the detestable Adrian full stop, and I now like him even less after he saved the penalty. It can't however be ignored quite how poor Lukaku's penalty was. I thought he was smart changing his run up direction as I felt that might have fooled Adrian, but the stutter before the strike is always a gamble and in the end I think Lukaku was caught in two or three minds as to where to put it.

This cost us big time. Lukaku was furious with himself and, desperate to make amends, he manufactured an opportunity well to get through on goal but was again thwarted, this time by an admittedly excellent Adrian save.

West Ham United took heart from this and then realised quite how easy it was to score against us, with all three goals effectively coming from straightforward balls into the penalty area. Michael Antonio and Diafra Sakho both headed goals into our net in the space of just three minutes, and then in the last minute Dimitri Payet made the most of more catastrophic Everton defending to win it for West Ham United.

It was all just ridiculous. Game after game Ste and I trudge off on the way home lamenting wild substitutions from Roberto and he did it again this time by taking off Aaron Lennon and experimenting with our new signing Oumar Niasse up front...essentially reverting to some sort of 4-3-2 formation. It was no surprise that West Ham's equalising goal came from a cross from the position where Lennon had been occupied on the left whilst Oviedo and Barkley did little to prevent the ball coming into the box.

Equally as crazy was his later decision to bring on Gareth Barry at the expense of Romelu Lukaku. Surely Gerard Deulofeu or even Leon Osman would have been a better bet at this point...particularly as we were still trying to win the game. This nonsense is happening far too regularly now and has to be stopped one way or the other.

When I got back home I was listening to a bit of the 606 phone in on Radio Five Live and a really intelligent Evertonian caller was on the line complaining about Roberto's "ridiculous" substitutions. When asked who should come in to replace him she said something along the lines of "Well I don't know. That's not my job. Them people at Southampton who went out and found Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman. We need to get them. There's a lot of good, highly skilled managers out there in the world and we need people to come to Everton and find them."

I couldn't put it better myself.

Player Ratings

Robles: I'm not so sure what he could have done with the goals but I do know that if Howard was playing people would have been screaming at him for not coming for any of them crosses. His distribution however was absolutely appalling. He's far from convincing me that he is the answer. 5

Oviedo: He should have done better with stopping the cross for their winner but otherwise he worked hard and did get one assist in the game. Playing him ahead of Baines is something I'll never understrand however. 6

Funes Mori: Caught a bit flat footed I think with Sakho's goal and wasn't really dominant enough at the back when we needed to stand firm and hold our lead. 5

Jagielka: Dealt with a lot throughout the game but, like his team mates, buckled late on. 6

Stones: Got caught out a few times but also made a couple of good tackles. Substituted at the break. 5

Coleman: Not his greatest game. 5

McCarthy: My man of the match. Took responsibility and covered acres of pitch. 8

Barkley: Also took on a lot of responsibility and was one of Everton's better players on the day. Could have done more to stop the cross for the equaliser but he wasn't the only one guilty of switching off when we needed to be alert. 8

Lennon: Has been a revelation since coming back into the team and scored another fine goal. Shouldn't have been substituted. 8

Mirallas: Not a great contribution obviously. 4

Lukaku: The penalty miss aside he was a constant menace and shouldn't really have finished on the losing side. He's probably thought that more than once this season. 7

Besic: Did well on his return and was good and committed. Will likely be needed against Chelsea next weekend. 7

Niasse: Didn't contribute. 5

Barry: Did his best to try and rescue the game. 6

Paul Traill

Match Preview

As the season reaches its critical phase, Everton begin a vital series of three matches at home that will have a huge bearing on their season, both in terms of the Premier League and the FA Cup.

The frustration for Evertonians at watching other teams with as much or even less talent in their ranks as Everton have challenging for the Champions League spots has been growing by the week but they have an opportunity to press their claims for a consolatory place in the Europa League place.

Those claims are bolstered by their away form where the Blues' record to this point is top-four calibre and, with Tottenhams defeat at Upton Park on Wednesday evening, Martinezs men have now lost fewer games on their travels than anyone else.

All the more frustrating, then, that the lowly 11th-place berth that they occupy coming into this weekends round of fixtures is down to Evertons hugely disappointing home form. Together with some valuable points thrown away at the likes of Bournemouth, Norwich and Chelsea a meagre four wins at Goodison all season tells the story of 2015-16 so far.

Though they are quickly running out of runway, its still not too late for Martinezs side to achieve lift-off and capitalise on the strangest Premier League season in years but they have to start setting right their poor home record, starting with the visit of sixth-place West Ham this weekend and following it up against faltering Arsenal in a fortnights time.

The onset of three difficult home games in League and Cup over the next couple of weeks comes at a time when the manager has a couple of selection headaches in defence. Firstly, he has doubts over Leighton Baines and Bryan Oviedo, both of whom have ankle problems that could keep them out of the Hammers clash.

Martinez claimed yesterday that while Oviedo could miss out after limping off in the later stages of the win over Aston Villa on Tuesday evening, Baines is able to play despite feeling pain in the ankle that required two surgeries last summer. That would seem to give the nod to the England international, although both Brendan Galloway who, coincidentally, made his debut against West Ham last May and Ramiro Funes Mori could fill in if neither make it.

Funes Mori is that the centre of the managers other dilemma, meanwhile, now that John Stones has returned to full fitness. The young defender has been edged out of the first team while sidelined by a hamstring injury for the past month but his status as the clubs most sought-after defender, combined with his need for playing time ahead of Euro2016 means theres a measure of tension around him sitting on the bench every week.

Working against Stones is that fact that the partnership of Phil Jagielka and Funes Mori in front of Joel Robles has looked a far more steady one that has conceded just one goal in the last six games. The transition to three centre-backs at Villa Park to accommodate Stoness introduction was not a comfortable one, either, underscoring the belief that that formation probably isnt a viable one and leaving Martinez with a conundrum of how to keep all three of his centre-halves involved.

Despite it not being the most scintillating of displays, the performance at Villa and the uncertainty around Tom Cleverleys chest infection should dictate that the rest of the team picks itself for this one. Kevin Mirallas furthered his case for inclusion with two assists on Tuesday and Aaron Lennons fourth goal in six games makes him the obvious candidate to start wide on the right. You can place bets online with some tempting prices for the game, including first-scorer odds for Lennon if you fancy the winger to continue his scoring run.

Slaven Bilic, meanwhile, will return to Merseyside with question marks in defence of his own. Stalwart centre-half James Collins was forced off in midweek because of a hamstring injury while Angelo Ogbonna limped his way through the second half of that match and is unlikely to be fully recovered by this weekend. The duo would add to other injury concerns in the form ofWinston Reid, James Tomkins, Joey OBrien and Carl Jenkinson, while Sam Byram is suspended.

Everton may have an enviable record against West Ham in the Premier League indeed, theyve taken more points the Hammers than they have against any other club since 1992 but this promises to be a significant test, not only of the Blues ability to perform in front of their own fans but to also overcome a highly competent opposition boasting a potential match-winner in Dimitri Payet.

The reverse fixture showed how ordinary Bilics outfit can be, however, and while it isnt regarded as one of the matches that got away from Everton this season, Martinezs men simply lacked desire in the 1-1 draw back in November, particularly in the second half after Romelu Lukakus equaliser shortly before half time.Its going to require the Belgian (who loves scoring against the Hammers) to be back to his best, somewhere he hasnt been for quite a few weeks now, as well as the kind of determined, defensively solid display that saw off Manchester City in the first leg of the Capital One Cup in January.

Kick off: 3pm
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Predicted line-up: Robles, Coleman, Jagielka, Funes Mori, Baines, Barry, McCarthy, Lennon, Barkley, Mirallas, Lukaku

Lyndon Lloyd

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EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Stones (Besic 46')
  Funes Mori
  Lennon (Niasse 76')
  Lukaku (Barry 89')
  Subs not used
  Cleverley (ill)
  Browning (injured)
  Ledson (loan)
  McGeady (loan)
  McAleny (loan)
  Oxford (Carroll 45')
  Obiang (Song 61')
  Emenike (Sakho 61')
  Subs not used

Premier League Scores
Chelsea 1-1 Stoke City
Everton 2-3 West Ham
Man City 4-0 Aston Villa
Newcastle 1-3 Bournemouth
So'hampton 1-1 Sunderland
Swansea 1-0 Norwich
Tottenham 2-2 Arsenal
Watford 0-1 Leicester
C Palace 1-2 Liverpool
West Brom 1-0 Man United

Team Pts
1 Leicester City 57
2 Tottenham Hotspur 55
3 Arsenal 52
4 Manchester City 50
5 West Ham United 49
6 Manchester United 47
7 Stoke City 43
8 Southampton 41
9 Liverpool 41
10 Chelsea 40
11 Everton 38
12 Watford 37
13 West Bromwich Albion 36
14 AFC Bournemouth 35
15 Crystal Palace 33
16 Swansea City 33
17 Sunderland 25
18 Norwich City 24
19 Newcastle United 24
20 Aston Villa 16


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