Everton Logo Everton 2 - 1 West Ham United
Half-time: 0 - 1
West Ham Logo
FA Carling Premiership 97/98 - Game 2
Saturday 23 August 1997
Goodison Park, Merseyside
Att: 34,356
« Sheffield United (a) -- Friendly Ref: Peter Jones Manchester United (h) »
1997-98 Fixtures & Results League Position: 12th Premiership Results & Table
EVERTON: Speed (67), Stuart (83) Williamson.
West Ham United: Watson (og:23) Unsworth.
LINEUPS Subs Not Used
EVERTON: Southall, Barrett, Phelan, Williamson (Short, 78), Watson, Bilic, Stuart, Barmby, Ferguson, Speed, Farrelly (Oster, 58).
Unavailable: Parkinson, Hinchcliffe (injured), Grant (recovering).
Gerrard, Thomas, Branch.
West Ham United: Miklosko, Breacker (Dowie, 87), Unsworth, Rieper, Ferdinand, Moncur (Hughes, 81), Lazaridis, Lomas, Berkovic (Lampard, 81), Hartson, Kitson. Forrest, Potts.
Yellow Cards Red Cards
EVERTON: Bilic, Williamson, Barmby, Ferguson. --
West Ham United: Moncur, Breacker. --

Guy McEvoy Oster the Wide Boy
Dave Shepherd Speed Trap
Lloyd Sloan Kendall's Kids start to Take Shape
Jenny Roberts Bring on the Reds!
Huw Marshall HK knows what he's doing... I think
THE SUNDAY TIMES Everton burst the bubbles
by Kevin Connolly
THE TIMES Everything looking far from rosy in Kendall's garden
by David Maddock
ELECTRONIC TELEGRAPH Stuart strike revives struggling Everton
by Derek Potter
SOCCERNET Link to SoccerNet Match Report
CARLINGNET Link to CarlingNet Match Report

Oster the Wide Boy
Guy McEvoy

The grey skies and drizzle that hung over Goodison throughout the afternoon made this game seem anything but an August 'start-of-season' fixture. The teams were announced in the normal fashion as the players warmed up and David Unsworth's return to Goodison was heralded with a standing ovation. Not so Slaven Bilic's first meet-up with his former team-mates. His announcement was met instead with passionate chants of "Judas" from the visiting section. That for the man who chose not to take the pay rise he'd been offered until the end of a season in which he saw West Ham to safety. And I thought Evertonians could be fickle.

Unsworth and Bilic were not the only familiars to both sets of fans. Everton new boy Danny Williamson was also set to make his league debut. He shared the midfield with Farrelly, Stuart and Speed. Barrett was recalled to help out Watson, Bilic and Phelan in front of Southall. Barmby and Ferguson took on the work load up front.

This Barmby/Ferguson partnership briefly threatened to excite when almost straight from kick-off Barmby gave Duncan a lesson in how to head a flick on. Ferguson found himself running onto the ball in space and struck the ball after the bounce sending it marginally wide. This promising move though proved to be no real guide of what was to follow. As the minutes ticked by the initial flair was gradually encroached upon by our characteristic over-reliance upon Ferguson's height and presence.

West Ham meanwhile seemed to have taken a leaf out of Palace's book and decided that hitting us on the fast break would be the most productive approach, though they didn't manage the task as well as out last visitors had done. They had one or two fluent moves which were only caught out by the offside flag but in the main it was an even sided melee.

The aimless play was interrupted by the odd bout of bad temper by Moncur against his former team mates. First he had a pop at Williamson (which clearly upset the lad's play from that point on), then he felt the need to charge up to Bilic and give a solid shove after Slaven had brought down Hartson. Moncur got a yellow card, but the Hammers got a lucky advantage from the free kick. Unsworth dummied, Hartson struck. It looked tame, Southall dived and seemed to have it easily covered until Watson decided to cut it out to make sure. The connection was woeful and instead turned it into the net for a frustrating own goal.

The Hammers therefore went into the break in front despite themselves not having putting a shot on target, yet as testament to Everton's half-hearted effort they still looked just about the worthier of the lead.

Everton came back out for the second hard and pushed harder. Nevertheless, a breakthrough never really looked likely until Oster was introduced for Farrelly. Suddenly the pitch looked twice as wide for Everton as the shape changed to accommodate the arrival of the youngster. Barmby and Stuart in particular both seemed to be lifted by the extra dimension brought into Everton's game. By God Stuart needed his game lifting, several unforced errors had seen the crowd on his back with almost Thomsen-like venom. Everton pressed forward.

A corner won by Oster, Barmby hit it in, Speed jumped unchallenged and knocked it home and suddenly we had a real game on our hands.

You could sense it in the air from here on in. Every now and then (and it is regrettably not often nowadays) you can feel the Goodison magic work -- that mystical crowd buzz that declares a turning point and then seizes hold of every blue heart in the place to force the ball into the net by sheer collective will. It seeped from the stands to the players and it became only a matter of time.

Oster (who'd just sent a 25-yard effort just wide) hit a ball long, Duncan flicked it on, and Stuart finally justified his selection with a fine striker's goal on the turn. I can't remember the last time we came from behind at Goodison. Utter Joy!

Of course, we had to go through the obligatory nail-biting finish which saw an instinctive save of the highest calibre from Southall in the last minute of normal play. Then we had to sit through a full five minutes of phantom injury time. Still, the magic, in the end, could not be broken.

Sitting back away from the initial euphoria of actually bagging points, it must be said that this wasn't a particularly good Everton performance. Our complete lack of killer instinct for most of the game against a team who showed little meaningful opposition is disappointing. Nevertheless, it was great, if only for half an hour, to feel the magic of the crowd when they truly get behind the team and see the effect it can have even when we are playing at best only mediocre football.

Getting off the mark is a massive psychological boost. Let's hope we can channel it properly on Wednesday.

Individual Performances

  • Southall 7 - Absolutely nothing whatsoever to do all game until the last minute. Somehow he'd managed to keep himself alert that long despite his underemployment and save us two points.
  • Barrett 6 - A poor game I thought. We know he can play better than this. Incidentally, has Earl got something against Williamson?  He didn't seem to send a single pass to him all game despite him screaming for the ball.
  • Watson 6 - Some will probably say I'm being harsh but even excluding the own goal I didn't think Dave looked all that composed in this one. He got skewed connections on several clearances and was one of the worst offenders of the long hopeless hoof to Dunc on the ones he did hit cleanly. Perhaps its cos he was working next to Bilic which is affecting my judgement but I thought he looked a bit rocky.
  • Bilic 8 - He just makes defending look so bloody simple. Kept his calm despite massive intimidation from West Ham fans and former team-mates. Picked up a mystifying yellow card, but had yet another very solid game.
  • Phelan 7 - Competent. Had a couple of 'Bulldog' runs but is going to have to watch them as he looked like getting badly caught on more than one occasion when he lost possession.
  • Farrelly 6 - As an anecdote the lad I went to the match doesn't get to many games. When the team came out at half time he saw Farrelly and asked "Who is he and who has he come on for?". Such was the mark he left on the game in the first half. There wasn't that much meaningful midfield Everton play and so with the exception of the odd touch (and sure he managed those fair enough, its not like he did anything wrong) the game seemed to pass him by a bit. Jury still out.
  • Williamson 6 - Started off well. Looks to have a good touch and good vision. His confidence seemed dented though after that arsey Hammers player had a pop at him, and he faded a bit after that.
  • Stuart 6 - Getting absolutely crucified by the consensus vocals in the crowd and responded to it until mid-second half by seemingly getting even worse. Nevertheless, I was delighted when he turned that goal in. Say what you like about him he still looks more likely to me to score goals than either Barmby or Duncan. I still reckon he'll be worth 12-15 this season presuming he plays mainly midfield. If only the crowd could be as forgiving for Diamond as it is to Duncan.
  • Speed 6 - I wonder if the Captains arm band is distracting from his own game. Thinking back to myself years ago in my school team (pretty much the height of my football career alas!). The day I was given the captaincy, I stopped thinking so much about my own performance because my in my mind I felt obliged to worry about what everyone else was doing and this didn't come naturally to me. Consequently I played like a donkey. Now the standard is a million miles apart and Speed certainly did not play like a donkey, but I wonder if there is something in the psychology. I'd argue that the same thing happened to Unsworth last season. Some players worry about the rest of the team as part of their normal game so giving them the captaincy is not asking them to think about anything they wouldn't do normally or take anything really new to them on (Bilic is the obvious example). With Speed it appears to have distracted from what he was doing week in week out last season. Still, early days yet and a good goal to make amends.
  • Barmby 7 - Solid effort throughout but he was the only player on his own wavelength in the first half. It all clicked together to coincide with the Everton revival in the second half. When it does click like this he looks well worth his money.
  • Ferguson 6 - Again a victim of being Duncan 'The Target' Ferguson. We seem to expect the impossible from him. Of all the balls hoisted toward him, I only counted three that he connected with and which the second ball was gathered by a blue shirt. Still, one of those resulted in the second goal, so maybe I should stop whinging. With the exception of an ambitious effort in the first couple of minutes he never found himself in position for a single attempt at goal. If this is a symptom of his positional play then he should be dropped, if this is a symptom of extra close marking then someone else should damn well be taking advantage of the space this should create.
  • Oster 7 - His arrival seemed to make the pitch look about 5 times wider. Our play spread out, defenders got drawn wide and chances started coming. Apart from the positive change in shape his arrival brought his individual contributions were again very promising. His balance on the ball is astounding. His confidence in trying the unexpected seems also to have kick-started some others into action.
  • Short 7 - Came on for the last 10 or so and did a tidy job.

Speed Trap
Dave Shepherd

It's quite popular to put a few bob on at the little bookies' huts inside most grounds before matches nowadays. A whiteboard outside proclaims tempting doubles to lure the over-optimistic, like 'Bilic to score first and Everton to win 4-1: 660-1', or 'Watson to score first and Everton to win 3-0: 450-1'.

Strangely, this second option was exactly what happened, but the small print says that 'own goals do not count'.. Not at the bookies, maybe, but they count on the park, and they nearly counted Everton into early but big trouble.

Changes from the game before the unusual two-week gap were Barrett for Thomas, Williamson for Thomsen and Barmby swapping his bench position with Oster's starter.

Everton started quite brightly in the muggy drizzle, and made the cynical predictions of a dour draw look silly, but slowly the realisation set in that West Ham were a very useful outfit. They close down everything, marked tightly, tackled hard and fast, and looked to release Hartson, Kitson and Berkovic as soon as there was daylight for a hoof up their way.

This was stifling all of Everton's much too slow and predictable buildups, but the Hammers' threat up front was very blunt too, so the dour stalemate started to materialise.

While this was going on, Bilic was determined to defeat his old team at every turn. He chased every ball in sight and made it his personal business to tackle. This enthusiasm went too far when he brought down Berkovic from behind near the area and got booked. From the kick, a weak & poorly placed dribbler was hit from the side-pass, and Neville flopped to his right to save, covering it easily... when Dave Watson lunged in from the right and sliced a terrible attempted clearance high into the top corner.

This was really bad news because it was already clear that Everton's chances of scoring were very low. The feeble attempt at a counter-attack confirmed this, and things were going no better as the second half wore on with only the occasional half-chance, punctuated by regular offside flags for Hartson's charges... always a warning that a second goal is only a borderline decision away.

The crowd were in a state of shock. I glanced around at one stage to see rows of people watching in rabbit-in-headlight terror as Everton slithered unstoppably towards a second home defeat that spelled out a horrific set of truths... that Everton were awful, that the league season was 'over' as far as respectable finishes go after only two games, that now every load of rubbish in the league would fancy their chances of 3 points here, and worst of all those relegation jokes would be taunting us all winter.

At least we could enjoy the growing of ~our~ John Oster in our gloom, and some of his work on the left got a corner and there was little excitement because we'd seen so many come to nothing. But this time Dunc had got out of place, making a run too early or the kick was too quick, because he was near the centre of the goal with his usual posse of markers and as the ball came across tried vainly to get nearer the spot to head it. But the ball flew beyond that, to the far post, and to our #2 air threat, Gary Speed, who powered a thumping header into the gap Dunc had just left. If Dunc don't get you, Speed will, and West Ham had fallen for the Speed Trap.

There was a moment there where a second opening day flashback was possible, because Watson popped up on the line to maybe or maybe not apply the finishing touch, at which point a fussy linesman might have waved a flag.

This moment also completely reversed the game. Suddenly West Ham looked like as helpless as an old lady after a bag-snatch. They became very ragged, and Everton now had all the space in the world to look for more goals. The last quarter of the game apart from some injury time desperation was all Everton, and vintage Everton at that. A winner looked more inevitable than possible, but when it came, the surprise was that it was Stuart, moonlighting from his midfield spot, who took a flick, turned and slotted in with a very non-midfield instinct.

The remaining 10 minutes (including injury time) of the game was almost as good, and the fans celebrated like people whose doctor has told them they've not got cancer. Unsworth had made at least four attempts to pay us a quick slap for selling him with long range strikes, and none were wild either. Did he not also strike the crossbar in his only England game? (Where were these in Blue?).

At the whistle, Unsworth applauded the Everton fans who cheered him off as loudly as they had cheered his name before the match. Bilic celebrated with Ferguson, exchanged his shirt with Hartson and went off alone. The Rhino may be the less raw-talented beast, but is the Rabid Slaven a controllable talent?


  • Southall 7 Robbed of a clean sheet by Watson. Rarely troubled.
  • Barrett 7 Did 'the Barrett thing' just as under JR. Some good defence, some good wing combinations, and the same well flighted but tactically useless diagonal high balls.
  • Phelan 6 No storming runs today and often had trouble getting things going. Allowed a close marker to drive him back all the time instead of beating him.
  • Bilic 6 Undistinguished and not very responsible. Slaven showed exactly why his total package may not be such a great swap for Unsworth - he tried too hard, got into shoving matches, got booked, continued risky challenges afterwards, acted like a jerk after the equaliser. Hoping this prat performance was a one-off due to the opposition is optimistic given his discipline record.
  • Watson 5 Having tried to score an O.G. last season at Upton Park, and getting in a mix-up with Nev last game, Dave went one better by doing both. Unfortunate, because it would be difficult to think of any two such bad mistakes in his career and now he has 2 in 2 games. I know the legs can go when you get old, but is Dave's brain going too?
  • Oster 7 Slipped over at least six times on the wet grass, but was a good swap for Farrelly, because he played wider on the left. Lucky coincidence that he came on as West Ham folded??
  • Williamson 6 I think this is the clincher to the theory that HK is trying to build a team of anonymous no-names. Williamson certainly fits the description, and has a suitably blend-in haircut (a cross between Unsworth's and Speed's).
  • Speed 7 Looked out of sorts this game.. then of course he pops up with a real 'clutch' goal to reverse our bad fortune!
  • Farrelly 6 Another anonymous performance in the left channel. Perhaps his mistake is wearing '17'. Likes to have a go for goal and is usually close.
  • Stuart 7 And today's assignment for Mr Utility is.. (drum roll, spin wheel..) Central midfield. Graham was wasted there too.. and was having a bit of a nightmare to the delight of Stuart haters everywhere when he turns up in Barmby's position for a classic hold pass, turn 2 defenders and shoot goal.
  • Ferguson 7 Wasn't making any big impact at all. Lots of flicks, but they look randomly directed. Suddenly in the last quarter, he started finding his little blue buddies and the options of slam or flick flowed.
  • Barmby 9 The only Everton player who looked good in the first half. Ran around like a clockwork toy, shrugging off the close marking and linking up all over the field. Looked good, looked dangerous, looks to have booked his regular spot on HK's teamsheet. Twice only a finish away from goals, one of which would have been a goal of the season contender.
  • Short 6 Another late sub appearance to (?) bolster the number of heads up front, but only managed to contribute at the back.

TEAM PERFORMANCE 5 and 8. Until the Speed goal turned things around, the performance was abominable. After the goal it was if someone had suddenly reminded them how to play. Both the poor start and the good finish were mainly due to West Ham's good then slack play.

Ref: Peter JONES (Loughborough) Not very good. Missed many cynical Hartson pushes. Adopts the policy of an automatic yellow card for any foul.

Kendall's Kids start to Take Shape
Lloyd Sloan

Everton began the game in a 4-4-2 formation which saw Barrett recalled at right back, Bilic and Watson as centre halves, and Phelan at left back. The midfield consisted of Graham Stuart , Gareth Farrelly, new boy Danny Williamson, and Gary Speed. Duncan Ferguson was partnered by Nick Barmby in attack.

It was a fairly vociferous opening few minutes to the game, with the West Ham supporters taunting Slaven Bilic as "Judas", and generally applauding Danny Williamson, whilst the Everton faithful gave a warm welcome to David Unsworth in his first outing as a West Ham player.

Everton started the game brightly with Barmby and Ferguson combining well to present the Scot with a chance after about two minutes, which he volleyed wide of goal. Things settled down and the visitors began to gain confidence which resulted in them playing an attractive passing game in contrast to Everton's workmanlike, yet quite ineffective short game. Unfortunately, despite some nice short passing movements, Everton seem so far this season to target Duncan Ferguson with a long ball as soon as any one player experiences any substantial pressure.

After a bright opening ten minutes, West Ham where presented with their first chance to attack the Everton goal when the bustling Hartson's cross was missed by Phelan and fortunately Rieper lacked the necessary panache to take the ball in his stride, resulting in the ball running through to the grateful Southall.

The crowd's spirits where raised when Bilic mistimed a tackle on Berkovic, and seemed to be pushed by an angry Moncur. The referee booked both players, and awarded West Ham a free kick. The impressive Hartson fired a shot goalward which Southall seemed to have covered, but Dave Watson intervened after Southall had dived for the ball and deflected it past Southall into the far corner of the net to give West Ham the lead.

The goal inspired West Ham even further, and they then went on to dominate the rest of the first half despite Everton's constant attempts to create a chance to level matters. David Unsworth very nearly marked his return to Goodison with a goal when he volleyed a corner towards the top corner of Southall's net, but unfortunately for him it sailed a yard or so wide of the far post. Shortly before half time, a tame Farrelly effort was cleared off the visitor's line by Unsworth.

Second Half

Barmby was presented with the clearest chance of the match so far shortly after the restart. He was sent through on goal by a Ferguson flick and managed to shoot but his effort was blocked by Miklosko. Twelve minutes into the second half saw Howard Kendall substitute Gareth Farrelly with John Oster in an attempt to give some pace to the Everton attack.

Oster's introduction seemed to spark Everton into life, and Graham Stuart went close after he volleyed a Ferguson knockdown wide of Miklosko's goal. Oster then took on Lomas who conceded a corner from which Everton equalised. Barmby swung the kick in, and Gary SPEED rose to send a header into the West Ham net for his first goal of the new season. Bilic humourously thanked Miklosko for the goal by rushing up and kissing him!

The goal further lifted Everton, and West Ham's passing game began to crumble. Their defence began to struggle under the pressure from Ferguson, Barmby and Oster. Craig Short replaced Danny Williamson in the 76th minute and Bilic seemed to move into a floating role in midfield in order to attempt to stimulate Everton into taking all three points from the game.

Still West Ham where capable of taking something from the game as they proved when Unsworth had a chance to score following Hartson's knockdown of a Berkovic corner. West Ham replaced Moncur and the excellent Berkovic in the 81st minute with Lampard and Hughes entering the fray.

A minute later Everton took the lead with an excellent Graham STUART goal. Bilic crossed from deep and Ferguson knocked the ball down into the path of the incoming Stuart. He turned inside with his left foot and swung his right at the ball to send a sweet shot into the visitor's net. The relief at taking the lead was there for all to see as several Everton players flew towards Stuart before bundling him to the floor in celebration.

In an attempt to take something from the game, West Ham sent on Iain Dowie for Tim Breaker in the 87th minute. Southall had to react quickly when he deflected a goalbound Hartson shot with his legs. The referee seemed to play around five minutes injury time at the end of the match much to the annoyance of the Everton crowd. On the final whistle, however, the relief was there again, as Viv Busby ran onto the pitch to congratulate all the Everton players as they left the pitch, as well as throwing a consolatory arm around David Unsworth's shoulders.

All in all it was a satisfactory second half performance which gained Everton not only the three points from the match, but also elevated them above Liverpool in the League Table. West Ham provided a good test for Howard Kendall's team, but on Wednesday night comes an altogether different challenge in the form of current champions Manchester United.

There is still evidence of the hopeful punt upfield towards Ferguson and if this continues he might gain some inspiration from studying Graeme Sharp's responses when the same occurred to him in the 1980s. Rather than simply winning the ball in the air, which Ferguson does with equal effect, Sharp gained the advantage by noticing who was around him at the time, and flicking the ball towards a team-mate - a skill passed onto him by a certain Andy Gray.

Ferguson would do well to scrutinise Sharp's leading of the line, because it is plain that currently Everton don't have a player capable of reading where Duncan is going to put the ball once he wins it. Ferguson could well prove himself to be the world class player he threatens to be by taking this notion, and ensuring that he reads the ball, knows who is about him, and provides them with an opportunity rather than aimlessly jumping and winning it and then flailing his arms around in desperation when no-one picks up on it.

Most Everton players played a decent game today, and the footballing style Kendall is instilling is emerging slowly. My man of the match was Nick Barmby who showed the enthusiasm required from him following his return to the side. He ran all day, and with a little more confidence could force himself back into the England setup if he applies as much effort in future games as he did today.

Player Ratings

Southall 7 Barrett 7 Phelan 6 Williamson 6 Watson 6 Bilic 6 Stuart 7 Barmby 8 Ferguson 7 Speed 7 Farrelly 6 Subs Used: Oster 7 Short 7

Bring on the Reds!
Jenny Roberts

We got off to a bright, promising start. In the 2nd minute Duncan went on a run and his shot skimmed across the face of the Park End goal.  However, after our attacking start, West Ham broke away and Big Nev was forced to save at Marc Rieper's feet. Could this be a sign of doom to come? Naah!

In the 17th minute we had an excellent diagonal cross to the far left post but no-one was there to receive it. Slaven was magnificent. Commanding in the air and playing creditable balls out of defence and not just banging the ball up-field. A scuffle in the 21st minute involving John Moncur seemed to be a desperate attempt to get his former team-mate sent off. This led to a yellow card for both. This led to more tentative play from the Croatian in an attempt to avoid further disciplining from the Hammers secret weapon (in cunning disguise) - the Ref! The resulting West Ham free kick was taken by Hartson and deflected into the back of the net by Watson.

The fans around me in Gwladys Street erupted with fury, screaming at the referee after Moncur was "spoken" to again, this time for a harsh challenge. He walked away from the referee. He should have gone - but stayed.

Earl proved to us just how pointless it is to play him when he really messed up a beautiful pass that came gliding cross-field and landed perfectly at his feet. He had a terrible game and contributed little of worth.

In the 36th minute, Williamson was booked for no apparent reason. A card-happy referee was all we needed. After half-time it looked as though the record of debut-makers scoring against us would almost certainly continue when Rhino (or is it Hippo?) curled his free kick skillfully. It was just wide.

Nothing much happened until the 67th minute when Barmby took a corner and although Dunc was near, he was well marked and didn't stand a chance. Instead Gary Speed put it into the back of the net. The crowd went wild, and from then on, we were the noisiest, most supportive non-abusive crowd the players could ever wish to have. The referee proved how no Hammers player could ever be threatened with a red card when he accidentally stood in the way of Steve Lomas. The ball rolled to the feet of Oster, and the furious Lomas shoved the Ref. blatantly. Naturally, the referee chose to ignore this event.

With 7 minutes to go, Duncan flicked the ball on and found Stuart, who slotted the ball in the back of the net. We continued, our narrow lead never looking in danger through about 5 minutes of extra time until Peter Jones finally blew the whistle. At last we could all go home, actually looking forward to "Match Of The Day" and in the knowledge that we would be ahead of our neighbours in the table. My man of the Match was Slaven, although Gareth Farrelly and John Oster really impressed me. Bring on the Reds!

HK knows what he's doing... I think.
Huw Marshall

The opening line-up looked interesting, Nev in goal, Barrett and Phelan acting as backs in a flat back four, Watson and Bilic in the middle, in midfield we started with Stuart on the right, Williamson in the middle with Farrelly and Speed alternating between left wing and left midfield, Speed taking more of the central duties. Up front we had Dunc partnered by Barmby.

The first ten minutes looked promising, Williamson had a couple of nice touches and Dunc went close with with a dipping half-volley from wide on the right, but then it started to go wrong. Barrett (whom I have backed to the hilt in the past) was truly awful -- his worst performance in a blue shirt. His first cock up came after some 30 seconds! However he wasn't helped by Mr 110% ahead of him: Stuart scored a cracking goal, but he was alas crap, as Kendall admitted after the match.

With our right flank vulnerable to attack and woeful going forward there was increased pressure on the left to get things sorted, for some strange reason Farrelly and Speed continually swapped positions, thus causing a lack of fluency in midfield, when Farrelly played in the middle we had a central pairing with some 40 odd games between them, this looked obvious.

During the first half we hardly pressured the Hammers in fact I think we only had one corner, West Ham were finding space in the middle of the park and the cheating git, Moncur, was getting Everton players in to all kinds of trouble, following an alleged incident outside the box (I couldn't see anything from my perch in the Top Balcony) West Ham fluked a goal when Watson, scooped the subsequent free kick over Southall, in to who's arms the ball was heading, into the roof of the net.

Half Time 1-0 down and contemplating suicide. The second half didn't start too brightly, with Williamson tiring badly and Stuart playing dreadfully. HK changed tactics and brought on Oster for Farrelly, at last we had a player out wide who could scare their defence, things started looking up straight away, Oster's introduction sparked Barmby in to gear, and from being Mr Anonymous, Barmby was suddenly everywhere. 

From a corner Speed rose high to head home, 1-1 and the release of tension within the ground was incredible, following that corner we had about 20 more!!! In a flash of the old HK subbing genius, Williamson was replaced by Short and Bilic was pushed in to midfield.

As the game wore on we looked more and more likely to score a winner, with all players now giving 110% with the exceptions of Bilic and Ferguson who were giving 160%, we pushed hard.  Oster was causing all kinds of problems for their midfield and defence, he almost ended up in the main stand following one challenge. With 7 minutes to go Stuart turned beautifully in the box and slotted home from 6 yards, suddenly all of us who'd been slagging him were commenting on what a smashing player he really was, this lasted for some 50 seconds when he reverted to type and lost the ball.

The final minutes were a nightmare, the Hammers threw on the worlds ugliest player in the form of Ian Dowie and threw caution to the wind in search of an equaliser, with time up Southall produced an amazing save from Hartson (I think, by then I was so tense I was looking continually at my watch!). Time up was followed by some 6 minutes of added time, where this came from I don't know.

The final whistle was greeted with cheers and relief, the same crowd who booed them off at half time stayed on to give them a standing ovation, with cheers of there's only one Slaven Bilic ringing around the ground.

I left the ground a happy man, with a feeling of well being and a sense that HK knows what he's doing. OK it's early days but I think with the addition of a couple more players we could have a squad with top 6 potential.

Oh and another note of good news/ gossip, make of it what you will!!! A mate behind me in the Top Balcony has a friend (yes I know) who is pally with Joe Parkinson, this friend saw Joe last week and asked him how he was getting on, the reply stated that he was looking forward to starting back in full training in 2 weeks time!!!!

Player Ratings

  • Southall - 9 didn't have much to do, but that save at the end........
  • Barrett - 4 - He was shite, hopefully a one off performance from the pearl.
  • Phelan - 8 I do think that this guy is the bargain of the century, he's a complete full back who looks like a winger coming forward.
  • Watson, - 7 - Solid performance, only let down by the own goal.
  • Bilic - 11 - Yes he that good, yes he is in my all time EFC 11 - This man is a God, nuff said.
  • Stuart - 5 - would have got 3 if it wasn't for the goal, gave a 110% and gave away the ball 110 times.
  • Farrelly - 6 - Jury's still out, but I think he'll come good, looked confused at times.
  • Speed - 9 - Captain courageous ran the show won the game.
  • Williamson - 6 - slightly disappointing, but only his first game, would have liked to see him getting stuck in more.
  • Barmby -8- Crap first half, inspiring second, didn't look like scoring though
  • Ferguson -9- ran up and down the pitch and caused them all kinds of problems. Look out Man Utd!!!!!
  • Oster -9- Turned the game, will go on to become one of footballs all time greats.
  • Short - 8 - looked comfortable on the ball and offered an additional ariel threat.=20

You may think this is bollocks, but hey it's only an opinion!!!!!

Everton burst the bubbles
by Kevin Connolly, The Sunday Times

WEST HAM'S dreams faded and died, like their famous bubbles, after a promising start. And which team was Everton? The players who stormed through the closing 25 minutes, or the players who were second best to new-look West Ham until they were inspired by an unexpected equaliser?

"We had no balance or shape in the first half," said Howard Kendall, the Everton manager. "We stretched things out in the second half. Nicky Barmby started to exploit space and we got some joy."

"I was very disappointed," said Harry Redknapp, the West Ham manager. "Three points were there for the taking, but we sat back too deep and soaked up pressure."

West Ham began in 5-3-2 mode with Rio Ferdinand in the middle of three centre-backs. For Everton, Barmby pushed up behind Duncan Ferguson, with Graham Stuart and Gareth Farrelly on the flanks. So much of Everton's attack depends on Ferguson's aerial power, so West Ham tried to crowd him out or have a spare defender picking up the Scot's flicks.

With Slaven Bilic keeping a grip on John Hartson, and Everton forcing Eyal Berkovic deep, West Ham took a while to settle. But Steve Lomas has added bite in midfield and they look more solid.

Then suddenly they scored. Berkovic was felled by Bilic, who was booked. Hartson drove the free kick low. Neville Southall had it covered -­ until a ricochet off Dave Watson sent the ball the opposite way.

West Ham closed space and tracked runners. Stuart's shot was a rare test for Ludek Miklosko, and when Farrelly's free kick did elude him, David Unsworth was there to clear.

Earl Barrett had to be quick to rob Paul Kitson of West Ham's second. "If we'd scored another, we'd have won comfortably," said Redknapp.

Ferdinand, tall, strong and composed, was a massive presence. But he does occasionally lose concentration, and one lapse let in Barmby. Miklosko had to fling himself to the rescue.

The home fans vented their anger as Everton huffed and puffed in front of West Ham's defence. They wanted the ball in the Hammers' box, and substitute John Oster obliged. Ferguson finally escaped his markers, but Stuart stabbed the striker's header wide.

It was the signal for an unlikely equaliser, as Gary Speed flew in to head home Barmby's corner. For once, West Ham had failed to track a runner.

Everton were rejuvenated, using width and varying their attacks. Ferguson flicked on another long pass and this time Stuart did not miss. West Ham were shattered.

Report © Times Newspapers Ltd

Everything looking far from rosy in Kendall's garden
by David Maddock, The Times

WHY was it that Goodison Park on a rainy Saturday prompted thoughts of gardening?  Maybe it was the rose-thorn spite of Everton, or West Ham United's ephemeral sweet-pea gloom.  More likely, perhaps, was the nagging thought throughout a tortuous afternoon that even the little green acre in the pouring rain was a better place to be than this semi-cultivated excuse for entertainment.  There is grass to be cut, after all, and manure to be dug in.

I kept a count during this match of the number of times the ball was passed either directly to the opposition or into touch.  Not passed, not cleared or tackled, but the deliberate act of attempting to find a team-mate.  How many would you think in a contest where the ball was in play for only 50 minutes?

The answer is 77. That's right: seventy-seven.  I repeat it in words just to confirm that it is not a misprint.  That is how bad it was.  That is why I longed for the garden, and I hate gardening.

West Ham tried.  They dominated the first half because they were able to string a few passes together, and in Kitson, Hartson, Berkovic and Ferdinand have players who can play a bit.  But, after the break, they succumbed weakly to Everton's neanderthal tactics.

The game went like this.  Both sides gave the ball away incessantly, West Ham found some coherence and scored after 23 minutes through a Hartson free kick, turned into his own goal by Watson.

After the break, Everton abandoned route one as too complicated and went for something a little more direct. West Ham, defending far too deeply, could not cope and the home side won the game.  The goals came in the 66th and 83rd minutes, Watson arguably getting the last touch on a Speed header from a corner, and then Stuart belying a display of spectacular incompetence by converting a chance crafted in the Goodison School of Science.  Well, there was certainly physics involved as the ball was launched into orbit and flicked on by a centre half pushed forward.

If we are to be just, then Howard Kendall can hardly take the blame for this, two matches after inheriting the "Dogs of War".  He has clearly failed to shackle them so far, but already the signs are not good. What is it about Everton managers?  Joe Royle, his predecessor, constantly saw silk when it was clear to everyone else he was making a pig's ear of it.  Similarly, Kendall on Saturday.  He spoke in positive tones of a victory he passionately believed "was merited".  A bizarre choice of words given that few came out of this game with any merit at all.

Kendall declined to blame Watson for the own goal that put West Ham ahead.  "Neville Southall says he would have saved it, but if it looked liked Watson shouldn't have been in that position right in front of the 'keeper, then that's wrong.  It's something that has been practised.  Apparently, last season he saved a couple of goals by defending there at free kicks."

The equaliser also caused controversy with Watson believing he had the final touch after Speed had headed goalwards.  "Watson is claiming he got a touch, and Gary Speed reckons his header went straight in," Kendall said. "I suppose with Gary now captain, he will be claiming it."

Report © Times Newspapers Ltd

Stuart strike revives struggling Everton
Derek Potter, Electronic Telegraph

WEST HAM'S hopes of starting the season on top of the table with three straight wins disappeared in a spirited and unexpected revival by Everton.  Graham Stuart was given time and space to roll in the winning goal eight minutes from the end amid a barrage of crosses and corners by a revitalised Everton.

Everton's new captain, Gary Speed, scored an inspiring equaliser, powerfully heading in a corner by Nick Barmby in the 56th minute. It was a pleasing about-turn for Everton, beaten by Crystal Palace on the opening day of the season.

A long spell of sparring for supremacy ended abruptly and unhappily for Everton, desperately needing a win to soothe the nerves of anxious fans after that opening defeat.  A neat free-kick routine had a messy climax for Everton after 22 minutes of uneasy football by two teams that struggled long and hard to retain their Premier League status last season.

A low drive by John Hartson from 20 yards skimmed through Everton's defensive wall with the unbalanced Dave Watson sending the ball spinning past Neville Southall in a desperate attempt by the former Everton captain to clear from the line.

The goal followed a double booking by referee Peter Jones. Slaven Bilic was cautioned for a rustic tackle on his former club's new signing, Israeli international Eyal Berkovic. John Moncur followed for dissent in a game of uneven tempo with neither side finding the required measure of consistency to take command.

Rio Ferdinand, playing alongside former Everton defender David Unsworth, often showed a maturity and quality reminiscent of Bobby Moore against the beefy challenges of Duncan Ferguson.  The big Scots striker showed one early glimpse of his skills with an explosive shot wide of an upright from a tempting pass by Barmby.

Another bright link-up between Ferguson and Barmby, back in favour after starting the season on the substitutes' bench, indicated that the pair may be beginning to forge the partnership Everton need if Howard Kendall is to succeed in his team rebuilding.

Danny Williamson, who swapped clubs with Unsworth, was also cautioned in a shirt-pulling incident as Everton struggled to hold the Hammers to a single goal by half-time.  Ferdinand's tendency to hold the ball almost cost an equaliser a minute into the second half. But Ludek Miklosko clubbed Barmby's shot to safety after Ferdinand lost possession to Ferguson.

A rare glimpse of the target inspired Everton, but there was nothing cultured about a near miss in the 56th minute, when Terry Phelan hoisted a high centre which smacked against the angle of post and crossbar.

Report © The Electronic Telegraph

RESULTS (Game 3)
Sunday 24 August 1997
BARNSLEY                0-6    CHELSEA                   18,170
                     Petrescu(25) Poyet(38) Vialli(43,57,64,82) 
Saturday 23 August 1997
BLACKBURN ROVERS        1-1    LIVERPOOL                 30,187  
Dahlin(84)                     Owen(52)
COVENTRY CITY           2-2    BOLTON WANDERERS          16,633  
Telfer(8) Huckerby(20)         Blake(69,76)
EVERTON                 2-1    WEST HAM UNITED           34,356  
Speed(67) Stuart(83)           Hartson(23)
LEEDS UNITED            0-2    CRYSTAL PALACE            29,076  
                               Warhurst(22) Lombardo(51)
LEICESTER CITY          0-0    MANCHESTER UNITED         21,221  

NEWCASTLE UNITED        1-0    ASTON VILLA               36,783  
SOUTHAMPTON             1-3    ARSENAL                   15,246  
Maddison(25)                   Overmars(20) Bergkamp(58,79)
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR       1-0    DERBY COUNTY              25,886  
WIMBLEDON               1-1    SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY       11,503  
Euell(17)                      Di Canio(75)

LEAGUE TABLE (after 24 August 1997)
Club                          P    W    D    L   GF   GA   GD   Pts
Blackburn Rovers              3    2    1    0    6    1    5    7
Arsenal                       3    2    1    0    6    2    4    7
Manchester United             3    2    1    0    3    0    3    7
Leicester City                3    2    1    0    3    1    2    7
Crystal Palace                3    2    0    1    4    2    2    6
Newcastle United              2    2    0    0    3    1    2    6
West Ham United               3    2    0    1    5    4    1    6
Bolton Wanderers              2    1    1    0    3    2    1    4
Leeds United                  3    1    1    1    4    4    0    4
Coventry City                 3    1    1    1    5    6   -1    4
Chelsea                       2    1    0    1    8    3    5    3
Everton                       2    1    0    1    3    3    0    3
Tottenham Hotspur             3    1    0    2    2    4   -2    3
Barnsley                      3    1    0    2    2    8   -6    3
Wimbledon                     2    0    2    0    2    2    0    2
Liverpool                     3    0    2    1    3    4   -1    2
Sheffield Wednesday           3    0    1    2    3    6   -3    1
Derby County                  2    0    0    2    0    2   -2    0
Southampton                   3    0    0    3    1    5   -4    0
Aston Villa                   3    0    0    3    0    6   -6    0
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