Everton Logo

Everton 1 - 0 West Ham United

Half-time: 0 - 0


West Ham United Logo
FA Carling Premiership 1999-2000 – Game 8
3 pm Sunday 18 September 1999
Goodison Park, Merseyside
Att: 35,154
Oxford United (a) Ref: Steve Bennett Oxford United (h)
[1999-2000 Fixtures & Results] League Position: 7th [Premiership Results & Table]
 MATCH SUMMARY
Abel Xavier A GREAT WIN FOR EVERTON!!!!

Abel Xavier makes a very solid Goodison debut, but its Francis Jeffers who gets the vital goal that stuffs Appy Arry and his cosmopolitan Bara Boys!!! Everton defended resolutely in dire conditions, with a very wet pitch, but the tears were those of the smelly cockneys, who suffer their first defeat of the season to the Mighty Everton.

Sweet revenge for the Bilic saga, and the Unsworth saga, come to that! YES!!!

 

 MATCH FACTS
   GOALSCORERS  
EVERTON: Jeffers (64')
West Ham United:
   LINEUPS  Subs Not Used 
EVERTON: Gerrard; Dunne, Weir, Gough, Unsworth (41' Gemmill); Xavier Collins, Hutchison (38' Ball), Barmby, Campbell, Jeffers (90' Cleland).
Unavailable: Pembridge, Phelan, Watson, Myhre, Williamson, Parkinson (injured); Bilic (in limbo), Branch, Farrelly, O'Kane (transfer-listed); Grant (on loan).
Simonsen, Cadamarteri.
West Ham United: Hislop, Potts , Stimac, Keller, Sinclair, di Canio, Lomas, Wanchope, Moncur, Lampard, Margas. Kitson, Foe, Carrick, Forrest, Newton.
   Playing Strips  Formations
EVERTON: Royal Blue shirts; white shorts; blue socks. 4-4-2
West Ham United: White & black shirts; black shorts; white socks. 5-3-2
   Yellow Cards  Red Cards
EVERTON: Dunne (35'), Barmby (88').
West Ham United: Stimac (11'), di Canio (37'), Lampard (41').

 MATCH REPORTS
 REPORTS BY EVERTON FANS
Steve Bickerton Footballing jewels recovered in the rain
Paul Waring Important win bodes well
Rob Burns Smith, the master-tactician
Richard Marland So are we on the turn?
 NEWSPAPER REPORTS
ELECTRONIC TELEGRAPH West Ham run halted by Jeffers
by Mike Berry
THE INDEPENDENT Everton soar as Jeffers exploits Hislop's Fumble
by Neil Bramwell
THE TIMES Hislop's howler lets in Jeffers
by Stephen Wood
 OTHER INTERNET REPORTS
EFC NEWS SITE Link to the Echo/Daily Post Match Report

THE GUARDIAN Link to Football Unlimited Match Report
SPORTING LIFE Link to PA Sports Match Report
CARLINGNET Link to CarlingNet Match Report

 
 Footballing jewels recovered in the rain
Steve Bickerton
 
It had been so long since the last home game, it seemed as though we were starting all over again. Even the weather seemed to be in restart mode, as I can't remember the last time I had to witness a game played in such appalling conditions. Earlier in the day, I'd remarked on how fortunate we seemed to be as the wind had subsided. I'd reckoned without the deluge, which nearly necessitated a quick bit of carpentry (using that old 2 x 2) and an ark to get to the game.

At first glance the pitch looked in remarkable condition, considering the amount of water that had fallen on it. I dare say the ground-staff had even watered it earlier in the day. But as the teams warmed up it began to cut up and small mud patches appeared in the goal mouth as the goalkeepers (Simonsen, preceded by Gerrard) took the opportunity to get in some wet weather practice. On the Bullens Road side of the pitch, conditions appeared to be at their worst, with players looking as though they'd come out for a knock around at the Everton Park swimming pool rather than the stadium of Everton FC.

Such, then, was the prelude to this game. With an Everton side enjoying its best start for what seems like an age and a West Ham side enjoying an unbeaten run since it started out on the InterToto Cup trail (one hiccup against Metz aside), I was looking forward to a contest which might just show us a glimpse of the old days, with the School of Science taking on the cultured football of the Hammers.

The weather ruined all of that, of course, but there were signs....yes, there were signs, that we might just be rediscovering lost talents and hidden strengths.

First Half

The first half was rather subdued, with neither side really imposing itself on the game and the bulk of possession going to the damp turf. Balls were hit underweight, but seemed to reach targets despite the fact. Players slid around, unable to judge tackles properly, yet it seemed that the referee was going to make allowances for the conditions and let play proceed. For a short while anyway.

Then he remembered the assessor. Ah well, more dodgy refereeing, but suffice to say he wasn't particularly blinkered in his view and he favoured neither side, to the exclusion of the other. That a retrospective view, of course, because at the time he was a blind, Cockney-loving, cheat... you get the picture.

Anyway, not a lot happening and then Weir slots a beautiful ball through the 'ammers defence and sets Jeffers free down the right, haring towards the Park End. A quick look up and the youngster played a great ball back to Hutchison who blazed wide from just outside the box, with Hislop wrong footed.

Barmby with a header, a looping mis-hit from Wanchope and a Weir header all cleared the bar, without troubling the keeper. Wanchope for West Ham, forced an excellent save from Gerrard and there you have the picture of the first half. Save, of course, for the puzzling Hutchison injury (did he just slip over, or was it a challenge that caused his injury?) and the feared dislocated right shoulder for Unsworth (the immovable object collided with the unstoppable force that is Gough and came off worse!).

Ball, who took the left back role, came on for Hutchison and caused a bit of a reshuffle in midfield, with Collins slipping inside to take Hutchison's place and Unsworth moving forward to replace Barmby who moved over to the right. That didn't last long though as when Gemmill replaced Unsworth, Barmby moved back to the left hand side and Gemmill slotted in on the right.

All of this substitute activity meant that had Walter been wanting to bring off a booked player for safety, so as not to beckon a red card, his choices were severely limited and Dunne, who had been harshly punished for a sliding attempt at reaching the ball (in attack), which he succeeded in doing, had to play the whole game with the sword of Damocles hanging over his head. Such are the trials of the modern game though and in fairness he handled it well this time. Maybe he learned a lot from his treatment at Derby.

Second Half

The second half saw conditions improve, if only marginally. Both sides tried to play crisp, inventive football, but the conditions always came out on top.

Xavier saw a long range effort easily dealt with by Hislop, but at least he tried to use the tricky conditions so that the balled skipped up, just in front of Hislop. That had been the fist attempt at that tactic. We seemed to wake up then and realise that we might actually get three points out of this one.

Ball and Barmby linked up well, Ball showing that the rest, which Walter has imposed on him, seems to have rekindled his desire. He was more like the Ball of yore (makes him sound like an old man, but you know what I mean).

Barmby, as ever, was industry and artistry combined. It was his industry that lead to the goal. A charging run through the West Ham defence saw him lose control of the ball just as he reached the point where he could lift the ball over the keeper. Given the conditions his legs must have felt leaden by the time the opportunity presented itself, but it wasn't to be.

Not for Nick, anyway. The ball bounced off Hislop and fell at the feet of a surprised Jeffers. Surprised or not, he doesn't miss these and he coolly slotted the ball past Hislop. At least, that's what it should have read. He miskicked, put it where the keeper had only to fall to his left to collect it and saw the ball squirm past the desperate Hislop and into the unguarded net. They all count. 1 - 0.

Further efforts from came from Xavier (a header that should have gone in); Collins, a long range effort that saw him come forward at last; Jeffers, who squandered a couple of chances when a lay off might have brought another goal; and Barmby who again put in so much effort. The end result of that effort was his booking. An innocuous incident where the West Ham forward (or was it Lomas?) cut across the chasing Barmby and as a result caught the man in blue with his heel. Down went Lomas (?) and out came the card for Barmby. Two minutes from time!

After that came the best effort of the game. Gemmill intercepted the ball in the Everton half, looked up and saw Campbell making an onside run in the West Ham half. He floated the ball over the defence into space and, in a race with the keeper, Campbell edged the ball past the lunging Hislop. It was a terrific ball for Jeffers, who had made up ground from behind Campbell. This time he slotted the ball home with great aplomb and took the crowd's plaudits. Then the referee disallowed it for offside.

At this point I was dumbstruck. No way could it have been offside as Jeffers was behind Campbell when Campbell played the ball. But thinking on the situation, it may have been justified as the ball went forward, and at that moment, behind Campbell or not, Jeffers was in an offside position. Nah! I was right first time, it should have been allowed, it was a classically simple goal. Maybe a referee out there will explain that part of the offside rule for me and tell me I was right to applaud the Mr Bennett on his decision....or maybe not.

Anyway, Jeffers found himself substituted just before the end, replaced by Cleland and we played out two minutes of added time, added because the unstoppable force found himself receiving treatment for a knock on the head. In the end we deserved the win with a team performance that spoke of desire and skill, footballing jewels thought unrecoverable at Goodison Park.

Man of the Match: Three candidates all for different reasons:

Xavier: Cool and calm in midfield with excellent distribution. I counted one misplaced pass in the whole game. Most of those were short and to feet, first time touches. An excellent start at Goodison.

Barmby: Another industrious performance, with an assist that warranted a better goal. All round contribution was again commendable.

Gough: Its no wonder Waggy can't get a game at the moment. His reading of the game is unrivalled, his distribution excellent and his commitment undoubted. The bargain buy of bargain buys. In the end I'll give it to Gough, because, though the others were contenders, they were never able to match his heart and soul performance.


 
 Important win bodes well
Paul Waring
 
Well, it pissed it down all day, just what you want when you're playing a bunch of soft southern jessies and you've got a team full of Irn Bru-swigging Scots who are born to play in foot-deep mud. Mind you, West Ham were unbeaten and a far cry from the team we battered 6-0 last season –and weren't we due a slip-up?

Got to the ground with mixed feelings about the potential outcome – would the rain turn the match into a lottery? Would sendings-off outnumber goals? Smart money was on a close game – probably a 1-1 draw – and Di Canio and Unsworth to walk early in the second half.

Team selection – Honey Monster back at right-back, Xavier making his debut in midfield in the Dacourt role, Hutchison captain – otherwise no surprises. Ferdinand was out for West Ham, Foe on the bench, di Canio and Wanchope up front.

The pitch looked in good nick before kick-off but was severely slippy – witness Gerrard sliding about 6 yards after taking a cross in the warm-up.

First half we played some neat football at the back and just in front of the back four, but lacked penetration and linkage with the front two. Most of our shots on goal were from distance, but straight at the keeper. Passing and distribution was good throughout, especially given the conditions. Best chance fell to West Ham, Wanchope clean through following Gough/Weir both jumping for (and missing) the same ball – but extremely well saved by Gerrard.

Towards the end of the half, Hutchison and Unsworth were both substituted for injuries – Ball and Gemmill coming on in their places. (Strangely, Ball came on for Hutch, pushing Unsworth into midfield, before Gemmill came on for Unsworth right on half time, rather than Smith making straight positional swaps)

Thought we shaded the first half, without really looking like scoring. West Ham contained us well without really threatening.

Second half we were far brighter. Both Barmby and Collins got into the game more, and we began to create chances. The goal, when it came, was largely down to some good work by Nicky Barmby who ran the ball right into the area while attended by numerous bemused Hammers. Jeffers picked up the ball, turned exquisitely and pushed the ball past Hislop, who probably should have got it.

After the goal, things opened up a lot as West Ham tried to be more positive and we linked up far better up front – and should have had more. We did get the ball in the net again, Jeffers sweeping the ball home after great approach work by Campbell, but it was ruled out for offside. I was right in line and couldn't see it myself, but there you go.

Franny could have put Nick Barmby in but chose to go himself, and we went close on a couple of other occasions. West Ham threatened a bit towards the end but we held on to a well-deserved victory which by rights should have been two or three - nil. But let's not get churlish, a good win against an unbeaten team bodes well looking forwards.

Bookings: Dunne, for winning the ball fairly in his own half without touching a West Ham player; Barmby, for running alongside a West Ham player when he tripped; Di Canio, for being a narky Italian git (well deserved, this one); a few more Hammers, but no other blue ones.

Individual performances:

  • Gerrard – One great save from Wanchope in the first half, otherwise pretty steady throughout. Tommy will struggle to get back in, methinks. 7
  • Dunne – I thought Dunney had a smashing game. His tackling was first-rate, his distribution better than usual, and he got upfield pretty well too. Walter may turn him into a right-back yet! 7
  • Weir – Looks steadier the longer he plays alongside Gough, and in ahead of Watson on merit. Played simply and steadily without doing anything too clever. 7
  • Gough – What can I say about this man? He is an absolute God at the back. His positional play, his work in the air and on the ground, and above all the confidence he instills in those around him, continue to delight. His only fault is not being ten years younger. Surely he's got more than one season left? Man of the Match. 9
  • Unsworth – Another good performance from the much maligned one. Making it very difficult for Ball to get back in. Badly bruised shoulder, apparently, caused him to go off. 7
  • Hutchison – saw a lot of the ball when he was on, distribution reasonable, penetration a bit poor. Don can play better than this. Calf strain. 6
  • Xavier – very steady – calm, measured distribution – short, easy passes rather than anything spectacular. Sometimes favoured one-touch ball when he could have put his foot on the ball and looked around him. When he settles should free up Don/John to get forward more. 7
  • Collins – I really, really want John Collins to do well, but he needs to do much better than this. Tackling weak and distribution poor today. He still seems to need much more time than he'll get in the Premiership. 5
  • Barmby – relatively quiet first half, but roamed more second half and saw a lot more of the ball. Should be in the England picture again soon. 8
  • Jeffers – again, quiet first half, but got into it second half and was in the right place for the goal. Little wrong with his second (disallowed) effort either. He'll be challenging Goldenbollocks in the England set-up soon as well. Still a bit greedy, but surely that's what you need, especially with Mr Unselfish up front next to him. Went off with a couple of minutes to go for Cleland. 7
  • Campbell – Unselfish, busy, quality game from Kev today – again. Won loads, made space for everyone else, some lovely touches in the air and on the ground. Perhaps he won't score 20 this season – but he won't be far away and he'll make at least that number for Franny. 8
  • Ball – Thought he played really well when he came on, and a lot of the improvement in Barmby's game came from the interplay between him and Bally. My third-hand 'inside-track' source reckons he's had an 'exchange of views' with Walter (a la Jeffers) and been told to shut up and wait his chance. I'd be pissed off if I was Bally (especially given the dearth of good left-sided full-backs in England under the age of about 90) but again, given Rhino's form, he might have to be patient. Worth an 8 on today's performance though.
  • Gemmill – Again, I'd be pissed off in his shoes – he's never let us down, but can't seem to make the starting line-up. again did well when he came on, made good space, and should've seen more of the ball than he did. 7

Overall, a good performance that merited at least one more goal. West Ham are no mugs, but they looked second-best today. If we start doing this away from home on a regular basis, Europe is more than a possibility this year.


 
 Smith, the master-tactician
Rob Burns
 
Thought today's game was going to be a nightmare when I saw the water splashing off players' feet during the warmup.

Walter proved the master tactician as Everton set off playing neat, touch football, finding spaces and holding up the West Ham attack rather than lunging in and risking bookings. Arry's Ammers tried to carry the ball and beat men but were always dragging the ball from behind them in the wet.

Unsworth left with a dislocated shoulder (I think) after colliding with Gough – he was playing great football at the time overlapping well with Barmby and creating chances from the left. Hutchinson also left with an injury and nerves jangled following a Dunne booking.

Ball slotted in at left back with a performance that looked as if he'd never been out of the side, linking well on the left with Collins and Barmby and playing like a 30-yr-old international in defence.

Gemmill played a brilliant game in centre midfield as Hutch's replacement, covering Dunne's forward runs and supporting him when Di Canio attacked from the West Ham left.

Jeffers was on fire – Owen can pack his England bags coz Franny's got more dimensions to his game than any of the strikers in the so called top ten that Sky are touting as likely top scorers – passing, defending his own penalty area, turning and running off the ball – and telepathy with KC.

Xavier looked up for the match and picked up the second ball in a 'sweeper' type role. He also looked for the simple but not obvious ball, choosing to pass to the flanks ahead of players rather than Hutchinsonesque side balls to the nearest man.

But man of the day had to be Richard Dunne, who answered his critics (including me) with a tireless performance at right back, coping easily with Di canio, making forward runs, beating men, overlapping with first Hutchinson and later Gemmill. Some decent crosses as well as cheeky inside passes to find Jeffers, Campbell and the roving Barmby. A booking for showing studs in a sliding challenge was probably harsh.

The whole team played sensibly, showed class and cool heads on a day when a mistake on a slippery surface could have cost the game. On a decent day we'd have wiped West Ham off the park with football. Is this the first real challenge at Goodison since Scum Utd.? Surely now we start going into games with a chance.......


 
 So are we on the turn?
Richard Marland
 
A position in the top half of the table certainly gave us hope that we are, but the devils advocate in us were quick to point out that we had only beaten three struggling teams. Today was surely a stiffer test, West Ham were going extremely well, unbeaten this season and in the upper reaches of the table. Forget last seasons freak result against them, this was going to be a real test.

As widely anticipated, Abel Xavier made his home debut, he was partnered in the centre by John Collins with Barmby on the left and Hutchison on the right. In defence Walter went back to his favoured quartet of Dunne, Weir, Gough and Unsworth. Campbell and Jeffers were up front and the bench comprised Simonsen, Cleland, Ball, Gemmill and Cadamarteri.

The weather conditions, particularly in the first half, were atrocious. It had rained all morning on Merseyside, it continued to rain throughout the first half, on several occasions reaching the torrential. The pitch was, at times, close to being waterlogged. This naturally had a big bearing on the football being played, despite this though we passed the ball around well. We looked composed at the back and played the ball out of defence as well as we have done for some time. Xavier showed himself well, always making himself available and always finding his man when he had the ball.

Most of the first half was neat and tidy stuff from both sides without either hitting the heights or looking like they were going to take the game over. Hutchison spurned an excellent chance for us after being put in following some good approach play, and Wanchope missed an even better one for them when he was put clean through following a horrible mix up between Gough and Weir.

As well as the weather and organised opposition we also had to contend with an enforced reshuffle. Firstly Don Hutchison picked up a knock on the ankle and was replaced by Michael Ball. Next to go was Unsworth who had injured his shoulder in a thumping collision with Richard Gough (just how hard is Gough? Unsie doesn't usually come off worse), he was replaced by Gemmill. The end result of all this was Gemmill playing in Don's position on the right of midfield and Bally slotting into left back. We wobbled a bit with the reshuffle but once we got ourselves sorted out we continued as if nothing had happened.

Half time arrived with the scoreline still blank. We'd probably had the edge in terms of possession and territorial advantage but it was fairly marginal, the feeling I got was of two decent, well organised sides cancelling each other out.

The second half didn't bring much change to the overall pattern. Both teams had their moments without really putting the opposition goal under serious threat. It started to look like a nil-nil. I was even beginning to think that that would be an OK, and even relatively creditable, result. Fortunately, though, better was to come. Barmby went on a run into the heart of the West Ham defence he made it into the box where Jeffers took over, he shot first time straight at the 'keeper – it should have been bread and butter to him but he allowed it to slip through his fingers and into the back of the net. Not one of Franny's better ones but he showed again his knack of being in the right place when it matters.

With our defence looking pretty resolute it looked like that could be enough. Encouragingly we didn't sit back on our lead, we continued to look for a second, but West Ham didn't seem unduly fazed by going behind. They continued to keep their shape and press forward, there was to be no repeat of last season's capitulation. They didn't actually manage to produce too many scares, their attacking efforts didn't produce anything more than a number of corners, and these we dealt with without too much drama.

Our continuing attacking prowess, and our improving ability on the break was then shown in the goal that never was. A quick break out, Campbell was put through, he could have gone on himself with only the 'keeper to beat but saw Jeffers to his left with an open goal, unselfishly he passed to Jeffers who found the back of the net only to find he had very harshly been ruled offside.

That was it apart from the usual laughable petulance from Di Canio, a few speculative strikes from Jeffers, and another harsh booking, this time for Barmby.

All in all this was a very satisfactory result, and in it's own way was more impressive than the wins against Wimbledon and Southampton. We coped admirably with organised opposition, a dodgy pitch, and an enforced reshuffle, any of which could have knocked us out of our stride. It didn't and that I see as tangible evidence of our continuing improvement under Walter Smith.

Ratings

  • Gerrard 6 A few wobbles but largely assured and did very well in the one on one against Wanchope.
  • Dunne 7 Very good indeed, and that's a wonderful testament to his temperament. He's had a bad few weeks – a sending off and some less than convincing form for us, a sending off and a high profile mistake for the Irish under-21's. To come back from that and play like he did today is very encouraging. He defended really well and this in spite of a treacherous pitch and a mystifying booking (he won the ball for God's sake). He also had Di Canio sat on him for most of the second half and he did not let him have much. In addition to sound defensive work he also passed well and got forward to good effect. I like him, I think he's got what it takes.
  • Unsworth 6 Had played well up to his substitution, certainly he was continuing his recent good form.
  • Gough 8 Outstanding once again. His reading of the game and the leadership he provides are priceless commodities.
  • Weir 7 Getting better and better. I was particularly pleased to see the way he was prepared to step out of defense with the ball at his feet, it didn't always come off but it was good to see, he knows what to do with the ball.
  • Hutchison 6 Fairly peripheral before his substitution.
  • Collins 7 Was his second half performance his best in a blue shirt? Hard working throughout.
  • Xavier 7 Looks like Walter has unearthed another gem. Excellent first touch and always found his man, very impressive.
  • Barmby 7 Didn't always work out for him today but he kept going as he always does and was rewarded with a part in the winner.
  • Campbell 7 Don't let the fact that he isn't scoring with the same regularity as last season lead you to believe that he isn't doing the job for us. His all round play and overall contribution continues to be excellent. This was one of his quieter days but there was still much to admire in his play.
  • Jeffers 7 Got a slightly fortuitous goal but that's what goal scorers do, isn't it? Lots of good work mixed with some frustrating stuff. Had a tendency to go for glory even when colleagues were better placed. Was amusing to watch Walter's reaction to him in the second half, just before he was subbed he gave the ball away very cheaply in midfield – Walter went ballistic, don't know whether that prompted him to take Franny off or whether he was coming off anyway.
  • Ball 6 Played his part; can't recall much getting past him.
  • Gemmill 6 Never lets us down – another industrious, intelligent performance.
  • Cleland – came on in the 90th minute and barely touched the ball.

Team 7 Everyone played their part even if, collectively, we didn't hit the heights. All round an accomplished performance.

Man of the Match – Only one real contender – Richard Gough.


 
 West Ham run halted by Jeffers
Mike Berry, Electronic Telegraph
 
THE precocious talent of Francis Jeffers added further weight to Everton's Goodison Park resurrection. In becoming the first team to lower West Ham's Premiership colours this season, Everton made it three successive home wins, and Jeffers has scored in all of them.

Last season Everton could not hit a barn door from a couple of feet. This season only Manchester United and now Newcastle have netted more Premiership goals on home territory, though after blitzing both Southampton and Wimbledon in their previous games, this victory was achieved with the softest of goals.

Nick Barmby's menacing run gave Jeffers the freedom to turn, and a weak slot slithered under Shaka Hislop's dive.

Harry Redknapp, the West Ham manager, revealed afterwards that Hislop, who was clearly at fault, was playing with a thigh strain. "Shaka has been absolutely terrific for us, so he can be forgiven one or two mistakes a year. It was a soft goal, sure, and it is unusual for our 'keeper to do something like that in the form he has been in."

For Everton, though, it was a case of never mind the quality, feel the width. They are now seventh in the table; Liverpool are five places lower in 12th.

Jeffers appeared to have added a second when he accepted an open goal two minutes from time, but he had strayed offside, an issue he argued vehemently with referee Steve Bennett.

It meant Everton had to endure an anxious finish, and Redknapp said: "I felt there was something to be had from the game. It looked a banker 0-0 and I couldn't see Everton scoring."

This was always going to be an acid test for West Ham's unbeaten start. They had lost 11 of their previous 12 games at Goodison, the last of which was a 6-0 thumping at the back end of last season. It was a day when their artistry took second place to their ability to graft. Everton, with the relaxed presence of Portuguese midfielder Abel Xavier adding some steel in midfield, always had the upper hand.

The first half, played in incessant rain and with an accumulation of surface water, was poor. It was tailor-made for defensive uncertainty, yet the two rearguard coped commendably.

Don Hutchison, who failed to last the first half because of a calf strain, will have nightmares over the 20th-minute finish that he dragged wide with only Hislop to beat. West Ham's wastefulness was equally glaring when Paulo Wanchope, eluding the Everton defence, had his low shot kept out by Paul Gerrard.

Report The Electronic Telegraph

 
 Everton soar as Jeffers exploits Hislop's Fumble
by Neil Bramwell, The Independent
 
EVERTON ARE approaching heady territory as another workmanlike victory found Walter Smith's side entrenched in the rarified atmosphere of the top reaches of the table.

A dreadful goal-keeping error by Shaka Hislop gift-wrapped the three points, but Everton showed enough against an out-of-sorts West Ham to indicate that their elevated status could be sustained.

Francis Jeffers was the man to benefit from Hislop's slip, when the teenager's innocuous shot squirmed through the grasp of the goalkeeper, who was playing with a thigh strain. And Jeffers could have put the victory beyond doubt had he not needlessly strayed offside in the dying minutes before finishing a swift Everton break.

The goal released the shackles of caution that had, until that point, held Everton back. With West Ham largely dominant throughout and League debutant Abel Xavier enjoying a competent and unflustered midfield role, Hislop remained redundant for long periods.

But after the goal, and for the final quarter of the game, Everton were then able to push West Ham on to the back foot, mainly through the kind of forceful running from Nicky Barmby that set up the score.

When his route to goal was blocked, Jeffers took over and, as a crack appeared in the massed ranks of the visitors' defence, he did not hesitate to chance his arm.

"These are giddy heights," smiled Smith. "We have beaten teams that are expected to be around the same area as Everton, but West Ham would have looked at being a top six finisher this season, so I'm really pleased we got that win. I didn't think it was the best we have played, but the conditions were awkward," he added.

The West Ham manager, Harry Redknapp, attempted to remain calm. "Shaka has been fantastic and that was most unusual. He's entitled to the odd mistake once or twice a season. It had looked a banker 0-0 to me."

Both sides took time to adapt to a pitch drenched by persistent rain which contributed to a first half riddled with errors. The worst, when Everton defender David Weir misjudged the bounce of a clearance, allowed Paulo Wanchope in for the best opportunity, but Paul Gerrard used the conditions to his advantage, sliding out to smother the stretching attempt.

Smith was twice forced to re-shuffle his midfield when both David Unsworth and Don Hutchison were substituted with shoulder and calf injuries. Neither are expected to play against Oxford on Wednesday.

Report The Independent

 
 Hislop's howler lets in Jeffers
by Stephen Wood, The Times
 
MARTIN O'NEILL should have been so lucky. The Leicester City manager has commanded public sympathy for the absurd boardroom machinations that have beset Filbert Street: how, during his lowest moments, he must have yearned to be in charge of Everton. Yesterday, their third successive home victory lifted them into seventh in the FA Carling Premiership, their highest position for nearly three years.

The services of O'Neill were courted by Peter Johnson, the former Everton chairman, in the summer of 1998, when the Goodison Park club was searching for a successor (again) to Howard Kendall. O'Neill declined, Johnson resigned, and Walter Smith, who braved the chaos, is now commanding our admiration.

The irony is that O'Neill might have resigned a few times over, given the state of Everton's off-field problems. They are still coping with debt, limited playing resources and a vanquished owner whose brinkmanship threatens their long-term wellbeing.So intense has it been, in fact, that Smith has come close to throwing in the towel.

In ending West Ham United's six-match unbeaten run, Everton were never glorious, and they had Shaka Hislop, in the visitors' goal, to thank. But, having scored nine goals at home before yesterday, and having enjoyed their first away win of the season last weekend, the confidence that Smith finally has managed to imbue was clear.

The pressure had been building on West Ham before Francis Jeffers scored midway through the second half. Campbell had come to life, while Jeffers and Barmby had seen shots saved. Barmby instigated the breakthrough, his run putting West Ham on their heels before the ball fell to Jeffers. The 18-year-old striker's low shot squirmed through the hands of Hislop.

The goalkeeper lay prostrate for 30 seconds in embarrassment, though it emerged that he had a thigh strain. Harry Redknapp, the West Ham manager, said: "Shaka has been brilliant, so he's entitled to one mistake."

Perhaps West Ham's exertions in the Uefa Cup caught up with them. In a first half ruined by atrocious weather, Wanchope had the best chance of the match but Gerrard, the Everton goalkeeper, thwarted him in a one-on-one situation. "We weren't great, but I never thought that we wouldn't get anything from the game," Redknapp said.

Jeffers should have made the game safe in the final moments but strayed offside and his effort was disallowed. Though Smith was hopping mad, he said: "West Ham are going to be a top-six side, so it was a very satisfying result."

Report Times Newspapers Ltd

 
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