Saturday, 1st March 2014
On the day, I think we earned a point, but Everton deserved their win, contradictory as that may sound. Adrian was well-protected by a stubborn defense and hard-working midfield. So much so that he hardly had anything to do. In the end, though, that wasn't quite enough and, probably, that was rightly so, however little I like to admit it.
We once again played Sam's favourite style of stifling football. The problem with that is that we concede so much possession. On 15 minutes, Everton had 85%; at half-time, 75%; by the end of the game it was still 69%. Yet again, we conceded so many shots; 22, if only 3 on target. Sam likes his stats; maybe he should take a look at those - if you keep conceding goal attempts, you're asking to concede goals.
You only have to go to sleep for 5 seconds and you're chasing the game. That's exactly what we did on 81 minutes. That beast again, Lukaku (I wish we could get him alongside AC!), thwack, game gone. Nice finish.
We were fortunate to still be level at that point. We'd restricted the opposition to little real threat, but they put us on the back foot at the start of the second half, and we were definitely lucky when Pienaar only hit the post after scarcely a minute.
After that, we started to create some real threat, albeit with insufficient possession. Inevitably, it mostly revolved around Big Andy. Surprising as it was to see him start on the bench, it was even more so to see CC being pulled off after only 28 minutes.
Granted Carlton had been struggling to hold the ball up properly, but it reflects more on Sam's team selection than on Carlton's performance that he felt a substitution that early was necessary. Andy did do better off of little real service, but Carlton had already, by then, created our best chance of the game.
I'm not a ref-basher, as any regular reader will know, but Jon Moss made a few rickets, if not Hackett's, today. The most glaring of those was not giving a foul against Barry on 18 minutes. Great flick on from Cole, Nolan pulled down quite blatantly.
In defence of the referee? The only thing I can think of is that he was trying to let the game be a little bit physical, to let it flow. Within the previous couple of minutes he'd ignored an incident where he could have given an Everton free kick, and another where he could have given one to us.
When all is said and done, though, he was wrong. He was wrong several times in the game, particularly on that Nolan incident and in booking Tomkins for a perfect tackle. Some of the time, he was wrong in our favour too. Not his best ever game but, as I'm not one of those who expects the referee to be perfect every match (any match, frankly), I can sigh resignedly and hope he does better next time we get him.
A word of praise to one of the linesmen though. On 41 minutes Baines blatantly obstructed I forget who. He protested but, quite clearly, the lino who flagged it said words to effect of "Oh yes you bloody well did!". They're not all bad, and they do the best they can. It's as much as you can expect, despite the fact that so many fans demand more of them than that.
I'm assuming that it's not merely heresy, but simply not allowed, to award Man of the Match to one of the opposition. Despite that, I'm tempted to give it to Deulofeu, who was a thorn in our side for 70 minutes. It was something of a relief when he came off.
That he doesn't get it, well, that will be explained shortly. My second choice would be to give it to our defence en masse. At various points, each of the back four were finger-in-the-dyke, last-man-standing, strike-heroic-pose, the reason why... Adrian had practically sod all to do.
But, by the couple of fag papers that Jarvis was offside by when equalising last week, I think Linda earned it. Deulofeu was a threat every time he got the ball. In particular there was one mazy run just before half-time, partly because no-one would put a challenge in on him. Delo screwed his shot just wide.
Every time he went up against George, though, he got no change out of him (or so memory says). For that reason alone, I think McCartney just about edges both Delo and the rest of the defence.
In the end, the backs to the wall effort wasn't quite enough, and a couple of seconds of slack marking gave Lukaku time and space to fire the goal the Everton deserved. On 89 minutes, Baines was rightly booked for what amounted to a professional foul on Carroll. Downing's wasted free-kick pretty much summed up our attacking endeavours on the day, and that was our last chance to take anything from the game.
The unbeaten run was always going to end, and Goodison always seemed a likely venue where it might. Everton have been a very good side over the last few years, so it can hardly be classed as a major disappointment. In fact, the performance, rather better than against Norwich and Southampton, was something of a plus.
The major problem, though, remains the amount of possession and the number of chances conceded. It's a perennial feature of the style of play that our manager imposes on our club. I don't see a solution in the offing any time soon!
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Aside from two regulation saves & one awkward ground level cross, had very little to do. No chance with the goal.
Showed what a reliable defender he is yet again. Stood up well a couple of times when he might have dived in.
By the afore-mentioned couple of fag papers, Man of the Match. Kept the dangerous Deulofeu in check well every time he faced him.
Dodgy dead balls aside, defended well, getting head or boot in whenever required.
A couple of great challenges in an entirely solid display. Wrongly booked for a good tackle just inside the Toffee's half.
Surprisingly anonymous performance. It's not that he didn't work; he did; but nothing that he did seemed to amount to very much!
Worked hard in attack & defence, but didn't create much going forwards.
The pick of the midfield. Tremendous work rate yet again, valiantly threw himself in the way of things as per usual, particularly on one shot on 34 minutes.
Much like Jarvis, worked hard going both ways, but had slightly more opportunity to influence things forwards. Put in a couple of really good balls, but also a couple of bloody awful ones.
Made the best he could of the fragments he had going forwards & put the effort in in retreat. Should have earned a free kick on 18 minutes when Cole put him through; still don't know how that wasn't awarded!
Surprisingly started, even more surprisingly subbed on only 28 minutes. Didn't look happy & I don't blame him. Had a pretty average (for him) game; a few poor touches, but also created our best chance.
Did his best, showed some nice touches, defended well too. Ultimately, had too little decent ball to influence things going forwards. Sixty minutes of "fitness training" should stand him in good stead though!
Didn't change the game at all. In other words, worked had for 25 minutes, but created little.
Came on near the end for Demel, who apparently had had tonsilitis during the week. Made a couple of good challenges.
Referee: Jonathan Moss.
Man of the Match: George McCartney.
West Ham United
Adrian, Guy Demel, George McCartney, James Collins, James Tomkins, Mark Noble, Matt Jarvis, Matt Taylor, Stewart Downing, Kevin Nolan, Carlton Cole.
Booked: James Tomkins (30) .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Tim Howard, Seamus Coleman, John Stones, Sylvain Distin, Leighton Baines, James McCarthy, Gareth Barry, Gerard Deulofeu, Leon Osman, Steven Pienaar, Steven Naismith.
Substitutes: Romelu Lukaku (Leon Osman 59), Aiden McGeady (Gerard Deulofeu 73), Ross Barkley (Steven Naismith 85).
Subs not used: Joel, Tony Hibbert, Kevin Mirallas, Tyias Browning.
Goals: Romalu Lukaku (81).
Booked: Leighton Baines (90).
Sent Off: None sent off..