Hard-working Hammers earn another precious point
West Ham made it three games without defeat after a battling draw with Everton at Upton Park
West Ham United 1 Everton 1
The hard-working Hammers extended their unbeaten run to three games with a dogged draw against Everton at Upton Park, where Avram Grant’s men moved to within just two points of safety writes STEVE BLOWERS
Tony Hibbert’s fortuitous own-goal may have given the East Enders the lead but there was certainly nothing lucky about this purposeful performance that could have yielded a win but for Seamus Coleman’s 42nd-minute equaliser.
Despite the valuable victory at Fulham on Boxing Day that had lifted the Hammers off bottom spot, Grant still made quartet of changes as Herita Ilunga, Julien Faubert, Victor Obinna and Luis Boa Morte came in for Danny Gabbidon, Tal Ben Haim and substitutes Carlton Cole and Junior Stanislas.
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Although 14th-placed Everton had seen their festive fixture against Birmingham City frozen off, they had warmed up for Christmas with a win over Manchester City eight days earlier.
And following their Eastlands endeavours, the Toffees made a trio of switches changes as Mikel Arteta, Hibbert and Steven Pienaar were recalled in place of Phil Jagielka, Leon Osman and the suspended Victor Anichebe.
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With just a quarter-of-an-hour on the clock, the hapless Hibbert must have been wishing that he had stayed back home on Merseyside, for after needlessly conceding the Hammers first corner of the evening, the defender then inadvertently gave the Hammers the lead, after Everton failed to clear Scott Parker’s consequent flag kick.
The home fans amongst the crowd of 33,422 were left wondering why the mercurial midfielder does not take the corners more often, when he floated a textbook centre on to the forehead of James Tomkins, who saw his point-blank header beaten down by Tim Howard and hooked away by Sylvain Distain.
But when Radoslav Kovac cleverly sent an overhead kick back into the danger zone, the red-faced Hibbert stuck out a flailing foot and deflected the ball beyond Howard.
Buoyed by that opener, the Hammers quickly went in search of a second and Obinna skipped past Arteta before almost uprooting a stanchion with an angled screamer, while the subsequently penalised Frederic Piquionne then found himself bizarrely tussling with Howard by the corner flag as the Everton ‘keeper desperately tried to thwart another break,
The orange-booted Obinna also floated a fine free-kick onto the head of Matthew Upson, who nodded just inches over the top and, although Sylvain Distin fired across the face of goal and then high and wide, West Ham were well and truly in the ascendancy against an increasing physical Everton outfit, who were testing World Cup final referee, Howard Webb, to the limit.
Ten minutes before the break, Ilunga pulled up awkwardly and although his replacement Jonathan Spector wasted no time charging down a Phil Neville scorcher, the American substitute was found wanting just before the break.
With just three minutes of the first-half remaining, Arteta burst from halfway before playing the supporting Tim Cahill, whose searching left-wing centre fell to the unmarked Coleman at the far post and he comfortably sent a side-footed volley beyond the unprotected Robert Green.
The Everton youngster’s third goal of the season had certainly come against the run of play and Man-of-the-Match, Parker then embarked upon a rampant run that climaxed with him depositing the ball onto the roof of Howard’s net in a defiant demonstration that the Hammers had not had the Christmas stuffing knocked out of them by that leveller.
Ten minutes after the restart, Piquionne hobbled away to be replaced by Sunday’s two-goal hero, Carlton Cole and then Moyes introduced Yakubu at the expense of Jack Rodwell.
And after Kovac was booked for felling Pienaar, the Hammers produced the move of the night, when Obinna sent Freddie Sears galloping free down the right but when the 21-year-old sent an equally perfect pass across the feet of both Distin and Hibbert, Cole wastefully sent his low, angled eight-yarder back beyond the far post.
Second half chances were certainly at a premium and Cahill would have been equally frustrated with the weak effort he sent towards the well-placed Green with just ten minutes remaining, while Marouane Fellaini was left running his hands through his long, frizzy locks after the Hammers keeper beat out his header to guarantee a hard-fought, well-earned point for Grant’s men.
HAMMERS: Green, Faubert, Ilunga (Spector 33), Upson, Tomkins, Sears, Boa Morte, Parker, Kovac, Piquionne (Cole 55), Obinna (Hines 85). Unused subs: Boffin, Reid, Barrera, Stanislas.
EVERTON: Howard. Neville, Baines, Hibbert, Distin, Coleman, Rodwell (Yakubu 61), Fellaini, Arteta (Bilyaletdinov 90), Pienaar (Beckford 89), Cahill. Unused: Mucha, Saha, Duffy, Baxter.