Football: Cottee's hot toddy warms Everton

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West Ham United. .0

Everton. . . . . .1

Cottee 72

Attendance: 20,243

TONY COTTEE left West Ham for Everton six years ago as one of the most prolific strikers in English football. Having never found the same sort of form since, he was back at Upton Park yesterday to score one of the most vital goals of his career and keep alive his side's hopes of remaining in the Premiership. At the same time he sent a ripple of concern through the ranks of his old club, who are still looking for the win which should ensure their safety.

Cottee's strike, 18 minutes from time, was a superb one. But the result was a travesty. West Ham had the chances to win by six or seven goals, while Everton laboured in midfield, dithered at the back, and generally showed not the slightest sign that the Mike Walker who manages them is the same man who brought such fluency to Norwich City. It is as if Walker has moved house but still cannot work out how to get the furniture through the front door.

West Ham created openings almost at will. The trouble was that they nearly all fell to the inexperienced Steve Jones, whose selection ahead of Lee Chapman looked, in retrospect, like an unwise decision. If Jones had come off the pitch with a double hat-trick to his name, Everton could not have complained.

It was not all Jones's fault. He was unlucky to come up against Neville Southall, a goalkeeper whose flaws may increase with age but who remains the master of the one-on- one situation. He had to deal with two when Jones was sent clear - first, in the 29th minute, sticking out a timely hand as Jones tried to dribble round him, and then, midway through the second half, parrying to safety Jones's shot.

As long as Everton were going nowhere, as they did for most of the match, West Ham's profligacy did not seem to matter. A rather lifeless atmosphere told its own story.

Eventually Everton started to put together one or two meaningful moves, and even more importantly, Cottee found his scoring touch of old. Graham Stuart was the provider, his cross from the right finding Cottee in just enough space for him to pivot, turn, and drill a precise shot a foot or so inside the far post. Almost immediately, Trevor Morley struck an upright for West Ham. That was the moment when we knew it was not to be their day.

For Walker, the result more than compensated for the performance. But Everton have some work to do yet, and they will be very lucky to pick up points again if they continue to play as indifferently as this.