Football: East End academy stays true to tradition

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The Independent Online
Everton 2 West Ham United 1

God was probably peeping round the sun's eclipse and smiling to himself. He had sorted out the Tower of Babel with the gift of languages, so West Ham is not going to prove much of a problem. Then again, they hardly ever have been.

So many nations, so many tongues and all of them were looking for one word. From English to Croatian, Portuguese to Romanian, the colloquial version of "gutted" was being muttered in the visitors' dressing-room.

The Hammers were, like they have been for two decades, smooth as silk, but possessing the same edge as that expression implies. Indeed it is a remarkable achievement that Harry Redknapp has scoured Europe for players and ended up with a team that plays in the age old manner.

Seven countries were represented by the 13 players Redknapp put out on the pitch, but they play like East End academy graduates. Alan Devonshire, you feel, could slip into this team and barely notice the time difference. The result would probably be familiar too.

West Ham were superior but pointless, thanks to Neville Southall's goalkeeping, poor finishing and a mind-boggling refereeing decision. "To come away from here is very disappointing," Redknapp said, the expression on his face making the words superfluous.

"I couldn't fault him," Joe Royle, Redknapp's Everton counterpart, conceded. "We've played better this season and lost. The consolation is three points."

Which is at least two more than they would have got but for Southall, who recalled his heroics for Wales against the Netherlands with a glorious tip-over from Iain Dowie's volley and sharp drop to the floor to stop Julian Dicks' header.

Yet if the veteran goalkeeper frustrated West Ham, the referee's decision after eight minutes infuriated them. Later, Mr Barber awarded a penalty when Hugo Porfirio was brought down by Andy Hinchcliffe but the foul was scarcely less obvious when Craig Short upended the Portuguese striker earlier.

Both managers agreed it should have been a penalty and both subscribed to the view that Porfirio's trickery will have defenders throughout the premiership mistiming their tackles. "He's a special talent," Redknapp said. "He's on loan but it's signed and sealed. There's no way we're letting him go."

He probably also feels the same about Dicks, whose form and control of temperament make him worthy of Glenn Hoddle's attention, and it was pertinent that the West Ham captain was off the pitch being treated for an injury when Everton opened the scoring, Graham Stuart tapping in Hinchcliffe's cross.

There was an element of absence, too, about Everton's second goal, but the missing factor here was Ludek Miklosko's spring because the Czech keeper seemed woefully slow to get down to Gary Speed's shot that skidded under his outstretched hands.

"It's not as if we look like a struggling outfit," Redknapp moaned. "We're not far away from being a very good side." West Ham always are.

Goals: Stuart (13) 1-0; Speed (77) 2-0; Dicks (pen, 85) 2-1.

Everton (4-4-2): Southall; Barrett, Short, Unsworth, Hinchcliffe; Kanchelskis, Ebbrell (Hottiger, h-t), Parkinson (Grant, 14), Speed; Branch, Stuart. Substitutes not used: Limpar, Jackson, Gerrard (gk).

West Ham United (3-5-2): Miklosko; Potts (Raducioiu, 69), Bilic, Dicks; Bowen, Hughes, Bishop (Dumitrescu, 86), Moncur, Rowland; Dowie, Porfirio. Substitutes not used: Mautone (gk), Breacker, Lampard.

Bookings: Everton: Ebbrell, Branch. West Ham: Rowland, Bishop.

Referee: G Barber (Surrey).

Man of the match: Porfirio.

Attendance: 36,571.

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