Football: Football: Sinclair atones in spectacular style

West Ham United 2 Everton 1 Keller 19, Sinclair 75 Cadamarteri 71 Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 25,998
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The Independent Online
TREVOR SINCLAIR is making a habit of spectacular rescue operations for West Ham. Three weeks ago his two goals thwarted Tottenham and sent his team to the dizzy heights of second in the Premiership. Yesterday another timely intervention, with a diving header, was enough to snuff out Everton's second-half revival and end their unbeaten run of four matches.

Sinclair's winner, a quarter of an hour from the end, was just about what West Ham deserved after a lively first half and a spirited finish, sandwiched between Everton's belated spell of self-belief. It also snapped them out of a run of two defeats, so was doubly timely. With Everton's options decimated by flu, injuries and suspensions and West Ham also down to the bare bones - albeit welcoming back Julian Dicks - there may have been a slight shortfall in the talent department, but the rivalry between the clubs ensured there would be no lack of commitment.

The keenness was exacerbated by the fact that three of the Everton team - Don Hutchison, David Unsworth and Slaven Bilic - were former Hammers and were assured of a warm welcome, especially Bilic. The only time the Croatian earned a cheer was when he became the first of the seven bookings issued by the referee Rob Harris. Though a couple of these decisions verged on the fussy, they were perhaps in the end merited since the cauldron never quite boiled over, despite the spirited efforts of Ian Wright and Dicks for West Ham and Bilic and Mitch Ward for Everton.

John Hartson caught the eye early on with his ability to hold the ball and defend possession against all comers. One space-earning move gave him time for a cross which Wright headed over. The closest West Ham came to an early goal was the Steve Lomas shot from outside the penalty area to which Dicks applied a deliberate deflection, taking the ball a foot wide of the upright.

Any agonising was brief as West Ham went in front after 19 minutes with an outrageous fluke goal. Marc Keller got away down the left and aimed a deep cross. Thomas Myhre moved to his near post in readiness to deal with any shortfall, only to watch helplessly as the ball floated over his head and into the far side of the net.

With Eyal Berkovic oozing quality in midfield there could have been more before half-time. "We played some excellent football at that stage, popping it around brilliant," said the West Ham manager, Harry Redknapp. "But in the end I was pleased we got through."

The reason for that was Everton's decision to come out and show what they were capable of after the break. Danny Cadamarteri had earlier looked the only player likely to earn them anything, but as Olivier Dacourt and Hutchison began to venture forward with the ball they had West Ham in trouble.

The turning point for Everton came with the arrival of Nick Barmby from the substitutes' bench in the 64th minute. Shaka Hislop, previously unemployed, was suddenly very busy indeed. Only just before Barmby's arrival Hislop had made his first save of the match, a full-length dive to his left to deny Dacourt's 30-yard effort.

Then Barmby slid an inviting ball through to Cadamarteri, whose shot was bravely blocked by Hislop. As West Ham tried to get the ball clear Sinclair was guilty of giving away possession, Barmby found space on the left and got to the byline for a cross which this time was volleyed home joyously by Cadamarteri.

"I was hoping we would be able to consolidate for a little while after the equaliser," said the Everton manager, Walter Smith. It was not to be. Keller, a French free-transfer import during the summer, found operating space on the left four minutes later and his waist-high cross was met with Sinclair's diving header, the bounce totally deceiving Myhre.

"Trevor's done well for us since he has been here," said Redknapp, "but today he ... gave their goal away and then bounced back to get the winner, good for him."

The rest of the match was gripping end-to-end stuff as Everton went flat out for a second equaliser and West Ham tried to snatch another goal on the break. The closest they came was a long run by Berkovic and a shot turned away for a corner by Myhre.

Sinclair was not Redknapp's choice for man of the match, though, that accolade went to Rio Ferdinand. "He was outstanding. For a 19-year-old he's so good it's frightening. You have to build a team around people like him."