Football: Redknapp rages at throw-away Hammers

Everton 2 West Ham United 1
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The Independent Online
GUY HODGSON

Everton 2 West Ham United 1

The well-worn definition that equates victories from poor performances to good teams leaves a problem: how do you define the opposite? Bad? Infuriating? Harry Redknapp looked like a man who had undertaken a thorough search for the right adjectives none of which was as polite.

Ruddy-cheeked with frustration, the West Ham manager had a composure about him that would have been familiar to those who have enjoyed the calm that follows a raging storm. What the devastation was like downstairs in the visitors' dressing-room was unknown, but you suspect the Goodison handyman will have no need for paint-stripper.

"A few strong words were said," Rio Ferdinand, one of the first survivors to emerge from the wreckage confirmed.

"There were three points there for the taking," Redknapp said, the sentences struggling wearily and painfully from his mouth. "I said at half-time the one thing we musn't do is drop deeper and deeper because they will keep firing the ball at Duncan Ferguson and we'll be in trouble."

Tell footballers to do one thing and they will promptly do the opposite and West Ham, bright and dangerous before half-time, became circumspect and edgy after it, retreating into the stockade. Everton, who had been absolutely wretched, slipped away with the booty as surprised as the rest of us at their success.

Howard Kendall had the front to come into the press room and say "I thought we deserved it," but you suspect he is still giggling at his gall, because his team could have lost by a two-goal margin and hardly have raged at the injustice of it all. They got away with it on Saturday and the Everton manager is too good at his job not to know it.

To describe them as disappointing before half-time would be an understatement. The four midfield players all assumed a central position which surrendered the flanks to the opposition and reduced the long hoof up to Ferguson to the height of tactical imagination. West Ham looked like a team two steps up the evolutionary process by comparison to the Neanderthals opposite.

Steve Lomas and John Moncur intelligently utilised the empty acres and if Marc Reiper and Paul Kitson had taken chances created from John Hartson's huge leaps, the Hammers would have gone in at half-time with a scoreline that better reflected the play. Instead all they had got for their dominance was an own goal from Dave Watson who slid a low free-kick from Hartson past Neville Southall after 22 minutes.

That free-kick had been conceded by the former Hammer Slaven Bilic, who had spent 45 minutes charging round trying too hard to ram the taunts of his erstwhile supporters back from where they came. A quiet word from Kendall settled the Croat, however, and once he had also reminded his team that the wings are not just things that planes use, the tone of the match changed.

It was an indication of how bad things had been that when Everton got a corner in the 67th minute, it was their first, but Nick Barmby made the most of the limited opportunity, floating over a cross that was headed first by Gary Speed and then past Ludek Miklosko by the atoning Watson.

Then Bilic got his chance to silence the "Judas" chants, locating Ferguson's head with a long pass from the left which was flicked on to Graham Stuart. The small striker had barely touched the ball all afternoon and he got rid of it pretty smartly this time, too, turning sharply before finding the corner of the net.

Suddenly, West Ham's bright start had been overtaken by memories of struggles past. "We took our foot off the pedal and were punished," Ferdinand, who confirmed his rich promise, said. "We can't afford to do that too many times or we'll be involved in a dog-fight again."

If Redknapp does not get them first.

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