Sinclair sinks Everton into relegation fight

West Ham United 1 Everton 0
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The Independent Football

About this time of year Everton have a feeling deep in the pit of their stomachs which tells them that it is time for a relegation fight again. This season will be no different.

A weak defeat at Upton Park last night, to a goal claimed by both Joe Cole and Trevor Sinclair, left Walter Smith's side perilously on the edge of the drop zone. Everton will rue once again the away form that has seen them win just once on the road in the Premiership this season ­ way back on the opening day at Charlton.

For Glenn Roeder, however, the three points were revenge for the 5-0 defeat at Goodison earlier in the season that put his tenure as West Ham manger under severe doubt. Roeder will know that two more wins will see his team's place in the Premiership guaranteed as well. Smith has no such luxury.

With David Ginola's talents kept on the Everton bench, and Paul Gascoigne's skills not even meriting that, Smith's order for the night was for Scot Gemmill and Lee Carsley to get stuck into the lightweight centre-field partnership of Cole and Sinclair, the winger moving inside to solve West Ham's injury dilemma.

Gemmill took Smith to his word, upending Cole twice in the first 10 minutes, but perhaps the Scottish midfielder could be forgiven as his rashness was just the symptom of Everton's anxiety. Sebastian Schemmel sought to feed on this, finding space in the area to run on to Paolo di Canio's ball inside in the 17th minute, but the right-back's shot somehow finished on the roof of his net.

Apart from the odd flash of creativity from Everton's two Swedish wide-men, Niclas Alexandersson and Jesper Blomqvist, Everton had little to offer. Alexandersson's cross did find Kevin Campbell on the the edge of the six-yard box after 36 minutes, but his weak header summed up another dreary 45 minutes for the Merseysiders.

This was almost compounded when Cole tried to latch on to Schemmel's neat pass into the area, but the Everton goalkeeper, Steve Simonsen, was alert to the threat. But Everton's saviour was nearly the villain at the restart when Simonsen's clearance was charged down by Di Canio, the ball spinning out for a corner.

The fright brought Everton to life, with Blomqvist drifting inside to try to conjure some much-needed inventiveness. In Campbell and Tomasz Radzinski, however, he had two target men who could not shake off the West Ham defence.

In the 57th minute a pass by Sinclair picked out Cole on the left and the England midfielder's swivel and shot beat Simonsen to his right post. Cole raised his arms but so did Sinclair and the replays showed that the latter might have got a touch as he ran in to follow up.

Whoever scored, West Ham were not complaining but the visitors soon were when Campbell was downed by a heavy challenge that forced his exit. At least that meant Ginola's entry, but the Frenchman soon looked lost, having to join Radzinski in alien territory up front in the centre of the park.

West Ham United (4-4-2): James 5; Dailly 6, Pearce 5, Repka 6, Winterburn 5; Schemmel 6 (Garcia, 78), Sinclair 6, Cole 7, Labant 5; Kanouté 6 (Defoe, 84), Di Canio 7. Substitutes not used: Hislop (gk), Minto, Kitson.

Everton (4-4-2): Simonsen 5; Pistone 5, Stubbs 5, Weir 4, Unsworth 5; Alexandersson 5 (Gravesen 5, 65), Gemmill 5, Carsley 4 (Linderoth 5, 65), Blomqvist 6; Campbell 4 (Ginola 4, 60), Radzinski 4. Substitutes not used: Gerrard (gk), Clarke.

Referee: B Knight (Kent) 5.