West Ham United 0 Everton 2: Everton make Curbishley indulge in fantasy

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The Independent Football

The F word was everywhere again at Upton Park on Saturday after a second defeat to Everton in four days: F for frustration.

After seeing his men miss a sequence of chances before offering the visitors the opportunity to take charge of the match just before half-time, West Ham's manager, Alan Curbishley, had a characteristically careworn expression as he assessed the damage.

There were two West Ham teams in his mind. The first featured Kieron Dyer and Craig Bellamy with their pace on the wing and up front, Julien Faubert with his midfield nous, Anton Ferdinand dealing intelligently and powerfully with Everton's forward thrusts, Matthew Etherington providing an outlet wide, Lee Bowyer mixing aggression and the promise of goals, Bobby Zamora ready to prove his worth up front once again.

This was the fantasy team, all of whose members are currently missing through injury. The team which took to the pitch contained a number of players still regaining full fitness, Dean Ashton, or carrying injuries, Carlton Cole, or just back from injury, James Collins.

They did well enough, but were no match for an Everton side of formidable purpose which has now gone 12 games unbeaten, with 10 of them won. A settled Everton side as Curbishley pointed out with more than a hint of envy.

"We have got a big squad," he said. "But I'm sure West Ham fans would agree, they haven't seen all the players. Some of them we are having to get fully fit while playing in the team.

"One of the biggest problems we've got is that in this Premier League people are exposed if they are not 100 per cent. But we've got to get on with it."

Disruption at playing level has been mirrored off the field this week by changes in the boardroom, where the chairman, Eggert Magnusson, has departed, to be replaced by the club's majority shareholder, Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson. The Icelandic banker has invested a further 30.5m in the club as he envisages an eventual move to a new 60,000-seat stadium.

But before all those plans can come to pass, matters have to be set right on the pitch. Whoever the personnel, certain basics need to be carried out. Such as converting clear chances, as the labouring Freddie Ljungberg and Ashton failed to do in the opening 25 minutes.

Such as disciplined marking, which the reorganised West Ham defence failed to manage in the 45th minute as Mikel Arteta was given time to measure a cross from the left. Tim Cahill rose above Matthew Upson to nod the ball across goal and Aiyegbeni Yakubu, unchallenged, was allowed to head his fifth goal in a week.

Despite the energetic and intelligent midfield prompting of Scott Parker, the home side failed to regain the initiative against an increasingly obdurate side for whom Joseph Yobo excelled in defence. And in the second minute of time added on they were caught on the break for a second goal after Upson had misjudged a header, allowing the substitute, Andy Johnson, to lob the stranded and infuriated Robert Green. Once again the F-word appeared to be coming into play.

Goals: Everton: Yakubu (45) 0-1; Johnson (90) 0-2.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Green; Neill, Collins, Upson, McCartney; Solano (Noble, 59), Mullins (Reid, 79), Parker, Ljungberg; Ashton, Cole (Camara, h-t). Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), Spector.

Everton (4-5-1): Howard; Neville, Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott; Arteta, Cahill, Carsley, Osman, Pienaar; Yakubu (Johnson, 87). Substitutes not used: Wessels (gk), Hibbert, Gravesen, McFadden.

Referee: S Tanner (Somerset).

Booked: West Ham Ljungberg; Everton Yakubu, Johnson.

Man of the match: Yakubu.

Attendance: 34,430.

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