Consider events at Everton during in the hours prior to this vital victory over West Ham United. Consider just how desperate it all looked before their prodigal son scored his first ever hat-trick for the club and possibly the best of his 326 career goals.
The outgoing caretaker manager publicly questioned the character of his players; a broadcaster friendly with the owner scooped the media department to announce the appointment of the caretaker's replacement, and the shirt sponsor described the whole situation as “hopeless” in its second careless social media post of the season.
This is the football club that Sam Allardyce will take charge of when he is confirmed as Ronald Koeman’s permanent replacement on Thursday, 39 long days after the Dutchman was dismissed. Quite how much those 39 days of indecision and delay have damaged Everton's season remains to be seen, but whatever the consequences, it has at least ended and ended with a memorable win.
David Unsworth will now step away from the manager's dugout with a smile on his face after three Wayne Rooney goals - the third a spectacular strike from his own half - ensured his difficult spell in charge would end with a deserved win.
David Moyes, meanwhile, would not have a happy return to Goodison Park. Times may have seemed more stable and sober during his 11-year tenure here, but the Scot now has problems of his own to contend with in east London. Everton remain as the only Premier League club that he has not beaten and West Ham remain mired in the relegation zone, without a win to their name since his appointment.
The struggles of both sides were reflected in a quiet and uninspiring start, with the first quarter of an hour containing little more than a succession aimless long balls. It was an opening so lacking in inspiration that when the breakthrough eventually came it was through a tackle.
Pedro Obiang nipped the ball off Gylfi Sigurdsson in midfield but in doing so only sent it back towards his own goal and the energetic Dominic Calvert-Lewin was running through to capitalise. The youngster knocked the loose ball around Joe Hart but crashed into the visiting goalkeeper’s midriff and tumbled over. Referee Michael Oliver deliberated for a second then pointed to the spot.
Rooney, Everton’s skipper for the evening with Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines absent, saw his initial effort saved by Hart low down to the left. Their years as international team-mates perhaps worked in the ‘keeper’s favour on the initial attempt, but still he failed to hold the shot and Rooney made amends with a cushioned header on the rebound.
Goodison’s apprehensive crowd eased and when Rooney scored his second just before the half-hour mark, some among the home support even began to enjoy their evening. They had Tom Davies to thank, as it was the teenager’s intelligent drilled cross that wrong-footed West Ham’s retreating defence. Davies’ fellow academy product Jonjoe Kenny miscued a shot but the ball still trickled through to Rooney, who slid a finish home at the far post.
After their timid opening 45 minutes, West Ham re-emerged with much more purpose and had their hosts pinned back at the start of the second half. One stinging drive from Lanzini forced Pickford into an awkward punch, then another from the boot of Aaron Cresswell rattled the crossbar.
The composure Everton had taken from their two-goal lead gradually evaporated and the pressure eventually told on Ashley Williams, who clumsily felled substitute Diafra Sakho inside his own area. Again, Oliver waited a moment before awarding the spot-kick. Again, it was saved low down to the left but unlike Hart, Pickford did not allow there to be a rebound, forcefully pushing Lanzini’s attempt away.
Still though, Everton struggled to regain momentum and it would only return once Rooney had capped off his evening with one of his finest goals. As Calvert-Lewin attempted to latch onto Pickford’s pass, a headstrong Hart stormed out of his area intending clear the danger. He did anything but and his sliding challenge on youngster merely knocked the ball to Rooney who, from his own half, drilled an inch-perfect effort first-time into the unguarded net.
It was majestic; a goal not only reminiscent of his similar strike for Manchester United against the same opponents at Upton Park three years ago but also a reminder of his supreme natural talent. With their tails now up again, Everton did not stop there. Having almost allowed West Ham back into the game, Williams shut them out of it once and for all, rising to meet Sigurdsson’s corner and guide a header past Hart.
Everton: Pickford; Kenny, Holgate, Williams, Martina; Davies, Gueye; Lennon (Lookman 89), Sigurdsson, Rooney (Baningime 85); Calvert-Lewin (Vlasic 90+1).
Substitutes not used: Robles, Schneiderlin, Sandro, Besic.
West Ham United: Hart; Zabaleta, Ogbonna, Reid (Rice 77), Cresswell; Kouyate, Obiang (Sakho 45); Arnautovic (Antonio 62), Lanzini, Masuaku; Ayew.
Substitutes not used: Adrian, Noble, Martinez, Fernandes.
Referee: M Oliver (Durham)
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