West Ham V Everton

Post Match Comments
Audio Match ReportSaturday 31st March 2001
Upton Park
Referee: Andy D'Urso


S.WATSONGEMMILLALEXANDERSSONFERGUSONSubs:SIMONSENJEFFERS 78CLARKEJEVONSTALA minute of sheer madness by Stuart Pearce just before half-time condemned West Ham to a 2-0 home defeat by lowly Everton, who are now only separated from the Hammers in 14th place by goal difference.

West Ham had dominated possession for long periods in the first half but hopes of a first home win since Boxing Day were dealt a fatal blow when Pearce was sent off for clattering into Tony Hibbert on the right-hand edge of the penalty area.

Less than 60 seconds earlier, the veteran defender had needlessly been booked for a late lunge on Duncan Ferguson, 10 yards inside Everton's half.Billericay-based referee Andy D'Urso made some bewildering decisions - he booked five in all - but he was right to show a straight red card to Pearce for a second example of recklessness that belied the experience of a near 39-year-old.

Said Harry Redknapp afterwards: "Stuart tried to get the ball but it was rash and looked like a penalty.

"He's been fantastic for us and I won't have a go at him but he knows he's been rash. He holds up his hands in those situations and there isn't a more honest footballer in the country."

The dismissal of Pearce forced Redknapp to switch to a back four, with Aussie debutant Hayden Foxe moving in from the right of a back three to form a central partnership with Igor Stimac, while Rigobert Song and Nigel Winterburn reverted to full-backs.

Paolo Di Canio went close to equalising three minutes into the second half when he controlled Fredi Kanoute's looping cross at the far post, but Everton keeper Paul Gerrard underlined a confident display with a fine point-blank save. He was at full stretch again from the resulting corner to tip Song's dipping header over the bar.

But apart from a spectacular overhead shot by Joe Cole and a sliced effort from Michael Carrick that flew wide, Gerrard had little else to do.

Shaka Hislop was hardly much busier at the other end, yet Everton hit West Ham on the break in the 71st minute to score with their first shot of the half. The visitors worked a three vs two situation and when Ferguson set up Alexandersson on the left, the Swede pulled clear of Foxe before finding the bottom corner of the net with a tame left-foot shot that still managed to elude Hislop.

Many home fans among the 26,044 crowd had drifted away when, in the 86th minute, substitute Francis Jeffers robbed Foxe on the touchline and chipped the ball over Hislop but on to the crossbar. Ferguson failed to convert the rebound.

A 3-0 winning margin would have flattered Everton but Hammers still left the field to a chorus of boos.

While Essex Man D'Urso certainly showed no affinity to West Ham, his performance again attracted criticism, and he could have come down harder on the Hammers.

Di Canio was yellow-carded for protesting furiously at the sending-off and even delayed the spot-kick by complaining that the ball wasn't correctly placed as former Hammer Unsworth prepared to step up to fire the visitors into the lead.

Seconds later and a less tolerant official could have sent off the incensed Italian for a second display of dissent when he smashed the ball against the advertising boards after being flagged offside.

And how did John Moncur - an unused sub - escape punishment for entering the field of play to blast D'Urso after the penalty award

The mood afterwards was sombre as Harry admitted his side were lacking in confidence.

He said: "We're going through a very dodgy spell and one or two are playing nothing like as well as they can.

"You don't need me to tell you who they are, but they've had one or two plaudits lately and they're low on confidence.

"Of course I worry about it. Apart from my family, I don't worry about anything else and it won't be easy for me tonight.

"Maybe I need to change it a bit and will look to tighten up in certain areas. If we're not going to win games, I certainly don't want to lose them and we need to be harder to beat. So I'll have to look at changing the system for the last few games."

Although the Hammers boss is taking Hammers' plight seriously, he dismisses talk of his team being dragged into a relegation battle.

"We'll get enough points to stay up, that's for sure. If I can't get any points from the last seven games and we stay on 35, I'll be wearing a tin hat and a bullet proof vest at the end of the season!"