Curbishley cannot fault effort

Alan Curbishley was left with much to ponder after his West Ham United side more than matched an Everton team who have now gone 12 games unbeaten.

In all eight league games this season when Curbishley's men have scored first they have always come away with at least a point. As such, the opening strike was likely to prove decisive on Saturday against a resilient in-form side like Everton - as it also did in the 2-1 midweek defeat by the same opponents in the Carling Cup quarter-finals.

Speaking after the 2-0 league reverse, Curbishley said: "We started off well like we did on Wednesday night, had a couple of glorious chances and obviously didn't take them or the keeper saved it. To be honest, I don't know if Everton will agree but they have had two tough games in the space of four days and they will be delighted they have come out on top in both games.

"It is a tough result to take. I think we have matched Everton in most departments. You need to score first and we had two great chances for that to happen." While Freddie Ljungberg and Dean Ashton were both unlucky not to register following splendid approach play, Curbishley could also find no fault with the commitment of his players - some of whom were still trying to find their fitness in the first team.

Having had a fairly settled side of late up to last Sunday's 1-0 win at Blackburn Rovers, the manager has found himself again losing some key players at key moments. The contrast with Everton, who fielded 15 of the 16 men that were involved in midweek, could not be greater but Curbishley added. "We just have to get on with it - when they all come back, I will have more headaches than I have got now."

The manager added that "I can't ask anymore with the way they are working" and few at the Boleyn Ground could fault some of the attacking play shown in Saturday's first half - at least until Yakubu's goal on the stroke of half-time. "I was delighted with the first half up to the 44th minute," he said. "I think the way they played - it was a very even game."

WIth Danny Gabbidon ruled out through injury, Carlton Cole went off with a hip complaint before Andrew Johnson sealed the away win but there were positives with the returning James Collins and Scott Parker both getting a valuable 90 minutes. Anton Ferdinand is also due to resume full training this week and the manager refuses to be downbeat, especially as the club are secure in mid-table and with every chance of finishing the year looking upwards rather than down.

A trip to the Middlesbrough on Saturday is fast approaching and Curbishley has no doubt his team have every chance of maintaining their outstanding away form. "I can assure everybody that we will be going to Middlesbrough and we will pick it up again," he said before adding. "I have said all along - the players that have been playing have been fantastic. We got a result up at Blackburn last week and if we had come out of this even I don't think Everton would have argued too much."