Zola rues red card

Gianfranco Zola was in gracious mood after watching a game his side were in control of turned on its head by the sending off of James Tomkins.

West Ham United were a goal up and cruising before the young defender was shown a red card after tripping Tim Cahill in the penalty box. Louis Saha ensured the Hammers suffered maximum punishment by equalising for Everton from the resulting penalty before Everton added two more after the break. Despite the cruel blow, Zola was quick to move any blame away from referee Phil Dowd.

"Yes it did change the game. I was watching it on the TV and thought maybe yes, maybe no. If I was the referee maybe I was going to give the penalty but not give the red card as it was very close. Phil saw it that way, it is sad and painful but I have to accept that," Zola said.

"I thought maybe a yellow card as our player tried to get the ball and maybe the player arrived first. I don't know if it was clean contact. The referee is there and sometimes can pick up the right decisions. He certainly doesn't have the cameras we have but I have to accept it."

Zola's side had taken the lead through one of the goals of the season from Radoslav Kovac. It was the Czech international's first for the club and if he was to score 100 more it is unlikely any would better it. Kovac picked up a short pass 35 yards from goal and drilled the ball past the startled Tim Howard.

"It was a great strike. Although we didn't start the game as well as I had wanted, just before the goal we started picking up a little bit and we seemed in control of the game. The penalty changed the course of the game."

The defeat finishes any hope of West Ham qualifying for next season's UEFA Europa League. Although disappointed, Zola is proud of what he and his team have achieved in his short time with the club and is already looking forward to next season.

"I am disappointed and I told the players that. They are very disappointed but I am even more disappointed than them. We could have got the seventh place but that doesn't take anything away from the season that they played and I am proud to be their manager.

"If you consider all of the circumstances, all of the problems around the club, all of the important injuries picked up in the crucial moment of the season. Considering all of that they have done fantastic. I told them next year we are going to be much better and I do believe in that."

On a day of few positives, the return to action of striker Carlton Cole was one glimmering light. The England stiker was his usually bullish self after coming on as a half-time substitute.

"He was positive but obviously we didn't have all of the Carlton Cole at his best but he made an impact and he gave a great ball to Luis Boa Morte. But it was important to have Carlton Cole back."