Big Sam baffled by Everton reverse

Sam Allardyce cut a frustrated figure after his injury-hit West Ham United side were edged out 2-1 at Everton in the Barclays Premier League.

The Hammers lost five important players in the build-up to their trip to Goodison Park, before insult was added to injury when a clearly offside Romelu Lukaku fired the Toffees in front on 26 minutes.

To their credit, West Ham recovered to equalise through substitute Mauro Zarate's deflected effort eleven minutes after half-time and looked by far the more likely team to go on and win what was, at times, a feistily contested game.

However, the visitors were struck by a sucker punch with 17 minutes to go. From defending their own corner, Everton broke the length of the pitch through Lukaku before Samuel Eto'o crossed low for Leon Osman to score on his 400th Toffees appearance.

Even then, James Collins came within a whisker of equalising for a second time, only for Tim Howard to save his close-range shot with his legs.

Rather than blame the match officials for his side's defeat, the manager bemoaned his players' inability to convert chances - Andy Carroll, Matt Jarvis and Collins all went close - and the nature of Everton's winner.

"I think we've got two major things that have not allowed us to get anything out of the game today," Big Sam began.

"The first is that we missed too many chances when in very good possession and in control of the game, and allowed the opposition to break out on a punt down the middle and score their winner.

"We discussed it before and there was one person we couldn't afford to get the ball at his feet and run at us and that was Lukaku. If they had managed to score through their passing game, then that's difficult to stop, but to allow them to do it the way we did was extremely disappointing.

"The most frustrating thing was how many chances we had and didn't convert, apart from the one we scored, of course."

West Ham started the game in a 3-5-2 formation but it was after the manager introduced Zarate and Jarvis and switched to a 4-2-3-1 system that West Ham took seemingly full control of the game.

"We were in the ascendancy just before half-time and Andy and Morgan had good opportunities. We were taking control of the game better, getting our wing-backs down the sides and getting our crosses in better.

"That got even better when we changed to 4-2-3-1. We ended up with James Tomkins in midfield with Kevin and Mauro in the hole. We also brought Matt Jarvis on, who has been waiting patiently, and he had some really decent ball. Being super-critical, he should have scored or at least made the 'keeper make a save.

"Those are the things I'm frustrated about. When we got to 1-1 that's enough. Let's be patient and wait for the second, but I think we were really pushing that hard that we lost concentration."

When asked about Lukaku's controversial opener, the manager almost shrugged his shoulders, admitting that his frustration would not change referee Mark Clattenburg's decision.

Ross Barkley's shot hit Winston Reid and looped to Lukaku, who was standing at least a yard beyond the last man, and the Belgian fired past Adrian.

"I can't control that," he said. "Only the PGMOL and its chairman Mike Riley and the people who work under him can work to get those decisions better.

"It's a baffling decision. I'm totally and utterly baffled by the decision so I'll ask for an explanation but sadly the one I will get will not be enough to satisfy me, but there we go."

The frustration of conceding that goal may or may not have played a part in two altercations between players from both sides following tackles on Morgan Amalfitano.

Winston Reid and James Tomkins were both booked for their involvement in the handbags, with the former picking up his fifth yellow card. Reid is now suspended for next Saturday's visit of Newcastle United to the Boleyn Ground.

Big Sam refused to criticise his players for showing 'passion' when their teammates had been 'unfairly treated'.

"I can understand why, particularly as Morgan got two and the third one on Mark Noble from Steven Naismith was as bad as any challenge in the game," he observed.

Finally, the manager was asked about the five absent players - Diafra Sakho, Alex Song, Enner Valencia, Cheikhou Kouyate and Stewart Downing - and whether any or all would be fit to return against Newcastle.

Senegal pair Sakho and Kouyate and England midfielder Downing all returned from international duty with knocks, while Song and Valencia are nursing injuries suffered in training.

"We hope they are not too long or too serious," he said. "It's the worst international break I've had in my time at West Ham United."