As anybody who witnessed him singing at his recent testimonial dinner will testify, Leon Osman certainly has a sense for the big occasion.
So there was no chance the veteran would allow his 400th Everton FC appearance to pass without incident.
Osman supplied the coda to a rousing, tempestuous afternoon as the Blues began a pivotal period of the season with a hard-earned win over West Ham United.
It wasn’t particularly easy on the eye. Nothing ever is when a Sam Allardyce team is in town.
But having overcome the absence of key personnel and conceding an unfortunate equaliser, Everton dug deep to extend their unbeaten run to seven matches.
Even at 33, Osman remains an integral cog in the machine for Roberto Martinez, this time deputising for Gareth Barry and operating with distinction in a deeper role alongside James McCarthy.
Osman, though, wasn’t the only old-timer to post a reminder of their relevance.
Samuel Eto’o may not be quite the force that made him one of the most feared strikers on the planet, but his introduction from the bench helped turn the game back in Everton’s favour after it appeared to be slipping away from them.
Eto’o provided the pass from which Osman netted 16 minutes from time after Hammers substitute Mauro Zarate’s deflected strike had earlier equalised Romelu Lukaku’s opener.
Given how intrinsically linked their careers have been, it seemed apt for Tony Hibbert to also celebrate Osman’s landmark with a fine performance of his own.
Pressed into an emergency left-back role in the absence of Leighton Baines, Hibbert rolled back the years with a trademark no-nonsense defensive performance.
In truth, though, this was a game to be endured rather than enjoyed for the Goodison faithful who were watching through their fingers during a tense finale as West Ham resorted to their tried and tested method of lumping the ball into the box and hoping for the best.
If Osman’s intervention was in some ways inevitable, what couldn’t have been expected was Martinez afterwards singing the praises of referee Mark Clattenburg.
Clattenburg, as we know, has previous with Everton. But his decision to allow an advantage in the build-up to their winner was typical of an impressive display.
Indeed, other referees could easily have dismissed the returning Kevin Mirallas when he raised his hand to the chest of James Tomkins, who then fell to the turf.
Everton were also indebted to Clattenburg’s assistant declaring Lukaku was not offside when opening the scoring.
But this was a narrowly deserved victory at the start of a hectic schedule of 11 games in 41 days that will fully test the strength of Martinez’s squad.
West Ham began the day in fourth but, with Diafra Sakho, Enner Valencia, Alex Song and Stewart Downing injured, Allardyce reverted to a more characteristic approach with Andy Carroll and Carlton Cole up front and five across the back.
The Hammers enjoyed the stronger start but after Lukaku scuffed Everton’s first effort straight at West Ham goalkeeper Adrian on 14 minutes, the home side firmly wrested the initiative as Osman began to pull the strings.
On 18 minutes, a fine pass from the midfielder sent Seamus Coleman behind the visiting defence to the touchline, but his cutback was fired horribly over from 12 yards by Steven Naismith.
Then, fed by Osman, Naismith powered into the box and his shot from an acute angle was saved by the inside of Adrian’s leg before flying dangerously across the six-yard box.
And the pressure paid off on 26 minutes when the Blues went ahead.
With West Ham struggling to clear from the edge of their own area, Osman helped the ball on to Naismith, who passed square for Ross Barkley to fire a shot that deflected off a combination of James Collins and Winston Reid before dropping into the path of Lukaku to smash home.
The Hammers appealed to the officials, and not without reason. Lukaku had been stood in an offside position when Barkley fired goalwards, but was clearly deemed not to have been interfering with play.
Having earned a deserved lead, the Blues then stopped playing with lapses of concentration allowing West Ham back into the game.
After Sylvain Distin sold McCarthy short inside his own half, Martinez’s men were grateful Morgan Amalfitano dragged his eventual shot wide of the far post.
Carl Jenkinson was allowed to drift in off the right flank away from two defenders but crossed slightly behind Carroll who put the ball over, before the former Liverpool striker was invited to progress and fire wide from range.
And the Hammers finally took advantage on 56 minutes when substitute Zarate – only introduced five minutes earlier – played a give-and-go with Amalfitano on the edge of the Blues area before firing a shot the deflected off Jagielka and looped in over the helpless Tim Howard.
McCarthy curled just off target from range while Howard was at full stretch to turn behind a skidding Amalfitano drive.
But Everton regained the lead on 74 minutes. With Naismith prompting a swift break by sending Lukaku into space 40 yards from goal, Clattenburg played an advantage that allowed substitute Eto’o to advance into the box and cross to the far post for Osman to convert.
Almost immediately, Howard produced an instinctive point blank save with his leg after Collins helped on a Jarvis cross.
This, though, was Osman’s and Everton’s day.
Watch: David Prentice on Everton’s hard-fought win
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