Osman deserves the spotlight
Leon Osman isn’t always every Everton FC fan’s first name on the team sheet but he underlined today exactly why he’s gone on to make 400 appearances for the Blues.
With Gareth Barry and Darron Gibson both missing, the 33-year-old found himself playing in a deeper holding midfield role and he put in an excellent performance against Sam Allardyce’s dogged Hammers.
Osman snapped into tackles and used the ball intelligently. He unleashed short, sharp passing and moved about the pitch well. He managed to dispatch 66 of his 71 attempted passes to another Blue shirt and, crucially, got himself in the right place at the right time to score the winner.
But for the goal, Osman would no doubt have received little plaudits tonight. He goes about his work quietly and effectively, he’s not one to steal the spotlight.
Pulling on the Royal Blue jersey for the 400th time, he proved exactly why both David Moyes and Roberto Martinez see him as an excellent option in Everton’s squad. He’s versatile, intelligent and eternally under-rated.
He will no doubt have the headlines to himself in the morning, and for once he should lap it up. 400 and still going strong.
Toffees made to work for victory
A collective sigh of relief eased out of Evertonian’s mouths at the final whistle. That was no easy game.
Indeed, Everton’s players will go home bruised and battered tonight. Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin might be nursing a couple of headaches, such was the amount of balls headed away from Everton’s danger area.
For all the talk about a changing of style, there was nothing complicated about West Ham’s tactics today.
Get the ball up to Andy Carroll. Cross it early. Cause Everton problems.
And that they did throughout.
Sam Allardyce’s men were dogged and competed for every ball. Carroll won almost everything thrown at him but, by hook or by crook, Distin and Jagielka kept him from being a major threat.
They changed things up in the second half and, aided by a big slice of luck, got themselves back on level terms.
But Everton worked and worked, they soaked up the pressure and, like lightning, dealt the Hammers a knock-out blow with a quick and concise counter attack.
One or two joints may ache tonight, but Everton can relax in the knowledge that three points are in the bag and the Toffees are another game unbeaten.
Clattenburg building bridges
Well who’d have thought it? Mark Clattenburg endeared himself to Evertonian’s everywhere by letting play go on in the build-up to Osman’s winning goal.
OK, so you won’t catch many Blues buying Clattenburg a drink the next time they see him at an Ed Sheeran gig, but he might have built a few bridges after that derby performance all those years ago.
It wasn’t an easy game to referee, and there were one or two tense moments when things threatened to boil over. But Clattenburg kept the red cards in his pocket.
And his waving of play on in that crucial moment in the build-up to Osman’s goal was brilliant. That’s exactly what you want to see from an official.
Many referees would have stopped play there and then, booked James Collins and awarded Everton a free kick for the foul on Romelu Lukaku – and West Ham would probably have regrouped and headed it away.
He’s got a few wrong in the past, but today Clattenburg got the big call spot on. And for that most Blues will be thankful.
Mirallas needs time
The Blues were given an early boost at 2pm when it was announced that Kevin Mirallas was to be in Everton’s starting XI – but they soon found out that even Super Kev can’t fly to the rescue so soon after a serious hamstring injury.
Indeed, the Belgian winger looked a little bit out of sorts as he played his first game since he picked up the injury in the Merseyside derby back in September.
Mirallas struggled with West Ham’s physical approach and he got no joy out of first Aaron Cresswell and later Carl Jenkinson.
His frustration showed in the second half when he picked up a booking for a poor tackle on Morgan Amalfitano.
Mirallas will get back to his brilliant best, no doubt, but it may take him a little bit of time to get back up to speed.
Blues miss Baines
Leighton Baines’ injury meant he missed his first match for the Blues all season, with the exception of the Capital One Cup clash with Swansea, and it showed.
The England man is a key component of Everton’s attack and he was clearly missed down the left flank today.
That’s not to say Tony Hibbert had a bad game. Not at all, in fact.
The ever-dependable 33-year-old put in a solid performance playing out of position and put in a number of good tackles to keep Everton at bay.
But West Ham’s danger keep coming from Jenkinson’s marauding runs down the right flank and the right-footed Hibbert was often sucked further infield.
The Blues also missed Baines’ overlapping runs going forward, allowing both Ross Barkley and Mirallas to cut inside and cause West Ham problems.
Roberto Martinez will hope that Baines is back before long to continue his brilliant career at Goodison Park.
Watch: Dave Prentice on Everton’s hard-fought victory