Wednesday, January 7

Lukaku denies Hammers

Everton 1 West Ham 1 (FA Cup)

It’s off to the lucky-ish Grafton Arms at Victoria for the FA Cup tie, accompanied by Matt, Lisa and Fraser (channelling his inner David Essex with a green neckscarf). The Grafton has a selection of six real ales and is where The Goons wrote some of their early scripts.

Carroll, Sakho, Tomkins and Kouyate are all missing. West Ham knock it about quite well in the first half and look the better side without offering any real penetration. The impressive Downing has a shot tipped over but a series of corners create nothing. Matt remarks that James Collins isn’t as effective as Tomkins at set pieces and needs to contribute some goals. When Lukaku drives at the defence West Ham look worried and Adrian spills a powerful shot. A bad pass from Nolan almost lets in Everton again and Naismith drives just wide.

Lone striker Valencia doesn’t threaten in the box, spending most of his time out wide, while Jarvis gives a masterclass in the art of getting lots of crosses in that always find a defender’s head. Amalfitano is a strange mix of good and bad, hitting a rebound wastefully over the bar.

Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham, a devoted Evertonian, is spotted in the Grafton, perhaps looking for a political football or wondering if Everton failing to beat West Ham is an NHS-style ‘major incident’.

In the second half Mirallas lobs over, and Jenkinson forces a good save from Robles after a great run into the box. From Amalfitano’s resulting corner Collins loses his defender to score with a thumping header after 56 minutes. Perhaps he’s been listening to Matt.

Everton look angry after that, with Lukaku leading the charge. But West Ham have another key chance when Noble plays a corner back into the box and Valencia has a header tipped over the bar by Robles. It’s a great chance and Enner should have scored.

Everton have a Lukaku header disallowed for pushing and the second half seems to last an awfully long time as the Belgian striker just fails to connect with another cross and we nervously sip our Doombar. Big Sam’s substitutions make West Ham worse. Bringing Joey O’Brien into a five-man defence invites Everton to attack, while Cole doesn’t see much of the ball and Poyet doesn’t get into the game.

But still we threaten to hold on for a history-defying victory until the 91st minute. Oviedo crosses after Reid and O’Brien lunge in. Lukaku controls and shoots home in the six-yard box to spark mass relief among the Toffees’ fans.

So we’ve never seen West Ham lose in the Grafton, having watched the Hull game there too. We’ve never seen them win either though. Better news comes after the game as Sky Sports News breaks the news that Alex Song is retiring from international football and will now be available for WHU. Clearly he couldn’t cope with the idea of his place going to Kevin Nolan. 

Despite the late disappointment it’s a good result and one we’d have settled for at 7.45pm. Can Everton be as bad again in the replay? Maybe not, but let’s hope our chance hasn’t gone and the return of Song and possibly Carroll inspires a Cup run.

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