WEST HAM boss Sam Allardyce blamed a lack of composure in both penalty boxes for allowing Everton to snatch a replay from the jaws of FA Cup elimination during last night’s third-round clash at Goodison Park.
The Hammers had not beaten Everton in 14 matches dating back to 2007 but a second-half James Collins header put the visitors on course to dispel that particular statistic until a last-gasp intervention from £28m frontman Romelu Lukaku.
A fifth successive FA Cup victory for the Upton Park club over the Toffees would have spelled a fifth consecutive loss for an increasingly worried-looking Roberto Martinez, whose side sit just four points above the Premier League trap door.
There are no such concerns for the Champions League-chasing Hammers, who last night had to contend without Africa Cup of Nations-bound Cheikhou Kouyate, Alex Song – the midfielder has since announced his international retirement – and the injured Diafra Sakho, although a deflated Allardyce was left to rue missed opportunities.
“I think we could have done an awful lot better,” said Allardyce.
“I think we got a little desperate and instead of defending properly, particularly in the wide area where Winston [Reid] and Joey [O’Brien] were, we let [Bryan] Oviedo in and I think he’s very lucky on the cross, going through all those bodies without touching anyone and ending up at [Romelu] Lukaku.
“But we could have done better there, relieved the pressure, stayed on our feet and defended like we had been doing all game. It’s very disappointing when it’s so late on in the game when they’ve equalised.
“And for me, it would have clinched it if Enner Valencia put the ball in the net with a free header. You would expect a player of his capabilities and his qualities to have scored in that incident and that would have given us that breather.”
Ross Barkley-inspired Everton proved the more threatening in the first half. Lukaku dragged wide in the 26th minute after racing onto the England international’s pass and Steven Naismith flashed an effort across the face of West Ham keeper Adrian’s goal.
Everton continued to look the more threatening as the visitors failed to build on a flurry of early corners, while contract rebel Winston Reid hacked behind after Lukaku’s powerful drive was spilled by Adrian shortly before the break.
Rampaging Arsenal loanee Carl Jenkinson marauded through the Everton defence and forced Everton stopper Joel Robles into a low save early in the second period, before the Hammers surged ahead 11 minutes after the restart.
A Morgan Amalfitano corner, West Ham’s 12th of the contest, was emphatically headed home at the near post by unmarked centre-half Collins, while Valencia evaded Everton’s backline moments later only to be thwarted by the fingertips of Robles.
Adrian repelled Barkley’s drive from a narrow angle before Lukaku acrobatically dispatched Bryan Oviedo’s cross from the left flank in injury time to ensure a replay is needed to determine who faces a trip to either Doncaster Rovers or Bristol City in the fourth round.