Everton travelled to Upton Park for the penultimate game of the season against West Ham in the "battle for 10th" with Roberto Martinez choosing a surprise debut for 19-year-old Brendan Galloway over wantaway Luke Garbutt, who remained unused on the bench.
The home side kicked off in party atmosphere in the bright sunshine, but Coleman got forward early but his cross was cleared. Galloway was soon tested by Downing down West Ham's right.
Barkley fed a nice ball to Osman, who could only toe-poke when a harder shot was required and Adrian pushed it behind for a corner that Barkley drove in well but Lukaku whiffed at it horribly and Stones drove the bouncing ball wide. Everton had started well and were looking lively.
Creswell got in a shot that Howard bundled behind for a corner and McCarthy had to chest it out for another corner before Barkley could relieve the Hammers pressure but a ball in hit Coleman's arm: no penalty, said Kevin Friend.
Everton resumed their attacking intent, but a feed to Lukaku failed and Downing was soon spraying long crossfield passes to get the home side attacking. Valencia drove a distant shot straight at Tim Howard.
It was a nice open game and Everton were moving the ball around well, with forward intent, but the moves were breaking down in the West Ham box as the accuracy of passing required was not there or Lukaku's dreadful touch saw the ball bounce away from him.
The first yellow card went to Reid who blocked Lukaku's run rather cynically. Galloway got back well to cut out a good ball for Downing, who was a persistent danger. Noble came close with a dig on a lose ball went across Everton's goal.
Lennon drove centrally at the Hammers and played in a great ball for Lukaku who lashed his shot a foot over the bar from a glorious position. The next card went to Coleman for holding back Valencia. Downing got space to run through the middle and fire at Howard who batted it away.
Lukaku got another good feed in front of the Hammers goal but poor control saw the ball bounce up and hit his arm to end the move. Valencia then fouled Stones who was carrying the ball well out of defence for Everton but nothing came of Barkley's lofted free-kick.
Lennon got spoken to for bundling Kouyate over. A good passing move ended with Barkley offside. Barry was next in the book for a foul on Reid as the first half came to an end with neither side really coming close.
Lennon got spoken to for his collision with Kouyate but the free-kick was defended away. A good move got the ball in to Osman, then McCarthy, neither player wanting to take the shot when a chance to shoot seemed on. Another good passing move ended with Barkley offside. A terrible foul by Barry saw him pick up the third card after his poor pass to Reid.
Lukaku was gifted the ball in a good position but a bizarre touch saw it go away from him rather than remain in front of him and ready for a shot on goal, summing up Everton's perennial problem when it comes down to the business of scoring goals.
A banner amongst the Everton faithful at half-time proclaimed "Kenwright & Co, it's Time to Go; 20 years is plenty"
Everton kicked off the second half and had to defend West Ham's early effort before a good move got them within sight of goal where Barkley scooped his shot high over the goal.
Everton got a free-kick in a good position that Lukaku curled just inches wide, smacking off the stanchion. Coleman got in a great driving run but Lukaku could do nothing with the cross Everton attacked again and won a corner that seemed like it should have created more than a blocked shot from McCarthy.
Stones did well to release Barkley from defence but he soon had three defenders around him. Lukaku received another good forward ball to feet but had no joy with a patch of sticky grass that defeated him. This allowed West Ham to mount another attack and it was dangerman Downing who evaded Galloway and stroked it past Howard and just inside the far corner.
West Ham attacked with drive but Stones broke it down with an excellent interception to release Barkley but Osman stopped progress and the momentum seemed to be gone but the ball got out to Lukaku whose cross was slightly deflected to Osman who had a lot of work to do. But his first touch was brilliant and he followed it with an excellent chest-high volley past Adrian, a splendid finish.
Barkley, who had played his typical game for this season, was replaced by Mirallas for the last 20 minutes. Kouyate got every upset that Galloway had the balls to tackle him brilliantly, Everton playing with more desire now, but that saw McCarthy booked after a clumsy foul.
It was lively stuff from both sides as each went for the winner, Everton failing to take advantage as the ball pinged around the West Ham area. McGeady replaced Lennon on his final appearance for the Blues.
McGeady once more flattered to deceive, showing desire and skill to fire in a cross but it was direct at Adrian. Barry fouled Song and could have seen a second yellow for it.
Another forward move that should have produced more typified the Everton problem, each player preferring to pass rather than go for goal. From the corner, McGeady set up a nice cross to Lukaku that 9 centre-forwards out of 10 would have buried but the Big useless Belgian allowed the defender to get in and put him off.
West Ham had a flurry of corners but Everton broke at speed, McGeady playing in Lukaku but his shot defelected off the defender's leg and was parried by Adrian behind for a corner. Everton came so close to scoring from each one... but tellingly failed to score from any of them. Galloway got the fourth yellow card that should ensure Everton miss out on the Fair Play route to the early stages of the Europa League.
Added time and a final foray forward and this time it worked brilliantly. McGeady down the right, a much better cross in, and there was Lukaku, pushing past the youngster Burke to power home an excellent close-range header that won the game for Everton � a game in which they had largely outplayed their hosts, with 58% of the possession that included relatively little backward/square passing. A somewhat better performance overall; a much better result!
Everton and West Ham meet at Upton Park in the "battle for 10th" – how the somewhat mighty have fallen – and a game with a secondary billing of the battle to secure a back door into the Europa League via Uefa's Fair Play league.
This time last year, the Blues lay comfortably in 5th place and could afford the luxury of losing to Manchester City and scuppering Liverpool's title ambitions in the process; this time, an exactly mid-table finish is the best they can hope for.
Everton come into the weekend three points behind the Hammers and could erase the disparity in goal difference between the two teams with a victory that would put them level going into the final day of the season.
The European part of the equation, meanwhile, will depend on the fair play dimension to the game. West Ham had a slightly better ranking at the start of last weekend's fixtures and, having picked up a booking fewer than the Blues, will probably have retained that edge (although there are a number of factors that also go into the complicated scoring system).
Roberto Martinez has said that Everton would embrace the opportunity to return to the Europa League next term despite the fact that it would entail starting the campaign on 2nd of July and dismissed half-hearted suggestions that the two teams will kick lumps out of each other at Upton Park this weekend to avoid the "poisioned chalice."
The Spaniard will have the same squad from which to choose as last weekend's disappointing defeat to Sunderland, with the exception of the absent Leighton Baines. The left back underwent surgery to repair a long-standing ankle problem this week and won't be fit again until pre-season.
That puts him in the same position as Bryan Oviedo who is due to return around the same time once his fractured metatarsal heals and, theoretically, opens up a final opportunity for Luke Garbutt to see if he feels happy enough extending his contract at Goodison Park.
Martinez wouldn't be drawn on whether the 21 year-old would play but he is expected to be in the starting XI this weekend.
Predicting the rest of his line-up is made complicated by the two successive defeats to Aston Villa and Sunderland which were underpinned by poor performances from two slightly different line-ups. Ross Barkley and Leon Osman got the nod last Saturday but Kevin Mirallas could be given an opportunity to reprise his impressive display in East London in the FA Cup Third Round replay earlier in the campaignand Martinez has hinted that he would like to see Aiden McGeady before the season is out now that he is fit again.
Whether Aaron Lennon starts in what would be his last appearance before his loan spell from Tottenham ends might indicate the manager's level of keen-ness to retain his services on a permanent basis; or, if the winger doesn't start, it could simply mean Martinez has seen enough to make up his mind.
Since beating the Blues in that agonising penalty shootout in January, Sam Allardyce's side have chalked up home wins they would expect to get over the likes of Hull, Sunderland and Burnley but have failed to beat teams around and above them in the Premier League.
Draws with Manchester United and Stoke and defeats to Chelsea and Crystal Palace have underscored the Hammers' decline since their impressive early-season form and they should give Everton heart as the go in search of what would be their fifth League win away from home.
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|WEST HAM (4-4-2)|
|Collins (Burke (14')|
|Cole (Nene 70')|
|Subs not used|
|11||West Ham United||47|
|13||West Bromwich Albion||44|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||30|