Given that there have not been many highs since David Sullivan and David Gold arrived at West Ham 10 years ago, perhaps it was appropriate that the pair’s big anniversary will not live long in the memory. There were no furious chants against the board, merely a sense of ennui as West Ham trundled through a slog of a draw in front of supporters who have long since lost faith in Sullivan and Gold’s ability to lift this drifting club to the next level.
West Ham were not supposed to be perennial relegation-battlers when they moved here in 2016. By now, however, talk of challenging the elite has quietly faded away. West Ham remain locked in yet another grim survival fight, a point above 18th-placed Aston Villa, and this has to go down as a missed opportunity given that Everton earned a draw without offering much.
A decade of Gold and Sullivan running the show had sharpened the mood amongst West Ham’s increasingly disgruntled fanbase. Before kick-off a crowd of 900 supporters gathered at the nearby Aquatics Centre to stage an anti-board protest. It passed off peacefully but there was a sense that the mood would turn ugly if Everton took the lead.
Not that there was much prospect of that happening during a scrappy first half. Everton were dire for much of the opening period. After three minutes Jordan Pickford, England’s No 1, shinned a clearance out for a West Ham corner and the goalkeeper was not alone in failing to treat the ball with sufficient care.
Frustration rose when Fabian Delph spanked a pass out of play and the visitors were fortunate not to fall behind in the 25th minute, Lucas Digne’s dithering allowing Mark Noble to release Sebastien Haller, whose low shot was saved by Pickford.
West Ham were showing plenty of urgency despite injuries depriving them of Felipe Anderson, Michail Antonio and Andriy Yarmolenko. Haller flicked a header just wide and Delph had to make a vital block from Pablo Zabaleta’s volley.
Feeding off an encouraging atmosphere, West Ham took a deserved lead in the 40th minute. Robert Snodgrass whipped in a free-kick from the right and Issa Diop, starting in central defence in place of Fabián Balbuena, stole in front of Moise Kean before glancing a header beyond Pickford’s dive.
Yet David Moyes’s celebrations against his former club did not last long. There had been flickers from Everton, even though their attack was blunted by the absence of Richarlison and Alex Iwobi, and they sought to exploit Zabaleta’s lack of pace at right-back. Digne’s overlapping runs were a threat and the opening goal should have arrived when the left-back’s cross found Theo Walcott, who failed to trouble Darren Randolph with a timid volley.
It was an easy save for Randolph, who completed his return to east London last Wednesday, but the former Middlesbrough goalkeeper would not keep a clean sheet on his second West Ham debut. There were 44 minutes on the clock when Everton equalised thanks to another delivery from Digne, Mason Holgate flicking on the Frenchman’s corner and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, a forward pushing for an England call, punishing West Ham’s slack marking by turning in his 11th goal of the season.
West Ham almost regained their lead immediately, only for Pickford to deny Pablo Fornals, and Calvert-Lewin’s goal did not fool Carlo Ancelotti. The Italian made a change at half-time, replacing the disappointing Bernard with Anthony Gordon, and Everton threatened at the start of the second half. Digne fired an awkward effort over before Walcott fluffed a chance to give Calvert-Lewin his second with a simple tap-in.
Back came West Ham, optimism rising whenever Pickford suffered a brain freeze. The goalkeeper spread panic in his back four when he flapped at a straightforward high ball and he flirted with humiliation a few minutes later, stumbling and almost carrying Haller’s header over the line.
The quality dipped in the dying stages. Albian Ajeti, the West Ham substitute, escaped a red card after a clash with Holgate, and there was still time for one spectator to make it on to the pitch before being chased down by the stewards.
Welcome to life at the London Stadium.