Wayne Rooney stunner caps super hat trick in Everton win over West Ham
Incoming manager Sam Allardyce watched on from the stands and probably wondered what all the recent fuss and panic had been about as Everton beat West Ham 4-0 on Wednesday night.
Along with a first Premier League clean sheet since the opening day, a Wayne Rooney hat trick inspired the home side to a much-needed three points and provided a fitting end for caretaker manager David Unsworth.
Stepping in to help the club at their time of need, Unsworth accepted a thankless challenge that would have been easier to turn down. A lack of experience and questionable decision-making told on occasions, but nobody could begrudge him the ovation he received from supporters during the second half and after the final whistle.
Four goals and only the second clean sheet in the last 21 games in all competitions should lift the mood as the Toffees embark on a new chapter under Allardyce. Time will tell whether this performance owed to Everton improvement, inept visitors, or a mixture of the two, but there were clear positives and plenty of strong individual performances to take forward from this match.
It may be a tired cliche, but half time really did come at the wrong time for the hosts. All the bad habits of recent matches reappeared at the start of the second half. As those in blue began to concede space and possession far too cheaply, culminating in the West Ham penalty, this 20-minute spell served as a reminder of the work still required.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Unsworth had clearly worked on organisation as Everton responded with a rare clean sheet on the back of nine goals conceded in the last two games. For once, there seemed to be a clear plan and noticeable shape without the ball.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jordan Pickford, 8 -- In the context of the season, with Everton 2-0 up but creaking badly after a poor start to the second half, his penalty save felt like a significant moment and arguably eclipsed even the Rooney hat trick.
DF Jonjoe Kenny, 8 -- An excellent showing peaked with his involvement throughout the fine passing move leading to Rooney's second. The youngster has been the one ever-present in these eight matches under Unsworth. This was his best all-round display since breaking into the first team.
DF Mason Holgate, 7 -- Some curious and wasteful passing early on thankfully ceased as the 21-year-old took advantage of injuries elsewhere and made the most of a rare start in his preferred centre-back role.
DF Ashley Williams, 6 -- No-nonsense defending and fine header for the fourth goal capped an improved outing, but his unfortunate knack for costly errors out of nothing resurfaced with a rash challenge for the West Ham penalty.
DF Cuco Martina, 6 -- Rarely looks comfortable at the best of times, never mind when out of position at left-back, but the summer signing seemed to grow in confidence as Everton did and his performance improved as the match wore on.
MF Idrissa Gueye, 7 -- Quietly effective throughout as others grabbed the headlines, the midfielder provided an effective screen for the defence, retained possession well and generally looked more like his usual self.
MF Aaron Lennon, 8 -- A reliable presence whenever called upon, the 30-year-old winger has impressed since returning to the first team in recent weeks. Tireless and effective at both ends of the pitch, Lennon is building a good understanding with Kenny on the right flank.
MF Tom Davies, 7 -- Back after suspension, the midfielder began to impress after an ordinary start. His return to form displayed the dynamism that has been lacking in central midfield of late and his well-directed pass created the second goal.
MF Wayne Rooney, 9 -- You knew it was his night when his saved penalty rebounded back to him for an easy header. Flashes of the Rooney of old saw a well-timed run and finish for his second before a spectacular first-time 60-yard lob from inside his own half completed his hat trick. Few players would have attempted something so audacious, let alone scored from it.
MF Gylfi Sigurdsson, 8 -- Built on his goal against Southampton with an assist for the fourth and another encouraging display, roaming around to good effect and mixing work rate with neat footwork and intelligent play in the final third.
FW Dominic Calvert-Lewin, 7 -- Won the penalty for the first and forced Joe Hart off his line for the third. Better service into his feet in the second half coincided with a better showing after the interval.
MF Beni Baningime, N/R -- Introduced in the final minutes to allow Rooney a brief rest and standing ovation.
MF Ademola Lookman, N/R -- One run and dribble demonstrated his speed and dribbling ability.
MF Nikola Vlasic, N/R -- On in injury time for Calvert-Lewin.
Luke is ESPN FC's Everton blogger. Follow Luke on Twitter @lukeofarrell.