Filed: Wednesday, 15th October 2003
By: Graeme Howlett
Trevor Brooking's penultimate game in charge failed to provide the three points necessary to lift the Hammers to joint top of the First Division tonight, thanks to a second half equaliser from the on-loan Peter Crouch.
Villa striker Crouch, on loan from Premiership outfit Aston Villa nodded home the goal which cancelled out a first-half own goal from Norwich's Marc Edworthy. But despite not getting any of their own players on the scoresheet the Hammers will feel hard done by not to have taken all three vital points.
Missing the main strike force of Jermain Defoe and David Connolly - both suspended - the Hammers were always going to find goals harder to come by on the night. Neil Mellor and Richard Garcia filled the vacant berths as the Hammers reverted to a 4-4-2 formation, in contrast to Trevor Brooking's preferred 5-2-3, but neither managed to provide the kind of penetration associated with the two missing strikers.
Despite that it was the Hammers who struck first; just 5 minutes into proceedings a wide shot from Neil Mellor evaded all but the unfortunate Marc Edworthy, whose touch steered Mellor's drive into his own goal.
Although the Hammers had the better of the first half - Matthew Etherington particularly unlucky not to extend the lead on two occasions - warning signs of what were to lie ahead came when Darren Huckerby - City's other on-loan striker - and eventual goalscorer Crouch both missed good chances (or rather David James saved two good chances).
And the Hammers duly paid for not making the most of their opportunities when Crouch nodded a simple equaliser on 63 minutes. An attacking foray by the home side ended when Wayne Quinn lost possession, and a swift move down the flank saw the Hammers outnumbered at the back. A deep cross gave Crouch the simplest of opportunities to score.
The Hammers continued to pile on the pressure but in the end it was the visitors who went closest; England hero David James on call again to save the day and preserve West Ham's unbeaten home record this season.
Next up, Burnley this weekend - in what will no doubt prove to be yet another emotional occasion, being as it is Trevor Brooking's final game in charge.
We'll have a full in-depth match report for you soon ...
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