East Enders lose plot

Sunderland 0 West Ham United 0
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The Independent Online
The first time Peter Shilton kept goal at Roker Park, in January 1967, the most cosmopolitan player on the pitch was Jim Baxter. Yesterday, 30 seasons on, and 10 days short of his 47th birthday, he watched from the substitutes' bench as West Ham's collection of foreign legionnaires laboured to provide even fleeting evidence that the expanding Premier League of nations has brought suitable enlightenment to the middle-to-lower orders.

Shilton was a 17-year-old Leicester lad in those days, when England were world champions with three graduates of Ron Greenwood's East End academy, Messrs Moore, Hurst and Peters. Yesterday, with the exception of Danny Williamson, the East Enders in the West Ham team were from the east end of Europe.

Yet Harry Redknapp's multi-national force came no closer to curing their collective aversion to travel. The Hammers have not won outside London for 10 months now and their less than impressive early-season form continued to be hampered by communication problems on Wearside.

Communication with the feet, as much as with the mouth, undermined their attempts to overcome Peter Reid's hard-working but hardly high-quality Sunderland side, never mind entertain the presumably slumbering Sky television audience. By the 90th minute they were more grateful than their hosts, and those unfortunate souls who paid to watch, to hear the blessed relief of Graham Poll's final whistle.

For all the early promise shown by the roving Paulo Futre, Tony Coton's goal was only threatened once: midway through the first-half, when the Portuguese forward set up Florin Raducioiu for a that shot curled over the bar from the edge of the area. In the end West Ham were disjointed from front to back, and hanging on for their point in the face of the home team's onslaught.

For the fourth time in five Premiership games Sunderland failed to score from open play. They could have hardly come closer than they did 10 minutes into the second-half, however.

Paul Stewart, three times an England international in the Graham Taylor era, shot past Ludek Miklosko and the ball was crossing the line as Williamson hoofed it clear. There were also claims for a Sunderland penalty, after Steve Jones caught Richard Ord with an outstretched boot, before West Ham had the consolation of a point in the bag.

At least Shilton had the compensation of a pay-packet. Apart from a few stretches and a token sprint up the touchline midway through the first- half, he was obliged to suffer with the rest of us. Even the last-minute introduction of a Ferdinand - Rio, distant cousin of Les, and Shilton's junior by 28 years - provoked only a muted response from the thining crowd.

"It wasn't the best of football matches, I don't think," Peter Reid said. We should have known it was going to be grim. The writing was on the team sheet when the name Rieper appeared.

Sunderland (4-4-2): Coton; Kubicki, Ord, Melville, Scott; Agnew (Russell, 73), Ball, Bracewell, Gray; Stewart, Quinn. Substitutes not used: Hall, Howey, Rae, Perez (gk).

West Ham United (4-4-2): Miklosko; Breacker, Bilic, Rieper, Dicks; Hughes, Bowen, Williamson, Dumitrescu (Rowland, 80); Futre (Ferdinand, 89), Raducioiu (Jones, 61). Substitutes not used: Lampard, Shilton (gk).

Referee: G Poll (Bishop's Stortford).

Bookings: Sunderland: Stewart. West Ham: Rieper.

Man of the match: Dicks.

Attendance: 18,642.