There's no accounting for taste. On the coldest Saturday of the season so far, with Jim Smith's doughty but dour Derby County the visitors, a near capacity crowd turned out at Upton Park.
Maybe it was on the back of the Hammers' fine performance at Newcastle the previous week, or maybe it was to say goodbye to Tony Cottee, to whom a presentation was made for services rendered before his forthcoming departure for Malaysia. Whatever the reason, all bar a healthy contingent of Derby fans will have left dissatisfied, and by the end even they might have been unhappy with just a point.
After dominating the game from the start, Harry Redknapp's side were rewarded after 16 minutes when Ian Bishop seized on a loose throw-out from goalkeeper Russell Hoult. The West Ham midfield player advanced to the edge of the area and clipped a precise left-footed shot past Hoult's right hand into the top corner.
A few minutes later Aljosa Asanovic drove in a free-kick from 25 yards that Ludek Miklosko did well to tip over, but five minutes before the break Hugo Porfirio had two excellent chances for West Ham in quick succession, losing control of Michael Hughes' long through ball when he had only Hoult to beat, and then sending a free header over the bar from 12 yards.
But if that was disappointing for the home fans, it was nothing compared to Derby's equaliser a minute later. As Hoult booted a hopeful ball upfield the Hammers defence, not for the first time this season, momentarily fell asleep at the wheel. Dean Sturridge was left one on one with Steve Potts, who unwittingly deflected the striker's shot past Miklosko.
West Ham never really recovered from the shock. Derby switched to a five- man defence in the second half and as the game wore on they looked increasingly in control, with Asanovic's cultured left foot to the fore. In stark contrast West Ham grew impatient, Porfirio squandering possession on numerous occasions. Iain Dowie had a header cleared off the line by Darryl Powell while Sturridge and Ashley Ward each had half-chances to win it for Derby.
"It's sad seeing Tony Cottee leaving," a brave hack ventured in response to Redknapp bemoaning his side's failure to take their chances. "Tony Cottee's going to Malaysia, yes," a slightly irritated Redknapp replied. "He used to score a few goals," his tormentor continued. "He did," said Harry. "So did Geoff Hurst though, didn't he?"
The infuriating Porfirio would do well to emulate either Cottee or Hurst.
Goals: Bishop (16) 1-0; Sturridge (42) 1-1.
West Ham United (4-4-2): Miklosko; Breacker, Potts, Bilic, Dicks; Moncur, Hughes, Bishop, Lazaridis (Futre, 60); Porfirio, Dowie. Substitutes not used: Raducioiu, Rowland, Lampard, Shilton (gk).
Derby County (4-4-2): Hoult; Laursen (Carsley, 61), Yates, McGrath, Rowett; Asanovic, Flynn, D Powell, C Powell; Sturridge, Ward. Substitutes not used: Willems, Simpson, Carbon, Taylor (gk).
Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).
Bookings: West Ham: Moncur, Hughes; Derby: D Powell, Sturridge, Asanovic.
Man of the match: Potts. Attendance: 24,576Reuse content