West Ham United are slowly losing control of their season. Last night they drew their fourth successive game 1-1, this time with Middlesbrough. It was a match of dispiriting drift and inevitability. Despite taking the lead through Abdoulaye Faye's deflected header, West Ham rarely looked like they believed they would win. The fans, who were singing for Paolo Di Canio at the end, certainly did not.
Sam Allardyce's team have now won just three of their last 10 games, and drawn the last five. They are seven points behind Championship leaders Southampton and two behind second-placed Reading, who lost 3-1 at Peterborough last night.
Allardyce admitted afterwards that West Ham have "drawn too many", but argued that misfortune was a factor. "It was another night," he said, "where you want the rub of the green or the bounce of the ball."
West Ham did have a penalty appeal for handball turned down, and Jason Steele tipping James Tomkins' header onto the bar at 1-0 was, as Allardyce said, a "turning point". But good teams create and take chances without needing luck, and West Ham do not.
Their first half last night was a perfect example of their problems. There was so little pace to their play, and even less imagination, wit, subtlety or surprises.
After the restart West Ham began to pass the ball briskly. Carlton Cole and Nicky Maynard both had half-chances and they were rewarded when George McCartney slung in a cross from the left. Faye's far-post header deflected off Joe Bennett, over Steele and into the top corner.
However, they made another draw almost inevitable, sitting back and inviting Middlesbrough onto them. Bart Ogbeche was given too much space, and curled an excellent finish into the far top corner with six minutes to go. Only McCartney's header stopped him from winning it in added time.
West Ham United (4-2-3-1): Green; O'Brien, Faye, Collins, McCartney; Noble (Baldock, 87), Tomkins; Maynard (Collison, 70), Nolan, Taylor; Cole (Carew, 70). Unused substitutes: Lansbury, Morrison
Middlesbrough (4-1-4-1): Steele; Hoyte, Hines, Bates, Bennett; Bailey; Emnes (Zemmama, 76), Smallwood (Martin, 80), Thomson (Ogbeche, 80), Hammill; Jutkiewicz. Unused substitutes: Arca, McMahon.
Referee: S Mathieson (Cheshire).