After the euphoria of victory over Manchester United, a slight reality check for West Ham. They may have collected a point, and a second clean sheet under Alan Curbishley, stemming a horrendous run of eight away defeats, but there was also a red card for Paul Konchesky and the biting regret that they failed to beat a Fulham side depleted and there for the taking.
West Ham did strike the woodwork twice in the first half and had the best opportunity in the second period, but in a game low in quality if high in commitment it would have been unjust for the home side, lacking 10 players, to have been defeated.
Their latest absentee was Zat Knight with a double fracture to his jaw, which will rule him out for two months, after what his manager, Chris Coleman, called a "freak accident". "He said he was fooling around with his brother at home," Coleman added. "It's disappointing, because he has shown maturity this year." Really?
Nevertheless, Fulham's spirit was embodied by Moritz Volz, a willing full-back pushed into central midfield. The German came closest to scoring for the home side via Wayne Routledge's cute through-ball, only for Robert Green to smother.
Routledge was also involved in the incident leading to Konchesky's dismissal. Fulham broke, after Matthew Etherington's cross was blocked, and found themselves two against two. Routledge ran on, Konchesky won the ball but caught the winger with his raised trailing leg. The referee, Chris Foy, immediately dismissed the full-back. Curbishley said he would appeal, although that appeal will not be heard until after Boxing Day, leaving Konchesky available to face Portsmouth.
Afterwards, Curbishley was bullish. "What I'm about is stabilising a little," he said. He is certainly doing that with a basic, hard-working approach. That meant flair players such as Yossi Benayoun and Carlos Tevez were among the substitutes, and Curbishley made no apology for that.
Now is not the time for luxuries. It is time for battlers to secure "three-pointers", as Curbishley put it, and West Ham came closest to securing a win when Antti Niemi flapped at Lee Bowyer's corner. The ball fell for Etherington, whose header dropped against the bar. Carlos Boca-negra, one of three Fulham players on the line, hacked away to Hayden Mullins, who shot wide.
Bowyer then delivered an inswinging cross for Marlon Harewood to slash a left-footed shot against a post. That Harewood was one of three West Ham players in an offside position meant justice was done.
Fulham also threatened, mainly through the aerial dominance of Brian McBride and Heidar Helguson. A header by the latter fell to the former, and only a block by Anton Ferdinand prevented a goal. That dominance was all the greater because of West Ham's defensive frailties, with Christian Dailly drafted in as a centre-half.
Yet Niemi remained the busier. He beat out a shot from Benayoun, when the Israeli should have scored, and also one from Nigel Reo-Coker. The rebound fell to Harewood but the goalkeeper got his body in the way. Still, Fulham needed Liam Rosenior to clear off the line as the ball bounced goalwards.
"Do results breed confidence or does confidence breed results?" Curbishley asked. "Either way, we have to get both."Reuse content