Avram Grant followed the trend of managers absenting themselves from the Britannia Stadium, but the West Ham team he prepared before retreating to observe the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur resisted late Stoke pressure to become the last of the 92 League clubs to collect a point.
Under the back-room triumvirate of Paul Groves, Kevin Keen and Zeljko Petrovic, West Ham dared to dream of putting four successive defeats behind them with a victory when the inspirational Scott Parker scored his third goal of the season. Stoke's £8m record buy from Sunderland, Kenwyne Jones, equalised with a trademark header, and while Grant marked the Day of Atonement, Robert Green atoned for some suspect handling to deny Jones a winner.
The previous Monday, Gérard Houllier remained in France as Aston Villa saw a 1-0 lead overturned after Tony Pulis appeared in Stoke's technical area in the second half, having driven back from Wales following a bereavement. Grant's decision not to attend was morally courageous given the inevitable speculation that his job might be at stake if West Ham's worst-ever start to a campaign continued.
They were without the injury-prone Kieron Dyer, who reportedly refused to travel after being told he was not starting. Groves suggested the former England midfielder's "history" made it vital to "manage" his appearances. "He wants to play, so he was disappointed," the senior coach said. "But he's a fantastic professional and he's available for the next game."
Groves added: "Stoke's a difficult place to come and create chances but I felt we were in control in the first half. Their goal gave them impetus but we weathered it. The players showed a good togetherness and spirit."
Stoke's assistant manager, Dave Kemp, again taking on Pulis' media duties as the manager returned to Newport, felt Stoke's attempts to "build a head of steam" were undermined by minor injuries to Jermaine Pennant, Jon Walters and Jones. Pennant, on loan from Real Zaragoza, performed outstandingly on his first start before straining a hamstring. "Jermaine did brilliantly on our goal," Kemp said. "For a new player he has fitted in really well." Pennant was also a threat with his free-kicks: in a horrible echo of Rustenburg midway through the first half, Green handled one as if it were a greasy balloon, allowing Robert Huth to poke the loose ball against the upright.
For West Ham, shortly after the half-hour, Valon Behrami was cut down by Danny Collins. From Victor Obinna's free-kick, Rory Delap's clearance hit Ryan Shawcross in the face and fell for Parker to finish from close-range. Two minutes later, Frédéric Piquionne weaved his way into a shooting position and let fly from 22 yards, only for the ball to rattle Stoke's bar.
The moment gained in significance when Stoke drew level three minutes after half-time. Walters' pass gave Pennant a chance to do his Stanley Matthews impression, and despite Parker's lunging challenge, a fine cross left Green flailing and Matthew Upson grounded. Jones powered in at the far post to double his week's tally.
Shortly after, Jones muscled Upson off the ball but Green tipped his ferocious effort on to the far post. The former England goalkeeper, as one suspects we must now call him, was helpless with eight minutes remaining when substitute Ricardo Fuller's header reared up off the turf and past him, but after clipping the underside of the bar, the ball came out to give West Ham reason to believe that fortune is no longer hiding.Reuse content