Within the current footballing climate, two-footed tackles are the biggest no-no for any player aiming to stay on the pitch, so when Reading's Brynjar Gunnarsson took off in the 30th minute into a challenge with the home midfielder Hayden Mullins, the referee, Peter Walton, swiftly produced a red card.
The Icelander's dismissal left Reading to survive for an hour against the side who had taken them apart in the reverse fixture earlier this season. But Reading did far more than survive, fully deserving their point against a team that, through the ravages of injury, bore little relation to the rampaging outfit which returned from the Madjeski Stadium in September with three points thanks partly to a lightning display from Craig Bellamy.
The Wales forward is one of several long-term absentees on the West Ham cast list, but in the meantime they are proceeding erratically, displaying enterprising form away from home only to falter in front of their own fans.
"We are doing things the wrong way round at the moment," said their bemused manager, Alan Curbishley. "The players are as frustrated as me and the fans, but they gave their lot today and we are on 26 points now. I'll take that."
The bright news for Curbishley is that his French signing Julien Faubert has started training and both Lee Bowyer and Matthew Etherington are now running freely.
Steve Coppell, Reading's manager, accepted the sending-off with just a trace of resignation. "At the moment, that's the one tackle you really cannot make. I knew that Brynjar didn't mean anything with it but by the letter of the law he had to go. I want to see two-footed tackles out of the game as much as anyone else."
With the visitors reduced to 10 men, the expectations of the home crowd rose appreciably, and Dean Ashton roused himselfto lift Scott Parker's headed pass on to the roof of the net.
Two minutes before the break, West Ham made the breakthrough their fans were looking forward to, although it came fortuitously from a move which, like so many others, broke down on the edge of the Reading box. Lucas Neill's through-ball to Carlton Cole offered a momentary opportunity. But the striker who has apparently been ill this week went to ground and was losing possession, at which point Nolberto Solano darted forward to maintain the momentum and chipped over the Reading keeper Marcus Hahnemann to record his first Upton Park goal since his summer transfer.
Faced with the ideal opportunity to restore their home form, West Ham fell short of the task. After 60 minutes the concentration of a defence where Jonathan Spector always looked lightweight in a central position collectively lost concentration following a Reading corner on the left, and Nicky Shorey was able to send striker Dave Kitson through to drive home an equaliser unopposed.
West Ham responded within three minutes with a Matthew Upson header which hit the post, and Ashton also hit the woodwork with a header in the first minute of time added on. But three points would have been more than the home side deserved.
Goals: Solano (42) 1-0; Kitson (60) 1-1.
West Ham United (4-4-2): Green; Neill, Spector, Upson, McCartney; Solano (Noble, 76), Mullins, Parker, Ljungberg; Ashton, Cole (Camara, 72). Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), Ferdinand, Pantsil.
Reading (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Murty, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey; Hunt, Gunarsson, Harper, Convey (Ciss, 65); Kitson (Long, 85), Doyle (Bikey, 90). Substitutes not used: Federici (gk), Lita.
Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).
Booked: West Ham Green Cole; Reading Hunt, Shorey.
Sent off: Reading Gunnarsson.
Man of the match: Ingimarsson.
Attendance: 34,237.Reuse content