Fulham were able to bring Elvis off the bench yesterday, but it is West Ham who must start thinking about miracles after a draw which, after the home stalemate against Bolton last Saturday, may have sealed their fate.
That the Hammers had enough chances in the first half alone to have won was bad enough. Even more wretched was the justified dismissal of defender Tomas Repka in injury time. He received two yellow cards for persistent arguing and deflated any chance of a last charge by his team. "I cannot excuse what has happened there," said his manager, Glenn Roeder. "He certainly has a reputation for picking up too many yellow cards and it has got out of control of late."
The Czech defender, who has been sent off three times for West Ham, may now have more points than his club. In the match programme, Repka had complained that he felt "stressed", and Roeder conceded that his side are starting to feel the strain. "For periods we were too tense and the longer we go without a win, the longer that will continue. It was certainly a problem today."
West Ham were able to bring back Frédéric Kanouté, who had missed the last 12 weeks through injury. His smart turn and cross-field ball after 12 minutes set free Trevor Sinclair, who centred only for Steve Lomas to steer his volley over.
Then Christian Dailly had a header scrambled off the line by Rufus Brevett and Michael Carrick could only turn the ball into the hands off Maik Taylor after the Fulham goalkeeper had spilled Jermain Defoe's shot.
Defoe came closest of all in added time at the end of the first half when his free-kick struck a post. Fulham had chances of their own, with Repka and David James repeatedly making nervous defensive errors.
Fulham had included Facundo Sava, despite his recent injury, and it was he who opened the scoring after 48 minutes when he slid in to direct Steve Finnan's cross past James. The Argentinian finally extracted his trademark Zorro mask from his sock, although, by the time he had done so, the rest of the players were ready to restart.
It was Trevor Sinclair, who donned a mask earlier this season to protect an injured cheek, who equalised after Sylvain Legwinski had handled Dailly's header from a corner and the referee gave a penalty.
Although West Ham pushed forward, the best chances fell to Fulham, with Steve Marlet having three opportunities to win the game. James made a fingertip save to turn his shot against a post after 67 minutes and, 30 seconds later, the French striker blasted wide. He should have scored on both occasions. In injury time, he shot wildly over with another effort.
As for Elvis, he was Elvis Hammond, a 22-year-old striker from Ghana, handed his league debut by the Fulham manager, Jean Tigana, after 87 minutes – not enough time to see if he had much of a swivel.
West Ham United (4-4-2): James 5; Schemmel 6, Repka 3, Dailly 6, Winterburn 4; Sinclair 6, Lomas 5 (Hutchison 5, 75), Carrick 6, Cole 4; Kanouté 7 (Pearce 4, 66), Defoe 5. Substitutes not used: Bywater (gk), Breen, Moncur.
Fulham (4-4-2): Taylor 5; Finnan 6, Melville 5, Goma 5, Brevett 6; Malbranque 5 (Goldbaek 4, 76), Davis 5, Legwinski 5 (Djétou 4, 64) Womé 5; Marlet 7, Sava 6 (Hammond, 87). Substitutes not used: Herrera (gk), Knight.
Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury) 6.
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