Freddie Piquionne’s third goal in as many games grabbed a precious point for West Ham as Avram Grant’s side extended their unbeaten run to four games in an enthralling draw with Fulham.
Grant was happy to talk up the progress amongst his charges, who have been marooned at the foot of the Premier League table in the early weeks of the season, after they recovered from the shock of Clint Dempsey’s fine opener. The American international – who Rob Green must have been dreading facing following his World Cup blunder – improvised a fine finish from eight yards, lifting the ball over the stranded goalkeeper after the ball bounced favourably for him in the penalty area. The goal was very much against the run of play, with Fulham’s fleeting attacks resulting in long-range efforts from Dempsey and Damien Duff, but the Hammers should creditable fortitude to fightback.
Piquionne had already seen a header scrambled off the line by Carlos Salcido and Mark Schwarzer just about beat the French forward to Mark Noble’s measured through ball. The hosts had the better of a scrappy first half but Fulham could have doubled their lead just after the break had Dempsey kept his drive from Eddie Johnson’s cross a little lower – the Texan midfielder’s powerful strike rattled off the crossbar.
That was a lucky escape for West Ham and they quickly made the most of their fortune. Former Fulham favourite Luis Boa Morte began the move that led to the equaliser, finding Victor Obinna on the right and Picquionne crept between Aaron Hughes and Salcido to head the Hammers level. The goal briefly sparked Fulham back into life with Green diving gallantly at the feet of Dempsey as he looked likely to restore the visitors’ lead and Lars Jacobsen produced a fine saving tackle to deny Johnson.
Dempsey, easily Fulham’s most accomplished performer, headed fractionally wide before substitute Zoltan Gera blazed harmlessly over from a promising position. West Ham were largely restricted to optimistic efforts from distance in the closing stages but both Obinna and Scott Parker came very close to snatching all three points as their strikes whilst just wide. Green had the last word – producing a magnificent reaction save to keep out Dickson Etuhu’s thumping header and preserve parity.
WEST HAM UNITED (4-4-2): Green; Jacobsen, Da Costa, Upson, Gabbidon; Parker, Noble, Boa Morte, Barrera (Cole 69); Obinna, Piquionne. Subs (not used): Stech, Tomkins, Illunga, Kovac, Stanilas, McCarthy.
BOOKED: Parker, Gabbidon, Upson.
GOAL: Piquionne (51).
FULHAM (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Baird, Salcido, Hughes, Hangeland; Etuhu, Murphy, Davies (Riise 90+1), Duff (Gera 69); Dempsey, E. Johnson (Kamara 77). Subs (not used): Etheridge, Pantsil, Halliche, Greening.
GOAL: Dempsey (33).
REFEREE: Andre Marriner (West Midlands).