Full time: West Ham 1 Fulham 1
Frederic Piquionne cancels out Clint Dempsey strike as Hammers cliam point.
West Ham United 1 Fulham 1
THE West Ham United recovery continued at a soggy Upton Park, where in-form Frederic Piquionne’s third goal in three games enabled Avram Grant’s side to extend their unbeaten run to four matches writes STEVE BLOWERS.
This disappointing District Line derby might not have lived up to last Saturday’s Spurs spectacular but it was another step in the right direction for the East Enders, who had earlier seen Clint Dempsey follow up his infamous World Cup 2010 goal against Robert Green with another strike past the Hammers keeper.
But this time England’s Green was faultless against the American striker, who was to see his first-half opener wiped out by Piquionne’s pinpoint header just after the interval.
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Following their valuable victory over Harry Redknapp’s side last weekend, the 19th placed Hammers made just one enforced change as Pablo Barrera came in for Kieron Dyer, who has been struggling with a stomach bug for several days.
And having built up a head of steam with their draw at Stoke City and successive wins over Sunderland and Spurs, the sliding Danny Gabbidon underlined West Ham’s early intent with a second-minute booking for dumping Dempsey on to the greasy Boleyn Ground grass.
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Shortly afterwards, the Welshman went on the rampage again but this time he used more legal means to force a corner, which resulted in Carlos Salcido nodding Piquionne’s powerful header off the line, after the Frenchman soared above Aaron Hughes to meet Mark Noble’s cross.
On the quarter-hour mark, the same duo combined once more but this time the alert Mark Schwarzer raced out to tackle Piquionne as he galloped onto Noble’s defence-splitting pass.
Former Fulham favourite, Luis Boa Morte, also found time to cross into the danger zone but sadly no claret and blue boots were on hand to apply the finish and then Dickson Etuhu produced a brilliant juddering tackle to rob the escaping Victor Obinna.
Fulham had made two switches following their goal-less draw with Everton last Saturday as Eddie Johnson and Chris Baird replaced Stephen Kelly and substitute Zoltan Gera.
But apart from a couple of speculative efforts from Dempsey and Damien Duff plus a dipping Eddie Johnson long-ranger, they were doing little to justify to the drenched locals amongst the crowd of 34,589 just how they had kicked-off in seventh spot.
But after the tumbling Johnson had a justifiable shout for a penalty turned down by referee Andre Marriner and Scott Parker collected his third booking of the season for downing Dempsey, too, Mark Hughes’ side took a 33rd-minute lead against the run of play.
Befitting of a scrappy first half, Dempsey was fortunate to find a way back onto his deflected one-two with Simon Davies and, as Manuel da Costa desperately tried to cover, the American hooked the ball over the reach of Green from eight yards.
Having bagged his third goal of the campaign, Dempsey could have made it even worse for West Ham two minutes after the break, when he rifled Johnson’s cut-back onto the crossbar.
That was a let-off for Grant’s men, who soon took full advantage of their narrow escape.
On 51 minutes, the probing Boa Morte threaded the ball out to Obinna, whose right-wing cross into to the edge of the six-yard box was met by Piquionne, who got between Hughes and Salcido to claim his third goal of the season with a well-placed downward header.
Despite levelling, West Ham still had to be on their toes and the gallant Green bravely dived into Dempsey’s studs before Lars Jacobsen produced a fine block on Johnson.
Midway through the second period the hitherto majestic Matthew Upson became the third Hammer to be booked by an absolutely awful Andre Marriner for dragging down Dempsey, before each manager shuffled his pack with the introduction of Carlton Cole for Barrera and Zoltan Gera for Duff.
Dangerman Dempsey nodded just wide, while the Fulham substitute launched a wayward effort that posed more danger to the visiting fans than Green, while at the other end Obinna and Parker sent stinging shots inches behind.
But fittingly it was Green, who had the final word, when he produced a point-blank save to parry Etuhu’s header and preserve another precious point for the improving Hammers.
HAMMERS: Green, Jacobsen, Gabbidon, Da Costa, Upson, Barrera (Cole 68), Parker, Noble, Boa Morte, Piquionne, Obinna. Unused Subs: Stech, Tomkins, Kovac, McCarthy, Ilunga, Stanislas.
Fulham – Schwarzer, Baird, Salcido, Hangeland, Hughes, Davies (Riise 90), Murphy, Etuhu Duff (Gera 68), Johnson (Kamara 76), Dempsey. Unused Subs: Etheridge, Pantsil, Greening, Halliche.
Referee: Andre Marriner. Attendance: 34,589.