Frustration for Clarke as Baggies held by injury-hit Hammers
West Brom 0
West Ham 0
THE four November victories that enabled Steve Clarke to pick up his first Manager of the Month award look increasingly valuable after a solidly resistant West Ham took a point from the Hawthorns to leave the West Brom manager to ponder a four-match run without a win.
Since they followed a home success against Chelsea with a thumping win at Sunderland, Clarke's run has been stalled by defeats at Swansea and Arsenal either side of a home loss to Stoke and now another home performance without a goal.
After a drab first half, Albion found a higher gear after the break but still could not find a way through a staunch rearguard effort by West Ham, for whom Winston Reid in particular was outstanding at the heart of the defence.
James Morrison went closest for Albion, hitting the woodwork with a header from Chris Brunt's corner 16 minutes from time, but there were other opportunities that slipped away from the home side on a frustrating afternoon for Clarke.
Sam Allardyce, his West Ham counterpart, viewed the point as well won given his injury list.
West Ham were without six first-team players – seven if summer signing Alou Diarra is included. After losing midfielder Mohamed Diame, who is facing a long lay-off with a hamstring injury, and full-back George McCartney, whose knee ligament injury in training required the right-footed Joey O'Brien to fill in at left-back, Allardyce could find only six players to name as substitutes.
"In situations like this, you worry about whether your team will be able to hold out," he said.
"The players who are missing include all our of flair players and we did not create as much as we wanted but our defensive qualities all afternoon were exceptionally good. We frustrated West Brom, who had little or no clear-cut chances and that is credit to us."
In addition to the outstanding efforts of Reid and fellow centre-back James Collins, West Ham impressed with their work-rate across the field, from the movement and industry of Gary O'Neil and Mark Noble in midfield to the tireless efforts of Carlton Cole as a lone striker.
Clarke decided to tinker with his side's system, beginning with a 4-4-2 that he abandoned at half-time, switching back to his regular 4-2-3-1 after the break.
It sparked a significant improvement but not enough to merit a victory over the club he used to coach, when Gianfranco Zola was manager. (© Independent News Service)