The Hammers were so stretched by injuries that Sam Allardyce named only six substitutes, three of them youngsters who have never made a Premier League appearance. So at least they had an excuse in a first half short on chances and even shorter on quality. Albion had no such mitigating circumstances but they did at least have the better of a drab opening 45 minutes.
Shane Long, Peter Odemwingie and Chris Brunt either shot straight at Jussi Jaaskelainen or dragged their efforts wide but they were no more than half-chances at best. Indeed the visitors arguably had the better opportunities, with the off-balance Winston Reid poking over from close range after James Collins had nodded down a corner and Carlton Cole powering through Youssouf Mulumbu before sending in a vicious shot that Boaz Myhill turned away.
Those were brief moments, though, in a half characterised by stray passes and midfield congestion. Thankfully for all concerned it improved immeasurably after the break, with both sides showing far more appetite for attack.
Albion hit the bar twice – first thanks to Reid's miscued header just after the restart, then 15 minutes from full-time when James Morrison, who thoroughly improved Albion's play when moved further forward from his initial deep-lying midfield role, powered his own header on to the woodwork from Brunt's corner.
In between those close shaves West Ham created a couple of openings of their own. Gary O'Neil was inches away from curling home a beautiful effort from 20 yards after the mother of all scraps on the edge of the box, and Matt Taylor, who switched flanks with Matt Jarvis in the second half to ease the gridlock in the middle of the pitch, pulled wide his low effort.
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