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Black Cats fail to savage the Hammers

CALL TO ARMS: Sunderland's Jozy Altidore in action against United defender James Tompkins

IT WAS billed as a ‘must-win’ match for both sides yet West Ham and Sunderland had to settle for point in this often entertaining goalless draw.

West Ham’s threadbare matchday squad took advantage of results elsewhere to claim a point that helps keeps them out of the relegation zone, while rock-bottom Sunderland may yet come to rue their inability to take three points.

Solace for Gus Poyet’s side comes in the fact that five of their next seven matches are against sides in the bottom half of the table but still it felt like an opportunity missed.

West Ham held on and could have snatched a victory of their own, but their next league matches see them travel to Old Trafford next weekend before entertaining Arsenal at Upton Park on Boxing Day. Sam Allardyce’s pre-match hope of six points from the next 12 is founded in optimism rather than conviction.

In the first-half Sunderland set about West Ham with a fluency that could have produced a goal with greater craft. Jussi Jaaskelainen made some vital interventions. The Finn prevented Jozy Altidore giving the visitors an early lead and just before the half hour mark he was called upon to deny Fabio Borini.

Deep inside West Ham’s half James Collins thumped a free-kick into the head of Altidore and the ball broke kindly for Borini in space, but the Italian’s meek attempt was gratefully gobbled up by Jussi Jaaskelainen

Phil Bardsley also rattled the crossbar from 25 yards and there were times when it seemed to be West Ham’s Mohamed Diame against Lee Cattermole, Emanuele Giaccherini and Ki Sung-Yueng as Sunderland circulated the ball with comfort and ease.

Ravel Morrison gave the occasional hint of his considerable talent but displayed an immature greed when he found himself in promising positions with team-mates available.

West Ham had opportunities and Matt Jarvis was a persistent threat down the left in the first period. His ball across the Sunderland goal on 18 minutes was begging for a West Ham touch but none was forthcoming.

The regularly pilloried Modibo Maiga had the ball in the Sunderland net but his strike was disallowed. The infringement was not clear but there were few complaints from the home side. The greatest solace for West Ham came from the feeling that they were never out of this contest.

In the second period Sunderland extended their domination as West Ham retreated. The result was a series of strikes of varying levels of mediocrity from Altidore, Ki and Giaccherini. The Black Cats now have just nine points and 12 Premiership goals to their name for the season.

As has become customary for Allardyce’s side they sought to profit on the counter-attack against a superior outfit. Diame found the side-netting following a dart into the Sunderland box, Morrison went close too, and Collins had the last meaningful chance of the match when he glanced a header harmlessly wide.

In attacking positions Carlton Cole and Jack Collison has been introduced by West Ham; Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher for Sunderland, but still a goal would not follow.

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