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Hammers fail to nail battling Cherries

THE EQUALISER: West Ham's Javier Hernandez

YOU WAIT over an hour for a goal and then two come at once. This contest had entered the 72nd minute when Ryan Fraser gave Bournemouth the lead, only to see it cancelled out almost immediately by Javier Hernandez.

For the second time in four weeks these sides shared the spoils, although this meeting was far less eye-catching than December’s 3-3 draw.

The team’s respective mid-table positions at this match’s conclusion look healthier than their rankings did after the 3-3, when West Ham were 17th and Bournemouth languished inside the relegation zone, but each side still has much work to do if their Premier League survival is to be secured.

For now, David Moyes’ West Ham are unbeaten in seven matches across all competitions, while Eddie Howe’s charges are themselves unbeaten in five league encounters.

Before the teams got down to business, the London Stadium rose as one to join the rest of the Premier League in observing a minute’s applause for the late Cyrille Regis, who died earlier this week.

The jumbo screens at each end of the stadium flashed an image of Regis taken in the late-1970s, with the former West Brom forward looking resplendent in an Admiral-era England shirt as his smiling visage cut through the east London drizzle.

It was a welcome tribute to a man whose talent, courage and dignity did so much to advance the cause of black footballers across the nation. Rest in peace, Cyrille.

Attention then returned to the proceedings at hand. Both teams made significant changes from their midweek FA Cup third round replays, with Moyes reverting to the XI that began their 4-1 thrashing of Huddersfield last Saturday. For his part, Howe fielded the same starters who kicked-off Sunday’s memorable 2-1 victory over Arsenal.

The controversial nature of Callum Wilson’s second half added-time equaliser in December’s drawn meeting, claiming a goal that went in off his arm, ensured his each and every touch was greeted with a hail of boos by the home supporters here.

Not that Wilson was booed too often in the opening stages, as the hosts dominated and he barely got a touch.

Manuel Lanzini’s burgeoning partnership with Marko Arnautovic sparkled at times, their touch and movement testing Bournemouth’s backline until the former was removed with a suspected hamstring injury.

Asmir Begovic was continually called into action and his reflex save to deny Arnautovic at point blank range inside the opening 15 minutes was the pick of a bunch of early West Ham chances.

Bournemouth fought back as the half wore on as the West Ham onslaught eased up, but did not truly extend Adrian either before or immediately after the break.

The Cherries goal, when it came, was against the run of play. A counter-attack of supreme precision saw Fraser apply the finishing touch to a move that started deep in the visitors’ half. Bournemouth substitute, and former West Ham midfielder, Junior Stanislas span and threaded a smart pass to Fraser, who lashed home his fourth goal of the season with his left foot.

It must have been galling for West Ham, yet the Cherries had barely two minutes to admire their craftsmanship when the hosts hit the ball long following kick-off. The ensuing goalmouth scramble saw another substitute, Hernandez, prod the loose ball past Begovic. It was the Mexican’s first goal since October.

Neither manager will be truly satisfied with a point but then nor did either team look like claiming a winner as the match wound to its conclusion.

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