Pompey and Hammers fail to break deadlock

West Ham 0 Portsmouth 0

West Ham 0 Portsmouth 0

West Ham kept their first clean sheet in 25 matches but it was little consolation for manager Gianfranco Zola, who saw home fans walking out long before the end.

West Ham bungled their chance to end a six-match run without a win with a sloppy first-half attitude which allowed Pompey to take a grip on the game.

And even though Pompey boss Tony Adams would have been devastated at the sight of Lassana Diarra limping out of the contest early on, he would otherwise have been delighted with a game which saw the best chances fall to former Hammers striker Jermain Defoe.

Portsmouth had to start without the injured Sol Campbell and Niko Kranjcar, who pulled out with a foot problem just before the start.

But a midfield reshuffle, pulling Papa Bouba Diop in from the right and switching Nadir Belhadj from the left showed no sign of interrupting their rhythm in the first half, despite Diarra limping off after a challenge by Scott Parker.

Defoe’s appearance was greeted with a chorus of boos – he demanded a transfer just a day after West Ham were relegated in 2003 – but home fans gave David James, who left them six months later, a much milder reception.

West Ham’s early pressure briefly pushed Pompey back and the visitors had a big escape when Freddie Sears’ cross clearly struck Sylvain Distin on the arm, only for the well-placed referee Martin Atkinson to wave play on.

Within a minute West Ham’s Herita Ilunga picked up possession on the left and curled in a lovely cross which the unmarked Cole just could not reach six yards out.

Pompey could have taken the lead in the 10th minute when Glen Johnson capped a penetrating run on the right by slipping a ball into the box for Defoe, who just got to it before goalkeeper Robert Green but could only hook it over the bar.

Pompey pushed forward for a spell and Green was required to make a good save to deny another impressive run and shot from Johnson.

Defoe then challenged for Diop’s through ball which spun away into the path of Crouch, who looked certain to score until Ilunga’s challenge did just enough to put him off.

Zola brought on Matthew Etherington and Julien Faubert early in the second half but they were lucky not to be out of the game after two sublime moments by Defoe.

In the 48th minute he took Traore’s pass, left Lucas Neill trailing and fired a shot which forced Green into a brilliant save.

Two minutes later he pulled a long clearance out of the sky with a fine first touch, shrugged off Matthew Upson and almost lobbed Green only for the goalkeeper to tip over the bar.

Pamarot gave away a soft free-kick on the edge of the area but Bellamy’s set-piece clattered back off the bar and James had to smother Jack Collison’s follow up for his first real save in the 53rd minute.

James was not troubled by tame efforts from Bellamy and Cole soon afterwards but Hammers were seeing more and more of the ball and Pompey boss Adams brought on Kanu for the ineffective Crouch to try to turn the tide.

The Nigerian nearly made all the difference, his clever ball setting up Defoe for another chance but this time, though he side-stepped Upson, his angle was too tight and Green again made the block.

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