Norwich City and West Ham United had to settle for a point apiece as neither side could find a goal in the English Premier League lunchtime kickoff at Carrow Road on Saturday.
Norwich substitute Harry Kane, making his debut on loan from Tottenham, could have won it for the Canaries in the final minute of normal time, but the highly-rated England Under-21 international shot weakly straight at West Ham goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.
In fact the veteran keeper, now reunited with Sam Allardyce, his old boss at Bolton for many years, made a number of fine saves to guarantee his side a share of the spoils.
This was the first meeting of these two clubs in the top flight for 12 years. Certainly the two managers have something in common having both managed Newcastle United and leaving the Tyneside giant amid acrimonious circumstances. At least in their current jobs, neither is likely to experience the sort of pressure that besets every Newcastle manager where nothing short of an instant miracle is expected.
West Ham was without another high profile Tyneside refugee, Andy Carroll, as the on-loan Liverpool striker is still suffering with an injured hamstring. However, Allardyce had a ready made replacement in crowd favorite Carlton Cole.
Jack Collison is still out of the picture with a troublesome knee, though Matt Jarvis was back on the bench having recovered from the thigh strain picked up in the 3–0 win over Fulham.
Also on the West Ham bench was Yossi Benayoun—set to make his second debut for the club where he originally made his name.
Chris Hughton had spent the last few days sweating on the fitness of key defender Russell Martin who had to pull out of Scotland’s World Cup qualifiers owing to an ankle injury sustained against Spurs. Midfielder Elliott Bennett and fullback Stephen Whittaker are both recovering from knocks and not yet in contention for selection.
Keepers Star in Lively First Half
Both teams began the match in ambitious fashion and the play was open with plenty to enjoy for the spectators. The first decent chance fell to the Hammers after 13 minutes, but the ball was cleared off the line before Matt Taylor fired the rebound wide.
Then six minutes later John Ruddy pulled off a smart close range save from Kevin Nolan.
The home side gradually gained some ascendancy with Johnny Howson and Bradley Johnson impressive in midfield, while Andrew Surman and Canadian international Simeon Jackson were lively in attack.
At the 29-minute mark, the West Ham goal was peppered with four shots in quick succession but none of them managed to beat Jaaskelainen. Then five minutes before the break, the home crowd was on its collective feet screaming for a penalty as James Collins upended Surman in full flight.
Referee Chris Foy was unmoved and awarded a free kick on the very edge of the area and, indeed, the TV replay showed his interpretation of the incident to be absolutely spot on.
Although Surman had fallen inside the area, the contact had been made just outside. From the free kick, Johnson slammed the ball straight into the wall so there was no joy for the Canaries.
Second Half Stalemate
For the most part, the second half failed to live up to the promise of the first period. But goalkeeping was again to the fore when a venomous shot from Jackson provoked a flying save from Jaaskelainen five minutes after the restart.
Jackson had traveled a long distance to play for his country in midweek in Panama and, as he had probably been Norwich’s biggest threat in attack, one can only assume he was somewhat jet lagged and tiring when Hughton replaced him with Steve Morison in the 64th minute.
Then Kane was also brought on for his Norwich debut. Sadly the youngster failed to live up to his star billing having just couple of weak efforts on goal which could have won the game for his team but, in the event, failed to trouble the West Ham keeper.
Benayoun was finally given his second West Ham debut on 86 minutes, but there was insufficient time for him to make any sort of impact. In fact it was Norwich who looked most likely to snatch the victory, and after Kane had fluffed his lines, Robert Snodgrass had an effort blocked, before Morrison headed straight into the arms of Jaaskelainen when a yard either side would have taken all three points for the Canaries.
Hughton’s team has now managed three draws since that thrashing at Fulham on the opening day, but remains winless. Jaaskelainen has kept three clean sheets out of four in the Hammers goal, thoroughly justifying Allardyce’s confidence in the veteran who served him so well for so long at Bolton.
What was particularly apparent in this encounter was the singular lack of quality of both teams in the opposing final third. One certainly does not wish to take anything away from the goalkeepers, but the simple fact is that these two sides will have to be far more ruthless in and around the opposing penalty box if they are to survive in the Premier League.
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