West Ham United 0 Derby County 0

Last updated : 10 April 2004 By Footymad Previewer

West Ham's play-off hopes suffered another damaging blow as they were held at bay by the resilient Rams.

"We needed a goal to give us a lift and the players, the fans and myself have all ended up having a frustrating afternoon," conceded Hammers boss Alan Pardew after the match.

"Finding a run of form at this stage of the season is very important and would make the task ahead a difficult one but I still think we're up to the job." Pardew made four changes from the side that had lost 2-0 upon his return to Reading last week as Pavel Srnicek and Chris Cohen made their full Hammers debuts while injury-plagued Steve Lomas returned for his first start of the season alongside fit again Hayden Mullins.

And although newly-juggled West Ham made all the early running against a desperate Derby side fighting for their first division lives, they tellingly lacked the cutting edge in front of goal.

Twice Bobby Zamora went close, before Cohen came within a whisker of putting Hammers in front with a spectacular 25th minute, 18-yard volley that whistled past the far post.

The escaping David Connolly then saw his first-time shot tipped aside by Lee Grant and in stoppage time, the Hammers striker glanced Tomas Repka's cross wide of the far post.

While the resistant Rams had only threatened on the break, they emerged far more purposeful after the restart.

Firstly Marcus Tudgay's 18-yard effort was deflected inches over Srnicek's right-hand angle and then the alert Czech keeper had to be at his best to field Tom Huddlestone's quickly-taken 25-yard free-kick.

And when Tudgay fired inches over midway through the second half that was the time for Pardew to introduce substitutes Brian Deane and Nigel Reo-Coker - closely followed by Joel McAnuff - in a bid to get his spluttering side sparking back into life.

Still belying their lowly league position, though, George Burley's side then saw Ian Taylor's diving header fly inches wide of the far post while at the other end, only the unmarked Deane knows how he did not break the stalemate when he nodded over with the goal at his mercy.

But in a controversial finale it could have been even worse for West Ham as Rams substitute Manel's perfectly legitimate goal was ruled out for offside.

Repka - about to start a three-match ban after amassing 15 yellow cards this season- was certainly not happy following an unsavoury altercation at the final whistle that saw him shepherded down the tunnel away from the frustrated Hammers fans.

"We knew that if we showed a good work ethic today we would have half a chance but at this stage of the season that offside decision could prove costly," argued Burley after their hard-earned point still left County in the bottom three.

"We've got five crucial games ahead of us but we've still got great belief that we can stay up." MAN OF THE MATCH: Tom Huddlestone - The 17-year-old defender enhanced his growing reputation with another commanding display at the heart of the Rams defence.