A LAST minute equaliser from Steve Jones denied West Ham United
all three points at Upton Park as this closely fought Championship
clash ended 1-1.
A wonderful free-kick from Teddy Sheringham had given Hammers the lead midway through the second-half, but Crewe's never-say-die attitude was rewarded with a last gasp goal, after West Ham had seen a host of chances go begging.
Alan Pardew made three changes in the wake of the defeat to Reading on Saturday.
Fit-again Anton Ferdinand returned in place of Malky Mackay, who missed out with a calf injury, while Hayden Mullins made way for Elliott Ward - the Academy graduate making his League debut for West Ham United in a brand new centre-back pairing.
Gavin Williams, who missed the Reading game with an ankle injury, returned in place of the injured Steve Lomas, while Teddy Sheringham was recalled and given the captain's armband in place of Bobby Zamora.
The game started brightly with the two sides creating a chance a piece in the opening two minutes. First Teddy Sheringham latched onto a through ball, only to see his shot blocked by Richard Walker, before Luke Varney brought the ball down on the edge of the area and lobbed it over Stephen Bywater and the Hammers goal.
Five minutes later Varney should have done better than hook his volley well wide after ghosting in between Ferdinand and Chris Powell.
With ten minutes gone Hammers prised open the Crewe defence for the first time, and very nearly took the lead. Williams was the provider, his slide-rule pass releasing Marlon Harewood, who jinked around the onrushing Ben Williams, but with the goal at his mercy fired against the post.
Gavin Williams' mazy run ended with a tame shot that was easily gathered by his namesake in the Crewe goal, before Mark Noble's wonderfully flighted pass dropped perfectly at the Welshman's feet, but his stinging half-volley fizzed just wide of the upright.
Crewe were pegged back in their own half and it was West Ham doing all the pressing, but Marlon Harewood's header, which drifted just wide, did not do justice to the good work from Shaun Newton that preceded it.
Harewood failed to connect properly with Matty Etherington's corner on 37 minutes before Mark Noble hit a long range effort that was gathered in comfortably by Williams.
Five minutes before half-time Etherington teased full-back Chris McCready into a good block, but in doing so appeared to twist his knee. The winger got up and tried to carry on, but was forced off with a minute of the half remaining, replaced by Luke Chadwick.
Hammers certainly had the better of the goalscoring chances in the first-half, but Crewe's dogged resistance ensured the first 45 minutes ended goalless.
The second-half began with West Ham still raiding forward in
search of an opening goal. Mark Noble's surging run had the
Crewe defence on their heels, but his shot was blocked away for a
corner and Elliott Ward's header floated over Williams'
Ward was acquitting himself well on his League debut, the 20-year-old combining strength with a canny reading of the game.
Unfortunately, neither side was showing enough quality in the final third to threaten the stalemate.
Lee Bell might have done, latching on to a fantastic through ball from Anthony Tonkin and firing in a shot that was heading goalwards before deflecting off his strike partner Luke Varney.
Williams again tested Williams, Gavin flicking the ball up and hitting a looping volley that Ben caught on his line, before Harewood's powerful run ended with him dragging his shot well wide.
Yet again, Hammers were roared on by a fantastic Upton Park crowd, but were still struggling to make any inroads into the solid Crewe defence.
With 71 minutes played the visitors tested Stephen Bywater with a good chance of their own, Gary Roberts finding space on the edge of the area to fire in a shot that the Hammers goalkeeper did well to beat away.
But West Ham were determined not to be upstaged, and teenage midfielder Mark Nobel underlined that tenacity with his curling effort from 20 yards that Williams saved brilliantly at full stretch to his left.
Bobby Zamora replaced the hobbling Gavin Williams with 20 minutes to go, just as Hammers were mounting another period of sustained pressure on the Crewe goal.
It resulted in Elliott Ward being fouled on the edge of the area with 76 minutes gone. Teddy Sheringham placed the ball down and Upton Park waited with anticipation. The former England striker did not disappoint, curling a magnificent effort into the top corner of the net, leaving Williams clawing at thin air.
His departure from the field soon followed, greeted by huge cheers from the Upton Park faithful, Hayden Mullins the replacement.
But moments later the same arena was hushed into deadly silence when a scramble in the West Ham goalmouth left Bywater stranded on the grass and allowed Varney to roll the ball into the empty net. Thankfully for the Hammers, the goal was ruled out for offside.
At the other end, West Ham looked to put the result beyond doubt. Shaun Newton, making his Upton Park debut, surged forward on the right and hit a near post shot that was blocked by Williams. The ball was recovered by Harewood, and when his effort on the turn was block Chadwick surged onto the follow-up, but his rasping effort was also blocked by the die-hard Crewe defence.
Chadwick then broke into the Crewe half and fed Noble, who cut inside Kenny Lunt and hit a left foot shot that was well held by Williams. A right-foot shot by Noble just after met with the same fate, before Harewood broke away only to hit a tame shot straight at the Crewe goalkeeper.
They were chances West Ham would soon regret. With the 90 minutes all but up Chris McGready swung over a cross from the right and substitute Steve Jones met it at the far post with a bullet header that flew past Stephen Bywater to stun all of Upton Park.
There was no time for Alan Pardew's men to make amends as Crewe held on for a 1-1 draw that could mean a lot for both teams' seasons.