Fulham v Hammers

Fulham 0 West Ham United 0

They may still be searching for their first away win of the season but the West Ham United recovery continues under new boss Alan Curbishley.

Certainly, the Hammers boss could not have failed to have been heartened by this plucky display in an enthralling encounter that ebbed and flowed down by the Thames.

And Curbs approaches a busy festive period knowing that if his side had taken their chances, they would be going into Christmas clear of the bottom three.

Without a win on any of their 11 league and cup away-days this season, 18th-placed West Ham made just one change from the side the pulled off the magnificent victory over Manchester United, as a groin injury to James Collins saw him replaced by Christian Dailly.

Buoyed by Monday's crucial win over fellow strugglers Middlesbrough, Fulham - in 11th spot - made one enforced switch, too, after Boxing Day came early for Zat Knight, who was forced to stand down with a suspected broken jaw following an apparent play-fight with his brother.

And in a frenetic opening to this highly entertaining, high-stakes London derby, his replacement Carlos Bocanegra almost headed the west Londoners into a third-minute lead after Franck Queudrue sent a teasing free-kick towards the far post, but it was just an inch or two too high for the American defender.

West Ham started brightly, too, as strike-partners Marlon Harewood and Bobby Zamora quickly sent scorching shots into the frozen Hammers' fans packed behind Antti Niemi's goal.

On the quarter-hour mark, Hammers almost broke the deadlock when Matthew Etherington sent an instinctive, looping 15-yard header onto the crossbar after the red-faced Cottagers' 'keeper fumbled Lee Bowyer's corner, but the combined efforts of Bocanagra, Queudrue and Wayne Routledge scrambled the falling ball off the line.

Hayden Mullins also sent an angled shot across the face of goal, before the industrious Nigel Reo-Coker toe-poked over from 12 yards to the relief of Fulham's flustered Finn.

As the half-hour mark approached, Jonathan Spector was booked for clipping Tomasz Radzinski and when Brian McBride curled the subsequent 20-yard free-kick over the Hammers' wall, the well-placed Robert Green parried the shot before clawing the ball away from the inrushing Routledge.

At the other end, Niemi found Zamora's low, long-ranger too hot to handle but unfortunately there were no claret and blue shirts on hand to capitalise on the loose ball and when the battling Bowyer sent an inch-perfect centre to the edge of the six-yard box, with the goal at his mercy, Harewood splintered the left-hand post with a venomous volley.

With seconds of the first half remaining, the advancing Green left the 22,452 crowd aghast when he bravely plucked the ball off the toes of the overlapping Moritz Volz before clutching the tenacious Michael Brown's awkward, low 18-yarder as it flew back through the pack, to somehow keep it goalless at the break.

The Hammers' 'keeper was busy at the start of the second period, too, denying both Radzinski and Heidar Helguson, and that was the cue for Yossi Benayoun to replace Bowyer as Curbs tried to regain the attacking impetus.

Indeed, within seconds of the Israeli's introduction, Niemi was forced to pull off a double save to deny both Reo-Coker and Harewood before Teddy Sheringham also replaced Zamora with 20 minutes remaining.

Having earlier booked Helguson for sending Etherington crashing into the boards, referee Foy then handed Reo-Coker a suspension-inducing fifth yellow card of the season for fouling Brian McBride.

Undeterred, the Hammers' skipper battled his way down the left touchline before releasing Harewood, who unselfishly played in the supporting Benayoun but again Niemi ensured that the stalemate prevailed with another defiant save.

That was to prove West Ham's last chance to end their awayday hoodoo, but there was still to be yet more drama in a controversial finale, that saw last defender Paul Konchesky harshly sent off for upending the breaking Routledge, 25 yards out, despite the fact that he had clearly nicked the ball off the flying Fulham winger.