Freddie Ljungberg's first goal for West Ham United was not enough to secure a fourth successive home league win after James McFadden beat Robert Green from the penalty spot to earn a point for battling Birmingham City.
The Sweden captain struck on seven minutes only for McFadden to equalise on the quarter-hour mark on a disappointing afternoon for the home side, who also had Lee Bowyer dismissed in the closing stages.
For the second successive Saturday, West Ham United had found themselves up against a bottom three side struggling for their Premier League lives. Following last weekend's defeat on Wigan Athletic's cabbage patch pitch, Alan Curbishley came into this encounter hoping that the grass would be greener on the carpet-like surface of the Boleyn Ground.
The home manager made just one change to his tenth-placed team as Bowyer came in for Mark Noble, who, following his England U21 exertions in midweek, initially found himself on the bench only to tweak his hamstring in the warm-up and find himself hastily replaced by teenager Jack Collison. Also back on the bench was Henri Camara, following his return from Africa Cup of Nations duty.
Curbishley's counterpart Alex McLeish arrived in east London without a league or cup victory since Boxing Day and, after the disappointing draw with seemingly doomed Derby County, the Blues' boss made two switches as Mikael Forsell and Gary McSheffrey came in for Garry O'Connor and the suspended Olivier Kapo.
With England coach Fabio Capello looking on, Dean Ashton saw his early acrobatic shot fielded by Maik Taylor but it was not long before the City keeper was picking the ball out of the net. Carlton Cole flicked-on ever-present George McCartney's long-throw into the danger zone and the unmarked Ljungberg ghosted in at the far post to scoop a six-yarder into the roof of the net.
The claret and blue fans in the near-capacity 34,884 crowd were still celebrating, when Bowyer passed a low 18-yard shot an inch or so beyond the left-hand post and then Carlton Cole volleyed wide, too. On the quarter-hour mark, however, skipper Lucas Neill was adjudged by referee Mark Clattenburg to have tugged back the tumbling McFadden.
After dusting himself down, the Scottish striker finally succeeded where Kevin Doyle, Benjani, Jermain Defoe and Cristiano Ronaldo had each failed this season, when he finally beat Robert Green from the spot. His low penalty brushed past the keeper's outstretched right glove.
Now level, Birmingham might even have gone in front when Forssell popped up, unmarked, eight yards out but fortunately the alert, well-placed Green showed just why he is West Ham United's No1 when he gathered the Finland forward's point-blank header. Despite that scare, Curbishley's team still looked the most threatening and, after Damien Johnson was booked for hauling down the lively Ljungberg, Etherington then climaxed a fine, free-flowing move with a powerful, rising ten-yarder that Taylor clawed away, before saving from Hayden Mullins.
Just after the restart, McSheffrey's low 20-yard shot deflected off the immaculate Anton Ferdinand's heel, before flashing beyond the base of Green's left-hand post. Shortly afterwards the midfielder became the second City player to be booked for upending Ljungberg. In reply, Ashton unleashed a couple of wayward efforts before Curbishley decided to unleash some more pace on the visiting defence and give Faubert a half-hour run-out at the expense of Cole.
As the Frenchman took his place on the left-flank, Ljungberg - battered but not beaten - advanced forward to join Ashton, who then agonisingly failed to steer Neill's mis-hit shot towards goal. With 17 minutes left, Matthew Upson, who had shone so well for Fabio Capello's England in midweek, came close to scoring against his old club but the flying Taylor saved the header.
At the other end, Forssell fired across the face of goal before being replaced by Cameron Jerome. Although Ashton volleyed wide and Camara arrived for the closing stages that saw Bowyer dismissed for a tackle on Johnson - and Jerome and the time-wasting Maik Taylor booked - both sides had to settle for a point.
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