After an unsuccessful bid for Carlos Tevez in midweek, Sam Allardyce saw his big ambitions for West Ham United founder again with a disjointed display at Crystal Palace, studded with what he branded shocking defending.
"We tried and failed," one Upton Park executive had said regarding the bid to take back on loan Manchester City's want-away Argentinian, whose latest trick was to down tools during a Champions League match on Tuesday.
West Ham's chances of landing Tevez must have been pretty remote. Allardyce said: "If he would like to join us and the chairman would like to pay for him, why not? I've had worse than him."
If his side continue to labour this season – John Carew's header grabbed a late equaliser and point here – this will be the prevailing factor in why Allardyce's hopes of taking the club back to the Premier League at the first attempt might be dashed.
Karren Brady had described West Ham's home league form as a "worry" before this match, with Tuesday's last-minute 1-0 defeat to Ipswich Town their second of the season at the Boleyn Ground (the same number they have won there), where they have also drawn a match.
Six minutes into an encounter played under a baking October sun, the vice-chairman had a new concern. When a long ball from Palace arced beyond a static visiting defence, the first touch of Jonathan Williams was matched by Darren Ambrose, who finished confidently beyond Manuel Almunia.
Almunia, making his debut for the Hammers following Friday's loan move from Arsenal, had no chance. So, too, Julián Speroni 10 minutes later when United fashioned an equaliser from some equally questionable Palace defending.
George McCartney launched a high delivery into the area, David Wright's attempted clearance was fluffed, the ball broke to Carlton Cole, and from his header Kevin Nolan tapped in.
A fixture last staged in May 2004, when Neil Shipperley's goal won the Championship play-off final to take Palace into the Premier League, was now largely, until the close of the half, played in the midfield corridors, where a handful of industrial challenges were about the best entertainment.
Papa Bouba Diop, the holding player for West Ham, also making a debut, squashed Williams near the centre circle. Jack Collison required help from Nolan under close attention. And, then, Mile Jedinak dropped Henri Lansbury to break up a West Ham move.
As the break neared there was an upturn in action: Palace had a penalty shout turned down, a Glenn Murray effort wandered wide and a weak Nolan header plus a shot he blasted over suggested more goals were coming.
For all the "names" that decorated an Allardyce team-sheet that also included the virtually anonymous David Bentley, Big Sam's West Ham lack zip. Cole, the lone striker in a 4-1-4-1, can no longer rely on his knees for a telling burst, and when Bentley managed a contribution, his cross came from whipping the ball round the Palace rearguard, rather than his speed finding him a yard.
Palace's second derived from them discovering space. Down West Ham's right, Wilfried Zaha played in Murray and his cool finish was slid to Almunia's left.
"It was a fair result," said Dougie Freedman, the Palace manager. For Allardyce, whose managerial stereotype features teams drilled like a unit of squaddies on parade, more square-bashing is needed.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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