Odsonne Édouard cancels out West Ham’s early lead against Crystal Palace

<span>Photograph: Zac Goodwin/PA</span>
Photograph: Zac Goodwin/PA

There are some games in which, you suspect, the two managers could have shaken hands on a draw before kick-off and nobody would much have minded.

From the moment Odsonne Édouard levelled eight minutes after half-time, this felt sure to finish level, and all that was left was to go through the motions so as to fulfil the contract to provide 90 minutes for the Sky cameras. The growing number of empty seats on a dank, raw afternoon in east London suggested few who had paid for tickets felt a similar obligation.

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The two oldest managers in the league spent most of the second half standing almost motionless on the edge of their technical areas, hands thrust in pockets looking vaguely disgruntled, as though they were just counting down the seconds till they could drift off for a mug of cocoa and an episode of Matlock. Not until the 82nd minute did either manager make a change, Roy Hodgson blinking first and bringing on Jaïro Riedewald, eternal king of the bench, for Will Hughes.

“It was a tough game for us,” David Moyes said. “A tight, tight Premier League game. We couldn’t play with enough personality, get the atmosphere going. We were down and couldn’t get the thing lifted.”

West Ham had taken a 13th‑minute lead with a goal of misleading quality, James Ward-Prowse sweeping a cross‑field pass to Vladimir Coufal, whose first-time cross found Mohammed Kudus. His shot took a nick off Marc Guéhi on its way past Johnstone. But David Moyes, despite having three attacking midfielders and two centre-forwards on the bench, and despite the fact West Ham had returned from Serbia on Friday and looked weary, did not make a single change until the 88th minute when Pablo Fornals was belatedly introduced. Finally, there was some urgency, and Jarrod Bowen might have won it, but headed straight at Sam Johnstone from six yards out.

It was probably Hodgson who was happier with the point, if only to stop a run of recent defeats. It would be an exaggeration to suggest he had been under pressure, but with this result Palace have now won just once in their past seven games. The gap to the bottom three remains at nine points but a defeat against Bournemouth on Wednesday, particularly with Liverpool and Manchester City next up, could start to induce twitchiness.

“For a large period I was quite pleased with the way we were defending and attacking,” he said. “Then you have to go through the anxious moments of last five minutes of normal time and five minutes of added time. We’ve just lost two games to late goals. I could have done without that last 10 minutes. Had we lost to another late goal it could have had massive consequences for the team’s confidence.”

Mohammed Kudus scores the opener for West Ham
Mohammed Kudus scores the opener for West Ham. Photograph: Tony Obrien/Reuters

Palace generally feel like a club in a search of a purpose. This is their 11th successive season in the Premier League, in which time they have been consistently lower mid-table. The two attempts to break the mould and inject something more progressive or exotic – Frank De Boer and Patrick Vieira, the latter having shown rather more promise than the former – have faltered and, while Hodgson saved them last season and has never been less than solid, it is hard to imagine anything other than more of the same as long he remains.

But then what else can they be? Palace have the 11th-highest wage bill in the Premier League, so 11th is their natural level. Life for them is plugging away, almost certainly doing enough to survive, occasionally achieving a notable result – such as winning at Manchester United this season – and occasionally producing a gifted young player, to whom fans can never wholly give their hearts because they know that by their early 20s they will be off to clubs with a more realistic prospect of playing regularly in European competition.

Only the three promoted sides went into the weekend having scored fewer goals than Palace, although there is some mitigation in that, after the departure of Wilfried Zaha, injuries have meant Hodgson has been able to start Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze together only once this season and that lasted just 49 minutes before Eze was forced off with an ankle injury. They did not look much like scoring here, set-plays their only real threat.

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When they did score, the sixth goal West Ham have conceded in the first 15 minutes of the second half since the beginning of October, it was gifted them by Konstantinos Mavropanos. “From our point of view, it was terrible,” said Moyes, who admitted he was concerned by the habit of conceding just after half-time but seemed at a loss to explain it. “We’re not going in and eating a pie and coming out and feeling rubbish,” he said.

Édouard took the opportunity almost apologetically, squeezing it just inside the far post at a pace in keeping with the general torpor.