To punters it was the most predictable result of the season. To the participants it was supposed to be a turning point, the match where they would reverse an ominous series of results and begin the crawl to safety. The punters got paid. The clubs got a point each. Viewers got nothing to get excited about. No one will bet on either side surging up the table any time soon.
Sunderland remain bottom, five points off West Ham in 17th, but their manager, Gus Poyet, took satisfaction from the fact that they were the better team here, even if the number of enforced absentees from the hosts made this an opportunity spurned. "We didn't look like we were bottom but somehow that is not enough," he said. "To come here when they were without [Andy] Carroll, [Kevin] Nolan, [Winston] Reid and [Stewart] Downing, you need to win. To be out of this situation you need to score and take three points. We need to be perfect."
They were far from that. But West Ham were ever more so. In the summer West Ham invested all their hope and a lot of their money in Carroll, but a persistent foot injury has prevented their £15m striker from playing any part in the campaign so far and, in his absence, they have scored just 13 goals in 16 matches. Sam Allardyce has been assured his job is not in imminent danger and he will be given funds to buy more firepower in January. That cannot come soon enough.
The opening minutes of this match were misleading. There was a flurry of early goalmouth action. Ki Sung‑yueng forced Jussi Jaaskelainen into a save in the third minute. West Ham reacted through Mohamed Diamé, who bounded down the left before crossing to Modibo Maïga, who sliced wide. One minute later the same pair combined again and this time Maïga met the Senegalese's cross with a weak header from six yards.
Sunderland's strikers were not much sharper but did create a clear chance in the 28th minute, Jozy Altidore feeding Fabio Borini, who shot tamely at Jaaskelainen from the edge of the area. The visitors formed the more fluid unit and came closest to scoring, albeit through a speculative shot from distance rather than any cutting collective move, Bardsley rattling the crossbar from 30 yards midway through the first half. A similar shot by Lee Cattermole brought a diving save from Jaaskelainen just before the break.
In the second half defences tightened up and attacks dried up. In the 79th minute substitute Steven Fletcher colluded with Emanuel Giaccherini to tee up Ki, whose 10-yard shot was beaten away by Jaaskelainen. Vito Mannone had to scramble to tip a mis-hit George McCartney cross over the bar in stoppage time. Many in the home crowd had already left. Those that stayed until the end booed.