ALBION started 2015 with a well-deserved point away to sixth-placed West Ham following a 1-1 draw at Upton Park.
Newly-appointed head coach Tony Pulis watched the New Year’s Day game from the stands in East London, with the Welshman formally set to take charge after today’s Barclays Premier League fixture.
Yet he will have been pleased with the spirit shown by his newly-acquired side, who were led by Rob Kelly, Keith Downing and Dean Kiely following Alan Irvine’s departure on Monday.
Diafra Sakho’s tenth-minute header handed the Hammers the lead but Saido Berahino’s well-taken finish, his eighth league goal of the season, levelled matters just before half-time.
Both sides enjoyed chances to claim all three points, Aaron Cresswell striking the base of a post with his second-half free-kick, but the spoils were shared in the capital.
Albion now face little respite before their next outing, with non-league Gateshead the visitors to The Hawthorns in the FA Cup third round in 48 hours’ time.
The Baggies showed two changes for the encounter, Berahino and Youssouf Mulumbu recalled having been second-half substitutes in Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Stoke.
There was also a place on the bench for Academy graduate Adil Nabi
, who was an unused substitute at the Madejski Stadium almost two years ago to the day.
Albion made a positive start to the encounter but were rocked by an early Hammers opener.
Former Baggies midfielder Morgan Amalfitano got into space behind the visiting defence and did well to find Cresswell breaking into the penalty area down the left, and he sent in a cross with plenty of venom for Sakho to head home from close range.
Adrian produced a superb save to deny Chris Baird what would have been a stunning equaliser before Stephane Sessegnon fired off target with a great chance from 10 yards.
But Albion deservedly drew level in the 42nd minute following a swift break.
Berahino received the ball near the halfway line and broke forward, exchanging a neat one-two with Sessegnon before finishing first time past Adrian from 12 yards.
The Baggies flew out of the blocks at the start of the second period in search of another, Berahino forcing a sprawling save from Adrian before Mulumbu fired into the side netting.
The Hammers almost retook the lead in the 59th minute but Cresswell’s left-footed free-kick came back off a post with Ben Foster stranded.
Albion brought on Claudio Yacob, Brown Ideye and Silvestre Varela in a bid to freshen things up and continued to probe the home defence.
Yet neither side could conjure up a winner, Varela coming close with almost the last kick of the game, and the honours were shared at the end of the new year encounter.
Albion: Foster, Wisdom, Lescott, McAuley, Baird, Morrison, Mulumbu (Yacob 66’), Brunt, Dorrans (Varela 79’), Sessegnon, Berahino (Ideye 73’).
Subs: Myhill, Gamboa, Dawson, A Nabi.
GOAL: Berahino (42’)
West Ham: Adrian, Jenkinson Collins, Reid, Cresswell, Song, Amalfitano (Jarvis 55’), Kouyate, Downing, Sakho (Valencia 72’), Carroll (Cole 84’).
Subs: Jaaskelainen, Nolan, Noble, O'Brien.
GOAL: Sakho (10)
BOOKED: Kouyate (foul 4’)
Referee: Jonathan Moss (West Riding)
Albion star man: Chris Brunt