After the disappointment of the FA Cup quarter final defeat earlier in the week, West Ham players could be forgiven if they thought that an away tie against the run-away Premier League leaders was a place to go and hide.
No-one would grumble about an away defeat at Leicester so hard are the neutrals willing Claudio Ranieri’s side to take the trophy.
But that’s not how Slaven Bilic works. He’s up for every game and so is his team. Leicester may have cornered #fearlessfootball but West Ham have shown that their nerves are as strong as iron.
In a fittingly dramatic game against the league’s two surprise packages it will be West Ham who walk away from the 2-2 draw the most disappointed. Not least because the last kick of the match was a 95th minute Leicester penalty that took two vital points from the east Londoners, a display of generosity by referee Jon Moss who was escorted off the pitch, apparently for his own protection.
Andy Carroll , out of the England reckoning now, helped the ref make his decision, although the crime he committed was merely a bump. In that moment he had removed the impact of his 84th minute penalty that had seen West Ham draw level against a 10-man Leicester side deprived of Vardy, sent off for diving, his second yellow.
The penalty was the result of sustained pressure with which West Ham fans have become familiar. It was there against Manchester Utd to no avail in the FA Cup and it was present at the King Power stadium, driven, it seems, by the manager’s unconquerable appetite for victory.
If the penalty was route one, cancelling out Jamie Vardy’s 18th minute strike, the second, two minutes later by Aaron Cresswell, showed a touch of drama, a long lofted shot from outside the box that left Kasper Schmeichel with no chance.
Cresswell said: “It’s very disappointing, especially being 2-1 up with a couple of minutes to go and they get a penalty. I haven’t seen it back so I don’t know if it was a penalty, but it feels like a defeat and it’s very frustrating that we haven’t walked away with the three points.”
That’s four draws on the trot for West Ham in the Premier League, denting their hopes of a European place. Dimitri Payet, nominated as a PFA Player of the Year, is off his game, which may be a symptom that West Ham’s credible race is run. But don’t tell the dressing room.
Cresswell said: “I think, because we had the defeat against Man United in the FA Cup, it shows our heads haven’t gone down and our season’s not finished. We’re going to keep pushing on and try to finish as high up that table as we can.”