Southampton were unable to claim the victory they needed to move into the Premier League’s top four as they were held to a goalless draw by West Ham at St Mary’s.
Without manager Ralph Hasenhuttl – operating from home via a video link after a member of his household tested positive for coronavirus – Saints dominated on the ball but remain ninth in the table after failing to find a breakthrough.
Top scorer Danny Ings returned for the hosts, having missing Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Fulham through injury, and was denied what would have been a well-taken early opener after Che Adams strayed offside in the build-up.
Ryan Fredericks’ header, collected by Alex McCarthy, was West Ham’s first shot on target after 41 minutes.
Tomas Soucek went close to heading his fifth goal of the season as the Hammers upped their intensity in the second half, before substitute Said Benrahma was denied a late winner at close range by McCarthy.
The result leaves both sides winless in four league games, with Southampton three points above West Ham in 10th.
Plenty to ponder for absent Hasenhuttl
The usually animated Hasenhuttl was a noticeable absentee from the sidelines for Southampton, self-isolating while the club “assess the situation further” following the announcement a little more than three hours before kick-off that he would be unable to attend.
Though his side were unable to find a winner, Tuesday’s draw means only Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea have won more points in the Premier League than Southampton in 2020.
That statistic serves as further testament to Saints’ remarkable turnaround from their struggles at the start of the 2019-20 campaign. However, Hasenhuttl will now be wary of his side fading away following their excellent start to this campaign.
Despite Ings’ recovery from a hamstring problem, Southampton have scored just once in their four-game winless run and drew a blank for a third successive league game.
Ings looked sharp as he beat two defenders with a clever chip before firing past goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, only to see his effort correctly disallowed by the linesman as his wait for a 50th Premier League goal continued.
Boosted by Oriol Romeu’s return following his suspension after amassing 10 bookings, Southampton were frustrated by a stubborn West Ham defence; Theo Walcott’s low shot from outside the box was the closest they went to a breakthrough after half-time.
Things do not get any easier for Hasenhuttl’s side as they look to rediscover their form, with Liverpool and Leicester to come next.
Steady improvement for Hammers
David Moyes received some criticism for taking a cautious approach in Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Brighton, but it was one which was justified here as his side took a point back to London.
The Hammers had conceded five goals in two games prior to their trip to St Mary’s, but they effectively nullified the Saints threat as both Adams and Ings were caught offside in the hosts’ best early openings.
Watford loanee Craig Dawson partnered Angelo Ogbonna in defence for his first Hammers league start – one of five changes made by Moyes, who deployed Manuel Lanzini and Andriy Yarmolenko either side of Sebastien Haller in attack.
The visitors initially struggled to create opportunities of their own, fashioning two rare first-half openings with Fredericks’ saved header and Lanzini’s strike over the bar.
But they produced a much improved second-half display, which saw the return of forward Michail Antonio from injury and almost ended with Benrahma sealing all three points.
This was an important point for Moyes’ side to ensure they remain in touch with Southampton and the rest of the Premier League’s top half. That is a sign of encouraging progress for West Ham, who were hovering above the relegation places at this same stage last season.
‘It was a little surprising for me’ – what the managers said
Southampton assistant boss Richard Kitzbichler, speaking to BBC Match of the Day: “It was a little surprising for me to be on the sideline today. It can always happen in times like this and I think we coped with the situation.
“We always like to score goals and we are used to scoring goals. Now it is a little bit harder and we have to work on that. I am also very happy we have kept this clean sheet. We have to get back in shape now for an important first game of the new year [against Liverpool].”
West Ham manager David Moyes: “I’d have to say yes [I’m happy with a point]. We barely had a kick for 15 minutes, Southampton were very good. I thought we grew into the game in the second half and arguably had the best chance of the game.
“It was good to get Michail [Antonio] back. We have perhaps not played as well as we would like to in recent games but the players who have come in have done great. I want competition for places.”
Ever-present Ward-Prowse – the stats
Southampton have recorded back-to-back goalless draws in the Premier League for the first time since October 2018 under Mark Hughes.
West Ham manager David Moyes has lost just one of his past 13 Premier League games against Southampton.
Southampton are winless in their past four league games, their longest run since going eight without a win from September to November 2019.
Saints midfielder James Ward-Prowse made his 73rd consecutive Premier League appearance – the longest ongoing run of any outfield player in the competition.
Aged 30 years and 237 days, Craig Dawson became the oldest English outfield player to make his Premier League debut for West Ham since Roger Johnson, in January 2014.
West Ham are away to Everton on Friday at 17:30 GMT. Southampton host leaders Liverpool on Monday at 20:00.