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Premier League
Saturday, 20th April 2013

West Ham United 2
Wigan Athletic 0

by Gordon Thrower


Forty-two. The meaning of life, the universe and everything. And the number of points we now have this season. Which is nice.

It was a gloriously sunny day in town and one’s mood was improved by someone in the Central putting the marvellously uplifting version of “I Can See Clearly Now” by the Hothouse Flowers. Well played that person.

Team news was that the boss had resisted the temptation to restore Mark Noble to the starting XI, preferring Gary O’Neil who has been quite impressive in Noble’s enforced absence. The other story was that Joe Cole’s hamstring had finally healed enough for him to return to the bench, which left us a starting line up identical to that which had commenced the previous match against Man Utd:

JJ, Demel, O’Brien, Reid, Collins, Diame, O’Neil, Jarvis, Vaz Te, Nolan, Carroll. There was a late change amongst the officials with Neil Swarbrick replacing Mark Clattenburg for reasons unknown.

Unusually we attacked the Bobby Moore end in the first half. Not that it made an awful lot of difference, crowd-wise. Wigan had been given the smallest possible allocation and had failed miserably to fill that out. I look forward to the traditional bleating from Whelan that is sure to take place over the next few weeks as he moans that their Cup Final ticket allocation is unfair.

Let me make one thing quite clear. This was a poor game. We looked tired – justifiably so in view of Wednesday’s efforts – and seemed happy to bask in the sun and watch the opposition knock the ball around and do nothing with it. Every so often we’d win the ball but keeping hold of it was not something that seemed to be a priority for anyone and, usually courtesy of a stray pass, the whole process of sitting back and watching Wigan would start again.

It seemed that the ref was also a bit bored. Swarbrick had an over fussy game as typified by an early incident between Gomez and Demel who tangled harmlessly as the ball went out for a throw-in. It was over in a trice but was deemed worthy of a lengthy lecture to both players that was out of all proportion to the “seriousness” of the incident which, by the time Swarbrick had made his way over to the touchline, had probably been forgotten by the players anyway.

There was precious little of note happening but one little bright spot on the right as some nifty footwork by Diame played Demel into a good position down the right but the cross was blocked for a corner. O’Neil’s corner was met by Collins bur Nolan couldn’t divert the header goalward.

The clearest chance of the period fell to the visitors. We looked awfully square as McManaman played a through ball to Maloney but JJ was alert to the danger and pulled off a fine save, blocking the ball under his body when Maloney seemed odds on to score.

We won a free-kick on 12 minutes. After an attempt at a quick one, thwarted by the ref who wanted to ensure that the nearest player moved from 9 yards away to, er, 9.00001 yards away, O’Neil played a clever one in at the near post when all but Nolan had congregated at the far, and Nolan’s shot on the turn needed a decent stop from Robles to keep it out. As the ball was cleared Gomez fouled O’Neil who tapped the free-kick short to Carroll but there was no repeat of the striker’s effort at St Mary’s, Robles gathering easily.

The first personnel change occurred on the quarter hour. Alcaraz left with what was later described as a “soft tissue injury” – dangerous stuff that Andrex – and was replaced by Beausejour. Diame then gave away a free-kick in dangerous territory but Maloney’s free-kick was over and would have been covered had it been two feet lower in any case.

Swarbrick then booked Carroll. There was a nothing incident between him and Caldwell, the sort of challenge that usually happens dozens of times a match without anything happening. However, Swarbrick decided that this was worthy of a caution. It was a clear case of refereeing the player by reputation and it was a caution for which you can lay the blame squarely at the door of Alex Ferguson. Ludicrous refereeing.

Kone managed to wriggle free from a few challenges on 20 minutes before playing a shot into the STB when a pass into the box might have paid better dividend.

Then we took the lead. In bizarre fashion. Vaz Te brought the ball out of defence and fed O’Brien who brought the ball forward before pushing it wide outto Jarvis. Jarvis played a low cross into the Geoffrey Boycott “corridor of uncertainty” and, with a number of players running across the path of the ball it ended up going in at the far post. There was a delay in announcing the scorer as everyone tried to work out if anyone had got a touch. The issue was clouded by Nolan cheekily wheeling away in celebration but when the dust had settled it was clear that it had gone straight in to give Jarvis his second of the season – and he probably hadn’t meant either of them!

It was a daft goal and, as such, totally in keeping with the tone of the game which, and you may have gathered this, wasn’t very good.

The period after the goal probably saw our best spell of the match. Vaz Te got into the box and swapped passes. However, in good position RVT elected to play the ball back to Nolan when a shot was on. Nolan was denied by what looked suspiciously like a combination of a shove in the back on Nolan and a two-footed tackle. No doubt had either player been called Carroll they’d have been punished.

The game reverted to type. Demel lost out to Beausejour on the by-line and the pull-back found McCarthy whose shot was blocked by reid. The shouts for a penalty were optimistic but, these days, when referees haven’t got the foggiest as to what they’re doing I guess it’s always worth a shout. We didn’t hang about and went up the other end where O’Neil’s curved effort lacked the direction and power to give the ‘keeper a sleepless night. Carroll then had an effort from outside the box which was sliced horribly high and wide.

We then had another little flurry. RVT was upended out on the touchline. Demel took it quickly. Vaz Te’s cross was blocked and fell to Collins on the edge of the box. Ginge’s effort was travelling but was blocked. Diame dummied then shot but the shot was deflected away for a corner. O’Neil took and the ball was blocked back to him. His second effort saw Vaz Te get across his defender at the near post but he couldn’t get an angle on his header which went wide.

Caldwell then picked up a deserved yellow for rather cynically taking out Carroll as he was running on to a through ball. So he complained anyway. Carroll got on to the eend of the free-kick but his header went up rather than along and it was an easy hold for Robles.

There was one minute of stoppage – despite the time-wasting efforts of Swarbrick before the half-time whistle brought the half to a merciful end.

Half time West Ham United 1 Wigan Athletic 0

Half time saw the visitors make their second change of the match with McManaman being replaced on the park by McArthur (see what I did there?). The general idea seemed to be that Gomez would be given a bit more licence to get forward by the move, a theory confirmed by Gomez’s burst into the box at the start of the half which ended up with a tame effort that rolled into JJ’s hands.

It set the tone for the rest of the match really. We defended deep and, even more than we had in the first half, we sat and watched them keep the ball for ages before bothering to have a shot, which, like Kone’s next effort, usually went wide.

With 6 played in the second period we made our first change with Noble replacing the as ever industrious O’ Neil. The change didn’t change much apart from giving O’Neil a well-earned rest I suppose.

We threatened rarely though Diame got into a good position for a shot on 56 minutes. However it lacked any of the pace, power or direction of his effort on Wednesday night and it tamely drifted into the hands of Robles.

We made our second change of the day on the hour as Joe Cole replaced Vaz Te for whom very little had gone right. Shortly after that a turn from the impressive Maloney fashioned an opening for Boyce whose header was gathered unconvincingly at the second attempt by JJ. This was followed by an incident that summed the whole day up for me. JJ’s throw was carried down the wing by Diame who pushed it just a little too far ahead of him. Figueroa picked up the ball to take the throw-in, which might have been ok had the ball actually gone out. It hadn’t so we gained a free-kick for handball. It really was one of the daftest things you’ll see.

For all Wigan’s possession they really didn’t seem to be causing an awful lot of worry. On the few occasions that they did elect to get a shot in JJ was generally comfortable; Beausejour’s 70th minute being a classic example shooting as he did straight at the keeper from promising position. There was some brief respite from the pattern of play as the rather isolated Carroll managed to chase down a lost cause and bore down on goal, his shot being blocked for a corner. Noble’s corner only found Robles however.

JJ finally had a proper save to make on 71 minutes when Maloney fashioned himself some room on the edge of the box and pulled the ball back for McArthur to shoot first time. JJ’s parry was excellent and Demel completed the clear-up operation as Kone threatened to put in the rebound. Fine save.

Joe Cole then picked up a yellow card for not very much. Going down under a dubious challenge he handled the ball – which Swarbrick gave as handball. Cole jogged back a few yards before giving the ball back in much the same manner as any number of players had done all afternoon. However, Swarbrick booked him, presumably for “delaying the restart” by a nanosecond. Inconsistent refereeing again.

On 75 minutes as the dust settled from the issuing of the yellow card Diame went off to be replaced by Collison and five minutes after that we doubled the lead. Maloney, who I suspect won’t be playing in front of the paltry crowds that Wigan can muster for too much longer, gave away a free kick on the right touchline for handball. Collins played it to Carroll who won the header before playing it on over his head. Nolan swivelled on it and played it first time into the bottom corner. It was a fine finish and was an excellent way to get your hundredth goal and the joy on Nolan’s face was mixed with a noticeable look of relief at finally cracking the milestone.. Of course given the tone of the match we couldn’t help but laugh at the incongruity of it all. It was as if someone had cut and paste a goal from a much better match into the afternoon.

The goal knocked the stuffing out of the visitors and we could have made it three with five minutes left. Carroll bore down on goal but failed to get an angle on it putting his shot wide from about ten yards. Jarvis then went down the left and, whilst his cross reached Carroll the striker was unable to do much with it.

Collins was announced as the sponsors’ man of the match, something that seemed to annoy Swarbrick who promptly booked the Ginger Pele for a reasonably innocuous challenge that managed the neat trick of not looking particularly bad whilst at the same time still looking worse than it was.

And that was yer lot.

Full time: West Ham United 2 Wigan Athletic 0

Much will, no doubt, be made of the possession stats for this one with Wigan dominating the ball to the tune of about 60 per cent, I am told. However, for all that messing about, I can only remember two, maybe at a push three, occasions on which JJ was forced into a save. By that I mean a proper save worthy of the name rather than the sort of gather where you can pop off for a cuppa and return a few minutes later to pick up where you left off.

And that’s where Wigan’s problems lie. Someone said they almost felt sorry for the visitors. I couldn’t quite bring myself to concur with that view. I mean it’s hardly our fault if they can’t muster a shot after ten minutes of possession. And they are owned by the odious Dave Whelan so you’ll forgive me if I don’t shed too many tears should we have contributed to their relegation!



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Player Ratings

Jussi Jaaskelainen
Two superb saves and a few more that were a lot easier. One uncomfortable one though.


Guy Demel
Had a couple of problems with Beausejour immediately after he came on but recovered his composure to have another decent game.


Joey O Brien
Yet another strong performance from JO’B who, after all his injury woes in previous years, looks to be enjoying his football. And why not.


James Collins
Hard to pick an MOTM for this one where we weren’t at our best but, from a back four who all had decent games he was probably the pick so I’ll give it to him.


Winston Reid
'Composed' best describes this performance from a player whose improvement over the past couple of years has been nothing short of phenomenal.


Mo Diame
Some good stuff but he, like many others, looked a bit knackered at times.


Gary O Neil
Continued the good work of recent weeks but was tiring before his eventual replacement by Noble.


Ricardo Vaz Te
Felt a bit sorry for him. He reminded me of Boa Morte in that he sometimes seemed to be trying TOO hard. The more he tried the less it was that went right for him.


Matt Jarvis
Drifted in and out of the game a bit. Hilarious goal though.


Kevin Nolan
Got through a lot of work and the goal was superbly taken. A bit unlucky not to have scored earlier in the match as well.


Andy Carroll
Ran his legs off in the thankless task that he had today. Ludicrously cautioned for something that he did in a previous match.


Substitutes


Mark Noble
(Replaced O'Neil, 55)
Like Joe Cole he appears to be still finding his feet following his return from injury.


Joe Cole
(Replaced Demel, 61)
Looked a little ring rusty after his recent absence.


Jack Collison
(Replaced Diame, 75)
A few nice passes when he came on, which, in this match, was something of a rarity.


Stephen Henderson
Did not play.


Emanuel Pogatetz
Did not play.


Matt Taylor
Did not play.


Carlton Cole
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Neil Swarbrick.

Attendance: 34,544.

Man of the Match: James Collins.

West Ham United

Jussi Jaaskelainen, Guy Demel, Joey O Brien, James Collins, Winston Reid, Mo Diame, Gary O Neil, Ricardo Vaz Te, Matt Jarvis, Kevin Nolan, Andy Carroll.

Goals: Matt Jarvis 21 Kevin Nolan 80                .

Booked: Andy Carroll 19 Joe Cole 75 James Collins 90      .

Sent off: None.

Wigan Athletic

Joel Robles, Paul Scharner, Gary Caldwell, Antolin Alcaraz, Emmerson Boyce, James McCarthy, Jordi Gomez, Maynor Figueroa, Callum McManaman, Arouna Kone, Shaun Maloney.

Substitutes: Jean Beausejour (Antolin Alcaraz 16), James McArthur (Callum McManaman 46), Franco Di Santo (Jordi Gomez 88).

Subs not used: Ali Al Habsi, Angelo Henriquez, Roger Espinoza, Ronnie Stam.

Goals: None.

Booked: Gary Caldwell (45).

Sent Off: None.

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: James Collins


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