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Premiership
Saturday, 28th April 2007

Wigan Athletic 0
West Ham United 3

by Jacob Steinberg


Relegation battles are meant to be nervy affairs, littered with sloppiness and errors. Someone should have told West Ham. Alan Curbishley will surely rue his side's inability to play like this over the rest of the season, so comfortable were they in dispatching a woeful Wigan outfit.

West Ham's victory takes them above Charlton and level on points with today's opponents, although they remain in the relegation zone - no thanks to their crushing goal difference. Next week's game with Bolton at home is vital, not that it didn't feel like West Ham had home advantage at the JJB Stadium.

5,000+ West Ham supporters made the journey from East London, creating a raucous atmosphere in the away end. If supporters really can inspire their team to victory, then this was one of those occasions.

The added bonus for the visitors was that Carlos Tevez was eligible to play after the Premier League fined the club 5.5m owing to their discrepancy concerning his signing last August. That sum may seem draconian, but no points were deducted and Tevez was allowed to play. The biggest cheer of the day was when the Argentine stepped off the team bus.

Perhaps buoyed by that, West Ham were sharper throughout, yet the early sparring was inconsequential. Despite midfield friction, neither side seemed capable of providing the moment of inspiration required, although Tevez nearly achieved that feat, sending a long range effort just wide of John Filan's near post. Earlier Emile Heskey had dropped a tame header wide for Wigan.

It fell to one of Alan Curbishley's January signings to relieve the tension. Luis Boa Morte has not had the best of starts at Upton Park since his move from Fulham, but the winger had already shown some decent touches by the time his chance arrived on the half hour.

Lucas Neill directed the ball over a creaking Wigan defence and Boa Morte had the beating of Emerson Boyce. Filan decided that the best course of action was to race from his goal. Mistake. Boa Morte beat the goalkeeper to the ball and lobbed it over him, and despite what seemed an age, the ball bounced into the net.

West Ham deserved their lead. Buzzing, they could have had the match sewn up before the break as they tore Wigan apart, seemingly at will. Leighton Baines had to be at his most desperate to block Zamora, before Boyce just about denied Tevez a certain goal. There was no stopping the little Argentine soon after though. Picking the ball up on the left, he ghosted past three defenders; alas, his shot curled inches wide.

Paul Jewell would have considered it something of a bonus that the deficit was only one goal at half-time. Yet when early second-half pressure from Wigan yielded little, he sent on a third striker, Julius Aghahowa to aid Henri Camara and Emile Heskey.

The move paid minimal dividends. Aghahowa, stationed on the right, offered little defensive cover when George McCartney embarked upon a marauding run on the left side. The left-back found Zamora who, in turn, found Yossi Benayoun in acres of space. With time, the Israeli coolly picked his spot, shooting across Filan.

Game over. With the West Ham support ever-more jubilant, their side threatened to run away with the game. Soon, Tevez was in a one-on-one situation with Matt Jackson. He jinked past the defender and crashed his shot against the post, before Baines denied Nigel Reo Coker's follow up on the line.

That could have proved to be the catalyst for a Wigan revival - if only one could recollect a more inept performance from a Premiership team. With eight minutes remaining, Tevez and Reo-Coker combined to set up Boa Morte on the counter attack. The Portugese summed up West Ham's togetherness as, instead of shooting past Filan, he rolled the ball into Harewood's path. With an empty net, the striker made no mistake.

"Easy! Easy!" chanted the West Ham fans. They weren't wrong, but it is hard to imagine them getting such an easy ride against Bolton next week. If they do win though, 5.5m will seem like small change.



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
The saves he had to make were simple enough, but he did often alleviate pressure with simple catches.


Lucas Neill
Composed at right back and provides high quality distribution.


George McCartney
A solid performance was capped by his drive forward which prompted the second goal.


Anton Ferdinand
He dealt with the Wigan strikers well and appeared to be in the correct state of mind.


James Collins
Despite being a tad slow on the ground, his aerial ability is invaluable in this kind of fixture.


Mark Noble
His passing is of high quality, but his willingness to get stuck in is commendable. The youngster had no second thoughts about winning one tackle moments after winning another.


Nigel Reo-Coker
One of the biggest influences on such a poor campaign was one of the biggest influences on today, as he physically dominated Wigan's midfield. It would take a cynical man to say he is playing for a move. I'm a cynical man.


Yossi Benayoun
Where was a display like this at any other point in the season? He even came out best in 50-50s.


Luis Boa Morte
He cost as much as West Ham's fine yesterday. They weren't deduced points though and his goal could be just as important.


Carlos Tevez
Thank God...


Bobby Zamora
Only one real chance which was blocked. He set up the second goal and was involved in many of West Ham's best moments.


Substitutes


Marlon Harewood
(Replaced Zamora, 67) Perhaps there is more to come from him this season, although some moments were less than convincing.


Jonathan Spector
(Replaced Tevez, 82) No comment.


Hayden Mullins
(Replaced Reo-Coker, 84) No comment.


Calum Davenport
Did not play.


Carlton Cole
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: G.Poll.

Attendance: 24,726.

Man of the Match: Mark Noble.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Lucas Neill, George McCartney, Anton Ferdinand, James Collins, Mark Noble, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Luis Boa Morte, Carlos Tevez, Bobby Zamora.

Goals: Luis Boa Morte 29 Yossi Benayoun 56 Marlon Harewood 81              .

Booked: George McCartney 48 Nigel Reo-Coker 67        .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Wigan Athletic

Filan, Boyce, De Zeeuw, Jackson, Baines, Kilbane, Skoko, Landzaat, McCulloch, Camara, Heskey.

Substitutes: Unsworth (De Zeeuw 24), Scharner (Landzaat 46), Aghahowa (Kilbane 53).

Subs not used: Pollitt, Taylor.

Goals: .

Booked: Camara (42).

Sent Off: .

 
Jacob Steinberg's Man of the Match: Mark Noble