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Premiership
Saturday, 25th August 2007

West Ham United 1
Wigan Athletic 1

by East Stand Martin


I used to like those slot machine games at the fair when you used to drop 10p in and hope that it would push a load of other 10 pence pieces over the edge. It was about letting it fall in just at the right moment.

There was a less pleasant variation on offer in the toilets of the Duke of Edinburgh today. The can was precipitously full of piss and I was pleading with new arrivals not to add more recycled Fosters into the equation and burst the banks all over my pristine trainers. I escaped just before there was a New Orleans type golden shower of catastrophic proportions.

Home defeat, away win

Wigan. It’s a funny old fixture which always seems to involve us losing at home and then going up to the JJB and carrying away the spoils. Surely it wasn’t going to happen again?

Nah. Not after last week’s away win which had turned the ignition key on our season. The team setup looked good enough, with the manager keeping faith with Matty and Mullins and only adding back into the equation Lucas ‘I am the calmest f*cker ever to have worn claret and blue’ Neill.

Matty made the running early on with five minutes gone and sent over a useful cross which was only partially cleared out to the waiting McCartney who got away a half decent attempt which didn’t clear the bar by much. A minute later Bellamy chased down a ball just on the edge the box with keeper Chris Kirkland looking a bit uncertain. He cleared the ball against Bellamy and it deflected back into the side netting.

Dyer broke away rapidly on 8 minutes after Zamora fought gamely for the ball. Kirkland half spilled the ball but it was cleared. Right after this attempt, a free kick was won about 30 yards out and this led to an almost perfect chip in over the wall by Matty which agonisingly went just beyond Zamora’s outstretched boot. Any connection would have resulted in a goal.

Dyer Bellamy combo

The tempo was with the Irons and Bellamy was off like a train on 10 minutes, beating a defender at the byline and sending over a good cross which had to be headed away by a defender on the six yard line. Four minutes after this, there was some excellent link up play between Dyer and Bellamy who then won a corner. A further corner followed and a was followed by a cross from Noble which Anton headed marginally wide of the right hand post.

Dyer made another good run on the 20 minute mark which led to a god cross to the far post where Zamora fluffed a volley.

Bellamy was really up for the fight and made a terrific tackle centrally on 23 minutes allowing him to lay off a pass to Zamora. He ran forward but his shot was blocked on the edge of the box.

A minute after this Wigan had their first respite from what had been almost constant pressure with a break down the right. A good cross was sent over by Koumas but this was nodded wide by Scharner who had an almost free header.

Zamora looked dangerous as he chased down a cross in the right hand side of the Wigan box. The angle was tight but the keeper got a hand to his shot in the goalmouth scramble that followed it looked like Mark Noble had been tugged backwards. He was adamant it was a penalty but the Premiership referee with a hairdresser name, Andre Marriner, was not interested.

I thought he was supposed to be sh*t

Just short of the half hour, a long ball led to a rebound off Zamora but this just looped away from Bellamy who vainly tried to get his foot on it. The much maligned Titus Bramble then launched forward a quality ball which Anton did well to intercept and frustrate Emile Heskey.

Ping pong in the middle of the park on 32 minutes allowed a pass to be threaded through, sending Bellamy on his way. The flag went up straight away, ruling out the eventual finish of Bellamy. ESM Jnr swore that he was offside but had got back onside when the ball was played.

Dyer was consistently causing trouble down the right and he laid a ball back to Neill who passed a ball to Bellamy’s feet in the box. He passed back to Mullins but he did no better than scoop the ball up in the air harmlessly. Then Bellamy made a searing drive down the left and passed back to McCartney who hit a great shot towards the top left corner of the goal which was deflected onto the top of the net for a corner.

Sibierksi, the Premiership’s top scorer went off on 37 minutes to be replaced by Aghahowa. He’d hardly had a sniff.

A minute after the change, Bellamy was claiming a penalty for handball but Andre the hairdresser gave a foul the other way much to the nutter Welshman’s disgust.

Subwayed

A rare Wigan break occurred on 41 minutes and this led to a shot flashing across the face of the goal from Jason Koumas which hit the post. Following this, McCartney rather clumsily fouled Melchiot on the edge of the box, but the set piece came to nothing.

The final move of note in the half came with a minute of ordinary time left when Zamora got sandwiched 30 yards out. Mark Noble, who caused real problems for Brmingham last week in similar positions, blasted the ball rather uncontrollably high and wide.

It was a 45 minutes where West Ham had the lion’s share of possession and Wigan rarely threatened. We showed real pace in or breaks via Matty, Bellamy and Dyer, but there was a lack of end product. Some clinical finishing was what was required and we were lacking a bit in that department last week as well.

The second half began with no changes on either side, but it was not long before Anton was limping around with a number of Eaststanders suggesting that the manager needed to replace him. There was no sign of anything happening on the bench.

Arsenal-like

Dyer did some good work down the right on 51 minutes, but we looked like we were trying to walk the ball into the goal and Dyer was caught offside after Neill tried to give him the ball back. ESM Jnr was bellowing “shoot!”. Wigan were bound to grow in confidence the longer the game went on and Aghahowa nearly nicked a goal on 52 minutes as he picked up a quick pass, advanced menacingly into the box but mercifully he sent the ball over the bar under challenge.

A minute later, the game was back down the other end again and Matty won a free kick on the very edge of the box after the ball was handled. It was Tevez territory but not Noble country as the shot could not get past the wall. The rebound was also met by Noble who shot just wide of the left hand post.

For the first time in the game, we lost our defensive shape on 55 minutes, allowing the ball to run loose. The shot that followed shaved the right hand post with Green sprawling.

That familiar Ashton clamour

Matty was still looking for his runs down the left flank and he put in a decent pass to feet in the box but on 57 minutes, but the striker’s touch was poor. This raised the clamour even more for the introduction of Ashton who had been warming up for some time, no doubt not helping Zamora’s concentration. The change inevitably followed on the hour.

We looked to have conceded on 64 minutes following a driven in free kick by Koumas. Robert Green did well to make himself big and block the shot which then spun up to Melchiot who headed wide when he should have hit the target. Then end of this move saw the introduction of Bowyer for Mullins.

Ashton made his first real contribution on 68 minutes as he turned well and then attempted a slide rule pass which was just hit too hard for Bellamy to collect. Two minutes after this, Matty won a corner which ended up at the feet of Noble just outside the box. His shot was awful, ending up in the second tier of the Centenary Stand.

Ashton achieved a deft flick on 74 minutes which allowed Bellamy to steal away. He passed back to Ashton but his shot was blocked. This was the last contribution from Bellamy who was replaced by Boa Morte.

Circus act

Michael Brown was introduced on 77 minutes for Valencia and it was just after the change that Wigan got an unlikely breakthrough following a long throw. The ball was flicked on by Heskey and Scharner was there with his back to goal to perform a contortionist trick of an overhead kick which sailed perfectly into the bottom left corner with Green helpless. It looked ominously like it was going to be another mugging at the hands of Wigan at the Boleyn Ground.

However, we did not pay for the non-productive first half dominance when the hitherto barren Lee Bowyer opened his West Ham account just a couple of minutes following the Wigan goal after he was fed a ball by Boa Morte. He did everything right by shooting across the keeper into the far right hand corner. It didn’t look like the cleanest of hits but it went in much to the relief of everybody.

We went in search of the winner but this proved elusive despite the energetic efforts of Boa Morte who ESM Jnr says is best deployed in the hole behind the strikers. A good cross from the left allowed Ashton to head downwards at the far post but the keeper save it. Boa then won a free kick in a promising spot but Ashton shot high and wide. In time added on, there was also a goalmouth scramble after a ball was launched in, but Boa’s shot was blocked and the cross from the rebound sailed over Ashton’s head.

No disaster

Although at the start of the game not many of the Upton Park faithful would have been too happy with a draw, in the event it could have all gone pear-shaped like last season where our record against the so-called lesser teams at home was not good. Wigan were well-organised and defended competently. A draw was not a bad outcome at all given how late we had conceded.

Taking the positives out of the game, our defence looked solid once again and the pace coming forward courtesy of Bellamy and Dyer was telling. Boa Morte made a real difference when he came on and the manager got that change absolutely right. The downside is that Zamora is looking a bit out of touch and with Ashton still on the road to full fitness, we are definitely lacking the killer instinct up front. Dyer and Bellamy are not prolific goalscorers so you wonder whether that last gasp transfer activity should be aimed towards someone like Anelka or dare I say it Defoe. Yes I am going to say it.

We’ve now got to try and slay another dragon from last season, that away trip to Reading. Fortunately I was out of the country for that 6-0 disaster , but it doesn’t mean that along with all the travelling Irons I will not be making that trip to Berkshire without a bit of trepidation. But this isn’t last season is it? That’s all behind us now.

(Player ratings by Gordon Thrower)



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Unemployed for much of the game he was on hand to make a vital save when required.


Lucas Neill
Fairly solid but there was the odd problem with his distribution.


George McCartney
In good form at present as he does his damnedest to prove to everyone that we don’t need a new left back.


Anton Ferdinand
Kept Heskey quiet which is why the decision to swap with Upson for the goal was all the more mysterious and annoying.


Matthew Upson
Had a hard time on occasion against Agahowa having had a nice stroll in the sun alongside Sibierski.


Mark Noble
Another good run-out – though the toll of a hot day and a midweek international showed in the last few minutes.


Hayden Mullins
The usual water carrier performance that goes unnoticed. Sacrificed in the pursuit of a more attacking formation.


Kieron Dyer
A bit of pace but didn’t add as much width as I’d have liked to have seen on the right.


Matthew Etherington
A bit in and out. Looked capable of causing problems one minute then invisible the next. Still an improvement on last season.


Craig Bellamy
Lots of running and is beginning to show a threat. Some nice link up stuff with Dyer.


Bobby Zamora
Just about nothing went right for poor old Bobby. We may be looking at a spell on the bench sooner rather than later.


Substitutes


Dean Ashton
(Replaced Zamora, 61) Beginning to show some good touches. I’d like to see him start games now – he’ll get more match fitness that way.


Lee Bowyer
(Replaced Mullins, 65) Nicely taken goal and got into good positions on a number of occasions.


Luis Boa Morte
(Replaced Bellamy, 75) Had a fine spell. Linked up with Ashton well and set up Bowyer nicely for the goal.


Jimmy Walker
Did not play.


Jonathan Spector
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: A.Marriner.

Attendance: 24,961.

Man of the Match: Mark Noble.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Lucas Neill, George McCartney, Anton Ferdinand, Matthew Upson, Mark Noble, Hayden Mullins, Kieron Dyer, Matthew Etherington, Craig Bellamy, Bobby Zamora.

Goals: Lee Bowyer 81                  .

Booked: None.

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Wigan Athletic

Kirkland, Melchoit, Scharner, Bramble, Granqvist, Valencia, Koumas, Landzaat, Kilbane, Sibierski, Heskey.

Substitutes: Aghahowa (Sibierski 38), Brown (Valencia 77).

Subs not used: Pollitt, Hall, Folan.

Goals: .

Booked: Scharner (78).

Sent Off: .

 
East Stand Martin's Man of the Match: Mark Noble


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