West Ham United 1 Wigan Athletic 1

Saturday, 25th August 2007
by Jacob Steinberg

Wigan usually win at Upton Park, comfortably triumphing here in their last three visits. Of course West Ham return the compliment at Wigan, but it had begun to appear that the pair had agreed an ongoing pact as overly welcoming hosts. It remains to be seen whether yesterday's draw will send the universe into a state of flux however.

Yet, as is the way, Wigan will certainly have departed East London the happier side. Widely tipped to struggle this season, they have got off to a flying start, and their stout defensive display denied West Ham the opportunity to push on from last week's win at Birmingham.

There was vague animosity in the air following the Carlos Tevez controversy of last season. Wigan chairman Dave Whe*an, an absent guest yesterday, had unsuccessfully called for West Ham's relegation. He is not a popular man in these parts.

So when Paul Scharner gave Wigan the lead with 12 minutes remaining, neutrals were probably salivating at the chance to label an away victory as Moral Justice. The home support would not have taken well to a defeat here- just as well substitute Lee Bowyer instantly equalised, his first goal for the club.

Wretched in their first home game against Manchester City, West Ham and Alan Curbishley could ill afford another blow. Their performance was certainly better yesterday but the feeling is that something is missing.

For all of their possession, West Ham rarely troubled a Wigan defence which is hardly the firmest they will face all season. Anton Ferdinand headed inches wide, Craig Bellamy had the ball in the net only to be called offside and Mark Noble was denied a penalty when it seemed he had been hauled down.

It all capped a frustrating first half for West Ham- and the mood would have been darker if Jason Koumas's shot had found the net rather than the far post. Wigan were not at their most adventurous, but always looked capable of nicking a goal.

Early in the second half, Julius Aghahowa raced clear of the West Ham defence only to clip his shot over. Then he forced Robert Green into a sprawling save, Mario Melchiot heading the rebound off target. All West Ham had offered, despite Dean Ashton's promising introduction, was Noble's fizzing shot which went just wide.

With the game seemingly destined to be without goals, Wigan struck. Emile Heskey, mostly quiet, flicked a long throw to Scharner who, with his back to goal, hooked an excellent shot into Green's far corner.

The shock sprung West Ham back into life. Luis Boa Morte wriggled away from Melchiot and crossed to Bowyer who fired high and wide under pressure. But a minute later, Ashton and Boa Morte combined to set up Bowyer again. From a tight angle, his low shot was too good for Chris Kirkland. All three players involved had come on as substitutes, a plus for Curbishley on an otherwise vexing afternoon.

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Player Ratings

Robert Green
A quiet day for Green, he did well to halt Aghahowa twice- but he could do nothing about the very good goal.

Lucas Neill
A welcome return for the Hammers skipper and he was a solid presence with good distribution.

George McCartney
Defensively apt, but his attacking contribution leaves much to be desired.

Anton Ferdinand
A good performance from a much-maligned player in recent times. He dealt well with Heskey's strength.

Matthew Upson
Unconvinced? I suspect we all are. Fine if the ball is in the air but less confident when faced with pace.

Mark Noble
A decent game although not as good as last week. Always willing and wants to play football rather than hoof it.

Hayden Mullins
Does what he does ok, but nothing more than that.

Kieron Dyer
A promising display - he looks like he needs more match fitness. Likes to move inside which meant we struggled for width.

Matthew Etherington
Providing more of an outlet than last year and there were glimpses of his old self- but he didn't take on Melchiot enough.

Craig Bellamy
Frankly, quiet. Full of energy and desire- but is the overall talent there? We desperately need a goalscorer.

Bobby Zamora
A good option as a fourth striker for now, but if Curbishley thinks he is our best option for a full season, I despair.


Dean Ashton
(Replaced Zamora, 61) Could stand to lose some weight is my Dr. Gillian moment- otherwise, won most of his headers, played a part in the goal and was skillful on the ground. Encouraging.

Lee Bowyer
(Replaced Mullins, 65) We thought Carlos Tevez waited an age for his first goal- this guy's waited four years! Good finish and a glimpse of the old Lee Bowyer in that moment.

Luis Boa Morte
(Replaced Bellamy, 75) Hauled off alongside Bowyer against City, he looked much more up for it when he came on. Created two chances and one led to our goal.

Jimmy Walker
Did not play.

Jonathan Spector
Did not play.

Match Facts

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.

Subs not used: Pollitt, Hall, Folan.

Goals: .

Booked: Scharner (78).

Sent off: None.

Referee: A.Marriner.

Attendance: 24,961.

Man of the Match: Mark Noble.