Coca Cola Championship
West Ham United 1 Wigan Athletic 3

Sunday, 15th August 2004
by Gordon Thrower

I mean no disrespect to the hundreds of thousands of players up and down the country who drag hungover bodies into MOT failures to drive to municipal playing fields each and every weekend but really, if I want to watch Sunday League football I can quite easily do so without paying £600 a year for the privilege – heck for that much a season I'd get to play!

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

We were forced to get up early on a Sunday by the Met's inability to police both a football match and a religious festival on the same day. Or, as the more cynical of us might think, the Met's desire to wring two days' overtime out of a single weekend. The team news was that skipper Dailly had a dodgy knee – an injury which may keep him sidelined for some time. Ferdinand came in to right back whilst Brevett returned from suspension on the left leaving Repka and Melville to cover the middle. In midfield Rebrov was given another start on the right. Chadwick, despite his promising start against Reading, returned to the bench. Reo-Coker, Mullins and Etherington continued in their respective positions as did Harewood and Sheringham, who was given the armband in Dailly's absence.

Four minutes was all it took for things to go pear-shaped. The ball was played out to Wright on the right whose angled cross found Ellington unmarked in the box for him to head home. Actually Ellington wasn't exactly unmarked. However, his marker was Melville which, today, amounted to the same thing.

So, 1-0 down. Did we bomb forward and take the game to the opposition. Er no. There was one header from Etherington which went over and, following our only decent spell of passing in the whole match, a Mullins shot was deflected to safety, but that was basically it. A Reo-Coker burst from midfield looked promising but the shot that ended it was doubly infuriating, firstly for its total lack of any meaningful power and secondly, because, not for the first time this season, Rebrov was free in space on the right waiting for the pass that never came.

Up the other end out troubles continued to be of our own making. Bywater came for and failed to gather a cross, an error which caused consternation and ended up with Roberts shooting over. Bywater made amends with a save down to his right from McCulloch. Bywater then had his work cut out when Repka decided to lob a back-pass at him from 25 yards, an effort that required the young 'keeper to head clear.

With the score at 1-0 there was always a chance that with a few choice words at half-time, and maybe a change in personnel, we might be able to rescue something from the game. Unfortunately that part of the plan rather depended on us not conceding a second before half time, something that we spectacularly failed to do just before the interval. We failed to clear our lines properly as a Wigan attack broke down and the ball was played back to Roberts who had got in between Melville and Repka. Melville's attempt at fouling Roberts was laughable and the Wigan striker had the easiest of tasks to take the ball round Bywater and pass it into the empty net.

We needed changes at half-time if we were to have any chance of nicking something and they promptly came with Zamora and Chadwick replacing Harewood and Rebrov respectively. Both substitutes were improvements on those they replaced, but that wasn't really much of a boast. We looked a bit livelier for a while, but only in the same way that a whole tortoise looks livelier than one that's been knee-capped and Wigan added a third on the hour when Ellington was able to head home from Teale's cross from the Wigan right. I think Reo-Coker might have been the nearest player to Ellington but since he couldn't be bothered to put in a meaningful challenge, I can't be bothered to check.

About ten minutes later we pulled one back. Reo-Coker turned his man and played a low ball into the box where Zamora's clever back heel deserved a goal in its own right. The effort was blocked on the line but Zamora was first to react to the loose ball to pick up his first of the season. Wigan claimed that Reo-Coker had fouled his man but referee D'Urso (who doesn't normally need much of an excuse to stitch us up) saw nothing wrong. Perhaps he felt sorry for the paying customer for once.

You'd have thought that this might have been a signal to the team to give it a bit of a go. After all if you're 3-1 down with 20 minutes to go you'd have thought that there wasn't an awful lot to lose really. No. There was nothing. No passion, no intelligence, no guile, no urgency, nothing. Zamora ought to have done better from Etherington's cut-back but the striker appeared to have used up his allocation of finishing for the day with his goal and his shot screwed harmlessly wide.

It could have been even worse – Bywater had to be alert to keep out efforts from Frandsen and Ellington - but frankly Wigan could probably have won at a canter without breaking sweat, which was saying a lot on such a sultry and sweaty day.

Cohen came on late on for Brevett and might have engineered a second towards the end when he appeared to go flying during a late goalmouth scramble, but in truth a second goal would have been more than we deserved. A hell of a lot more and the game petered out to leave Wigan worthy winners.

This was a really rotten performance overall. Now I know that I'm not normally at my best on a Sunday but there again I'm not paid to be. Having said that, I'm sometimes not at my best on a Saturday either. For example, this Saturday, due to a mix-up with similar looking envelopes, my ticket for the Coventry away match ended up in the shredder, costing me 45 minutes of my valuable time as I waded through a bucket of ticker-tape to sellotape 13 strips of cardboard back together again. However, if performances as abject as this one are repeated, I'll be sorely tempted to repeat the process with my season ticket – and I won't bother with the Sellotape! So, hopefully for my bank balance (not to mention my sanity) this will have been a one-off bad day at the office.

Ever the optimist (just be glad I finished the report before my medication wore off!).

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Player Ratings

Stephen Bywater
One dodgy cross. A couple of good saves. Poor distribution.

Tomas Repka
Spent much of the time having to do Melville's job as well as his own and ended up doing neither satisfactorily.

Rufus Brevett
Looked better going forward than defensively. But not much.

Anton Ferdinand
Just called into the England under 21 squad he had some confident moments though nobody in defence today exactly covered themselves in glory.

Andy Melville
A shocker, pure & simple. Where he has a partnership of sorts with Dailly, it appeared that he had only been introduced to Repka during the warm up.

Nigel Reo-Coker
A couple of trademark bursts through the midfield ended with some equally trademark poor decision making- shot when the pass was on and vice versa. Good ball in for the goal, though he may have got away with a foul on his marker during the build-up.

Hayden Mullins
Poor defensively and poor going forward. Failed to get his foot in and allowed Wigan to boss the midfield virtually unchallenged.

Sergei Rebrov
Sorry but (in my opinion) Rebrov does not a right-sided midfield player make. Sure the players seem to feed him out there only as a last resort, but even on those occasions when the ball does reach him in space he doesn't seem that comfortable in the role. He has been selected for the Ukraine squad to play England this week. I bet he won't play on the right in that match.

Matthew Etherington
Looked a bit livelier than of late but has still to recapture the form that brought him a clutch of player of the year awards last season.

Teddy Sheringham
Tried hard but was given absolutely no service or support from those around him.

Marlon Harewood
Up to now Marlon has got himself into some good positions but was found wanting when it came to the finishing. Today he didn't even get into any decent positions and was rightly replaced at the interval.


Bobby Zamora
(Replaced Harewood, 45) Tried to inject a bit of life up front and battled well for his goal, though the one he missed looked easier.

Luke Chadwick
(Replaced Rebrov, 45) Much better on the right than the man he replaced. Surely must be in line for a place in the starting eleven next time out.

Chris Cohen
(Replaced Brevett, 83) Came on for Brevett and did ok, though the cause was well & truly lost by that time.

Jimmy Walker
Did not play.

Adam Nowland
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Stephen Bywater, Tomas Repka, Rufus Brevett, Anton Ferdinand, Andy Melville, Nigel Reo-Coker, Hayden Mullins, Sergei Rebrov, Matthew Etherington, Teddy Sheringham, Marlon Harewood.

Goals: Bobby Zamora 69                  .

Booked: None booked.           .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Wigan Athletic: Filan, Wright, Jackson, Breckin, Baines, Teale, Frandsen, Bullard, McCulloch, Ellington, Roberts.

Subs not used: Salisbury, Thome, Mahon.

Goals: Ellington (5, 58), Roberts (45).

Booked: None booked..

Sent off: None.

Referee: A.D'Urso.

Attendance: 22,643.

Man of the Match: Luke Chadwick.