West Ham United 1 Wigan Athletic 3
Sunday, 15th August 2004
by East Stand Martin
I saw a wildlife film on holiday about this photographer who got a chunk taken out of his arm by a shark. The bloke was about to go back in the water for the first time since he had been a snack for a great white.He put a brave face on it but I knew how he felt when he slid over the side of the boat as I approached Upton Park for the first time this year.
I was away in Thailand and missed the first two games, but I had heard that we had been unconvincing. Whilst we had never lost a competitive game against Wigan, this match was always going to be a real tester, given their decent start to the season. The likelihood was that they are going to be in the mix for the playoffs – they came close last year until Deano rose like a fish and headed Palace into the final games. I still hold that against him.
The long ball returns
Maybe they were fired up by that memory as it was clear from the start that they were in a positive and determined frame of mind. My first reaction to the West Ham tactics was that it looked like the long ball up to Teddy hoping for the flick on was going to feature too much. So it proved.
The first few minutes saw a couple of West Ham moves: one led to a stretching volley by Teddy which went way over; the other led to a scuffed shot by Mullins after Rebrov latched onto a ball over the top.
Burt the first Wigan attack on 4 minutes led to disaster. Nathan Ellington – who had a terrific match - rose unmarked to meet a ball coming over from the right to loop in a controlled header beyond the despairing dive of Bywater. Quite frankly Ellington and his mate Jason Roberts made our central defence look like mugs today. I lost count of time they won balls in the air – they were a right handful and we had no answer to it.
What was clear from early on was that our midfield looked totally out of it. Sure, the long ball was by passing them a lot, but when we did get the ball, we kept giving it away. Mullins was a particular culprit, but Reo Coker was not much better.
No quality in midfield
What is really disturbing me is that we have no-one who is able to make quality passes out of midfield. Reo can win the ball alright, but his final ball looks suspect to me. I now that this is a forlorn hope, but is there anyway that we can keep Carrick? We need his ability desperately. At least we might connect with a pass or two, which our hopeless midfield failed to do today.
On 9 minutes Teddy slotted a ball out to Marlon who looked bizarrely out of position down the left. He put a great ball in to Rebrov, who miskicked it. Somehow the ball came out to Reo Coker who connected with a powerful strike, but it rose well over the bar.
Wigan then had a couple of set pieces and this revealed that we were looking very dodgy from decent balls whipped in. One of these from a corner on 12 minutes led to a second free header at goal which Bywater did well to hang onto down to his right. Melville was having a complete nightmare trying to cope with Ellington.
Reo Coker made a bursting run forward full of intent on 18 minutes, but he made a poor shot when the ball should have gone out wide to Rebrov. Three minutes later he did some good twisting and turning on the edge of the Wgan box, but his shot was blocked.
Much was made of Anton’s call-up the England U21 set-up at kick off, but there was little in his performance which suggested that this is merited. If they had seen the diabolical pass by Anton out of defence straight to a Wigan player on 24 minutes they might question whether they have made the right decision.
Outpassed and outpaced
The characteristic of the Wigan play throughout this period was a number of short, quick passes. It was al triangles and movement. The aim was always to find a player down the flank and they looked at least a yard faster than us. The strikers were dropping off Melville and Repka, picking up the ball and getting it wide. This was attractive football - Wigan were actually playing the game the way we should be playing it, instead of this Roederesque long ball rubbish.
Repka was not having much of a better game than Melville, and he allowed a ball to bounce over him on 27 minutes which nearly led to a Wigan striker latching onto the ball. Neither central defender seemed capable of wining a ball in the air and a minute after Repka’s error, a volley was fired in from the edge of the box after another ball was won by Wigan. Bywater was mighty relieved to see that one fizz by.
Anton looked a bit better coming forward than defending and he got a good cross over on 29 minutes, which was met by Matty on the far post. Unfortunately his header looped over.
Panic and uncertainty
The panic and uncertainty which was a feature of our defence today was revealed yet again when a sky-high ball dropped down into the box on the half hour. No-one seemed to want to take responsibility for dealing with it and Bywater fumbled it as it came down. It was lucky it did not end up in the back of the net.
Wigan’s aerial superiority was underlined again on 33 minutes when yet another cross came in from the right and Anton failed to deal with it. The header from Wigan was well held to his right by Bywater.
Rebrov – who we have mistakenly brought into the team in my view – looked like a fish out of water for most of this game. Pardew seems to like these last chance saloon players (Zamora is another one), but not honest grafters like a certain player who wanted to stay yet got shipped off to Leicester. The lack of a foraging player in the opposition’s half today was only too evident.
To be fair to Rebrov, Pardew has decided that he is to be the latest victim for a spell out on the right. Rebrov is a striker. He needs to be in the box. He looked well short of pace throughout the game and made a horribly late tackle on 35 minutes which led to yet another Wigan free kick. This wasn’t deliberate – he just couldn’t get there. I wasn’t counting the free kicks in the first half, but I reckon we must have given away at least ten in dangerous positions. Rebrov also kept failing to make any passes connect at all. But he was not alone in that.
It took 37 minutes for last season’s Hammer of the Year to create anything and beat a player. After creating space, Matty hit a half shot half cross which the Wigan keeper held well.
Then further disaster hit just at the worst time with a minute to half time when a ball through the middle foxed Melville who was easily outpaced by Roberts despite an attempt by the ageing ex-Fulham defender to grab hold of his shirt. Roberts was cool as ice and rounded Bywater easily to side foot into an empty net.
It was then that our best chance came right on the stroke of half time after a flick on found Rebrov unmarked in the box. Off balance, his half volley was gathered comfortably by the ‘keeper.
The crowd then proceeded to make it known to the team exactly what they thought of the first half. Personally, I can’t remember a poorer first half performance. We were simply played off the park. I glanced up to the Directors’ box and noticed that there were two gentlemen of the constabulary in attendance. What I couldn’t work out was whether they were protecting Brown from the fans or the club’s creditors.
I was also reminded of that trip to Wigan last year when the Wigan Chairman came out on the pitch to greet the fans. Can you imagine Brown doing that? Brown would end up nicked for inciting a riot.
We also learnt at half time that the attendance was 22,600 adding to the feeling of deflation. There is a real air of decay around at the moment.
Pardew rings the changes
Pardew had to change it at half time and he made the right changes. The lacklustre and absent Marlon was replaced by Zamora and Chadwick came on for the hapless Rebrov.
Marlon really does not look interested at the moment. Maybe he thought he would get away and is fed up that Connors got a move instead. At one point he lost his boot in an attack and despite our advance on goal, strolled very languidly to retrieve his boot shaking his head.
We did start the half more positively and Chadwick made some early runs down the right. Then on 48 minutes, Reo Coker sent Matty on his way, but his cross was missed by Z-man. Brevett also put over a good cross on 56 minutes, but Z-man glanced it wide.
Then on 57 minutes came the move of the match which buried us. After a great run down the right by Teale an excellent cross was put over which Ellington met superbly to bury in the back of the net. 3-0 down and we deserved it.
Matty was still trying hard, despite looking somewhat short of his customary pace. On 60 minutes, he put in a quality cross but Z-man was beaten to it by the Wigan defender.
Mulins was still having an awful game, failing to make any half decent passes at all. Then out of the blue on 69 minutes, Z-man bagged a goal. The ball came over from the right and he tried to back heel the ball into the net. The ball bounced off the keeper and he managed to get to it first about two yards out.
Any hope this had given us was soon dissipated as we looked more likely to concede a goal than score again. Teale made another teasing run down the right, tying Rufus in knots only to blast wide when he should have scored.
Matty keeps trying
Matty went off again on a further couple of good runs despite looking short of fitness. His first on 74 minutes led to a good cross, but Teddy couldn’t meet it. The second run and excellent cross 4 minutes later demonstrated once again why so many West Ham fans question whether Zamora has got what it takes as he fluffed a shot from 8 yards unchallenged by a Wigan defender. Ignoring the recent reorganisation of the football league, a bloke near me said “A third division striker would have done better than that”.
Chris Cohen was given about 7 minutes replacing Rufus. He showed some energy and a great pass to Chadwick. Just before the final whistle, Cohen couldn’t quite get his foot on it in the box to score a goal. There was a whiff of a penalty about that and Cohen was certainly protesting to the referee.
Outclassed in every department
This game showed that we could be in for a long and frustrating season. The defending was completely unacceptable and we missed Dailly big time. You feared every cross coming in as we just couldn’t cope in the air. There was far too much long ball, poor passing and no creativity in midfield. There was no penetration up front and not enough shots on target. We had one shot on goal in the first half and although things improved in the second half with a little more width down the left, we deserved nothing out of this game. Confidence looks very low.
I heard Pardew describe the game as his most disappointing since joining the club. I would have thought the game in Cardiff would still qualify for that. It does for me. The fact is that the impact of that game is still being felt and we have lost two players since then whom I wish were still at the club – Connors and Jobi. Pardew’s post-match comments also indicate that Carrick will also soon be gone.
I have backed Pardew all the way, but we all know that this season is make or break for him. He looked very downcast after the game, and you begin to wonder whether he is beginning to have doubts about our prospects. It is a big ask and the morale of the fans seems to be at the lowest ebb I can remember. People are voting with their feet.
For the first time today, I wondered if Gordon Strachan might be getting a bit restless for a return to management.
(Following ratings by Gordon Thrower)
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Player RatingsStephen Bywater
One dodgy cross. A couple of good saves. Poor distribution.
Spent much of the time having to do Melville's job as well as his own and ended up doing neither satisfactorily.
Looked better going forward than defensively. But not much.
Just called into the England under 21 squad he had some confident moments though nobody in defence today exactly covered themselves in glory.
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.
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.
Poor defensively and poor going forward. Failed to get his foot in and allowed Wigan to boss the midfield virtually unchallenged.
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.
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.
Tried hard but was given absolutely no service or support from those around him.
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.
(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.
(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.
(Replaced Brevett, 83) Came on for Brevett and did ok, though the cause was well & truly lost by that time.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest 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.
Man of the Match: Luke Chadwick.