Wigan Athletic 1 West Ham United 2
Saturday, 2nd April 2005
When I saw the team line-up I was both happy and a little annoyed.Whilst I was pleased to see Anton and Ward continue their promising partnership I was a little frustrated to see the creative talent of Noble stranded on the left wing with Etherington and Williams stuck on the bench. However I was equally pleased that Nigel Reo-Coker started after his recent omission from the first team. Although ultimately the formation and team selection paid off, I still thought there were some glaring tactical mistakes by Pardew.
Wigan's insistence on including new signing Kavanagh appears to have affected the balance of their team. His inclusion would appear to have lead to the absence of Mahon, who is a fairly tricky winger at this level. In him and Teale on the opposite flank I expected them to cause us real problems, however playing McCulloch behind the striker meant Teale had to tuck in, and Wigan effectively played three narrow.
This left huge spaces down both flanks which I felt two attack-minded wingers might have exploited. I'm not slating either Newton or Noble here who I both felt had good games - Noble in particular - I simply thought the introduction of Etherington or Williams at half-time would have given us fresh impetus. As I said though, it's by the by as we stole all three points.
Mark Noble; just how good is this guy? I got a real good look at him today down the left flank, thanks to some good seats. For an 18-year-old he possesses the best football brain of any of the current players, which is why I think he should grace the central midfield berth where he can be at his most devastating. Especially alongside Reo-Coker who rediscovered his early-season form today.
He was tough in the tackle, spirited and with those penetrating drives the pair of them could feasibly form West Ham's central midfield pairing for years to come. That said, Mullins did a tidy job as the midfield anchor man and allowed Noble and Reo-Coker to express themselves.
Special praise also for Anton Ferdinand and Elliott Ward at the back; they played exceptionally well against the division's most potent strike force. Like Noble and Reo-Coker, the pair could become part of the team's spine for years to come.
Both are strong in the air, but that extra pace and composure allow Ferdinand to sweep up the pieces whilst the physical presence and tough tackling of Ward frightens attackers. Today's performance further cemented my belief that Anton deserves the HOTY award; yet again he was immense and he has improved leaps and bounds.
Finally the fans, and proof that our support does affect the players in a positive way if we get behind them. Following a second-half miss by Marlon, after the initial bemoaning his ability to finish, I heard a section of fans largely encouraging him. Marlon himself heard this and applauded the fans, you could immediately see his demeanour change; his confidence was visibly lifted as he sought to repay the fans support.
Minutes later he scored his goal, and thereafter continued to terrorise the wigan defense for the remainder of the game. The fans support was further rewarded at full time, when the majority of the players came over to the away support, applauded and threw their shirts into the crowd.
A noticeably fired up Anton led the way and he was followed by Marlon and Reo. It was nice to see such pride and determination from the players and their actions were much appreciated by the West ham faithful. Noble, Ward, Newton, Teddy and Powell all followed the lead of the other lads and tossed their shirts in to the crowd.
Today's performance was much improved and if we continue to show the kind of determination, spirit and togetherness we should make the play-offs. However, consistency has been our great problem; following today's game my optimism and passion has been restored. But we are by no means guaranteed of our place at Cardiff.
But more of the same please lads - and I'm sure we can achieve our goal.
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Player RatingsJimmy Walker
Didn't put a foot wrong. Excellent handling and distribution, perhaps could have been slightly quicker in releasing the ball to the wings but that's a minor criticism. Made one excellent save in the first half when one-on-one against Roberts, stood tall and saved well with legs.
A fantastic performance on his return. Solid defensively, he read the play well and was on hand to mop up a couple of times. Forward play left a lot to be desired at times, but that is not his game really.
Solid performance from an experienced and likeable veteran. Talks throughout the game; I'm left in little doubt that he brings much needed organisational and leadership skills to the table. Only criticism - his willingness to back-off his man and show him on the in-side which very nearly lead to two Wigan goals.
Only his third competive league start, but showed remarkable maturity. Powerful and strong in the tackle he shackled Wigan's dangerous front two magnificently often stepping in front and winning the ball. Hopefully a partnership that will blossom for years.
Exceptional, and further continued his good run of form. Becoming more dominant in the air plus he gains good distance. The partnership with Ward is promising. Athletic and composed, Anton with every performance becomes more assured leading to (the inevitable) comparisons with his brother. Whilst some may fault him for the goal I thought he did well to get his head to the ball and thought it was perhaps Ward who should have dealt better with Roberts.
Returned to the early-season form which made him a front runner for the Hammer of the Year award. A solid first half was improved upon in the second as the tough tackling and penetrating driving runs returned and spurned the Hammers on to victory. Gave it his all and ran til the death. Passing and final pass could still do with some work though.
Performed the midfield anchor role admirably. Efficient - if not spectactular - he benefitted from playing in his favoured position. Broke up the play but could perhaps be fiercer in the tackle. Should in my opinion make way for Etherington and allow Noble to grace the central-midfield berth alongside Reo.
Fantastic when he was able to get on the ball, he possesses the best football brain of any of the current squad - including Teddy! With the ability to drift past people, shoot and play the killer through-ball his talents would flourish in the centre of the park. That said he performed admirably and once again demonstrated what an exceptional young player he is.
Yet again a very solid workman-like performance. Unspectacular but did the simple things well allowing Reo-Coker, Noble and Harewood to really attack the Wigan defence. Would like to see him open up his legs though and really attack the left back, looked hesitant today as see still seeks to establish himself in the first team.
Once again provided the goods, netting his 19th goal of the season. However despite this impressive return I cant help but feel a little cheated by all the praise he continues to recieve. Whilst I will concede he had a very good second-half, for me he seems to apply himself only when he decides too. And whilst much is made of his ability to link up play, it has been very sloppy and lacklustre throughout most of our matches. However whilst he continues to find the net he will continue to be our saviour and most valuable player according to the press!
Thought he worked hard today, particularly in the second-half and really responded to the support from the crowd. When Marlon gets the bit between his teeth he frightens any defence at this level and is a real handful. With pace to burn, the Wigan defence at times had 15 yards on him yet he reached the ball first and powerfully bustled past them to fire the winner. If he can improve his finishing and play with the same passion he should surpass Teddy as leading scorer. On another day he might have had 3 or 4 goals.
(Replaced Newton, 88) Brought on with 5 minutes to go. Succeeded in keeping things tight, sharp in the tackle his combatitveness would benefit Mullins greatly.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Jimmy Walker, Tomas Repka, Chris Powell, Elliott Ward, Anton Ferdinand, Nigel Reo-Coker, Hayden Mullins, Mark Noble, Shaun Newton, Teddy Sheringham, Marlon Harewood.
Goals: Teddy Sheringham 55 Marlon Harewood 67 .
Booked: Nigel Reo-Coker 25 Mark Noble 88 Marlon Harewood 90 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Wigan Athletic: Filan, Eaden, Breckin, Wright, Baines, Teale, Bullard,Kavanagh, McCulloch, Roberts, Ellington.
Subs not used: Walsh, Jackson, Graham.
Goals: Roberts (51).
Booked: Roberts (90), Mahon (90)..
Sent off: None.
Man of the Match: Anton Ferdinand.