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Coca Cola Championship
Saturday, 2nd April 2005

Wigan Athletic 1
West Ham United 2

by East Stand Martin

It always seems a bit of an adventure going up the M6. You do see some strange sights on the way.

Typical was a bunch of bikers we encountered at a service station en route to some kind of get together called “The freezing nuts”. Different, and you can only hazard a guess about what that was all about. Amongst their number was a middle aged slaphead with a long beard. It got me humming a song favoured by the Barmy Army in South Africa intended to wind up Hashim Amla who has a similar baldy/beardy predilection. To the tune of “He’s got the whole world in his hands” – a rather resonant anthem given the final hours of the Holy Father in Rome - I found myself chanting “He’s got his head on upside down”. Quietly though, because the geezer looked mean as f*ck.

Half a carnival

To the JJB, a nice stadium, somewhat expanded by the presence of some 5,000 Irons on Spring tour. Not quite the same carnival atmosphere of almost a year ago when dozens of stretch limos invaded the town and Deano rose like a fish to put Wigan out of the playoffs and set us up for ultimate disappointment.

Oxford Fred was in attendance for this one, although he’d only recently got over the appalling West Ham performance at Reading. We both concluded that we had a bad feeling about the game, but f*ck it, the sun was shining. I glanced at the odds on offer at the bookies, and concluded that a 2-1 win for West Ham at 14/1 looked like it might be worth a flutter. Fred stuck £20 on that for the both of us.

The team line-up saw the return of Tom from suspension, which meant that Shaun Newton got put in right midfield. The youthful central defensive duo of Ward and Anton also started. Jimmy Walker was brought in to replace Bywater, while Mullins and Reo-Coker took up central midfield positions with Mark Noble out left. Matty was on the bench and was either not fully fit or – on the basis of recent performances – his inclusion was not considered justified by the manager. The Marlon/Teddy combo also began the match again up front.

Examination of central defence

It was always clear that Anton and Ward would be severely tested by the partnership of Roberts and Ellington, by far the most potent strike force in the Championship. Elliot looked confident though and made a great interception in the first minute. Tome also had to be sharp on 5 minutes to head away a dangerous cross delivered in from the right.

It wasn’t an auspicious start for West Ham generally as we came out second best in a number of 50/50 balls. Our passing was poor as well, meaning that possession kept being given away to a Wigan team that looked confident.

Mark Noble was the first to try and break up the fluency of the home team on 13 minutes when he let loose with a weakfish half volley on goal 25 yards out. This caused no problems for the Wigan keeper, Filan.

Three minutes later, Teddy showed his class yet again with a fine pass out into the right channel to find Marlon. He advanced on goal but seemed to hurry his hot, scuffing it well wide of the right hand post.

Hayden Mullins put Anton under pressure after he gave the ball away needlessly on 18 minutes, but the young defender cleared well with Roberts bearing down on him.

Newton and Mullins played in position

Shaun Newton, who looked busy and far more comfortable in midfield then did very well to bring a ball under control on the edge of the box on 21 minutes. He found Teddy, but his shot on goal lacked power.

Nigel Reo-Coker sparked a mini bundle on 23 minutes when he arrived late into a 50/50 tackle. There was a bit of squaring up between players and Nigel ended up with a yellow.

Mullins, looking a lot more at home in midfield made a nice chip forward on 28 minutes to find Marlon, who turned well but his hot was blocked away across the face of goal.

Walker’s leg

Two minutes later, Ellington made a great run forward and slotted through a fine pass to find Roberts, but he stubbed the shot along the ground allowing Walker to gather easily. Then Roberts got the ball again on 34 minutes after Elliot Ward mistimed a jump and failed to connect with a long ball forward. A goal looked certain as he ran forward rapidly, but Walker managed to spread himself and denied the goal-bound shot with his leg. This was a crucial save at a point in the game when Wigan looked very menacing.

This attempt was followed swiftly by a mazy run down the right by Gary Teale. He wove in and out, foxed Chris Powell completely and attempted a curling shot which somehow went outside the right hand post.

Wigan kept up the pressure with another lofted ball down the centre which Anton couldn’t deal with. Inevitably Roberts latched onto it and sped into the box with Anton trying desperately to recover his ground. He then seemed to collide with Roberts and it would not have been surprising if a penalty had been awarded.

End of half rally

As the half closed, West Ham rallied after 10 minutes of intense pressure. First, on 44 minutes, there was terrific interplay between Teddy and Marlon. The goalkeeper came and Marlon tried to lift the ball over him. It seemed to take an eternity to come down, but unfortunately it landed on the roof of the net. Teddy was not happy as Marlon appeared to be taken out by the keeper who couldn’t get to the ball in time. Then on the stroke of half time, Teddy brought the ball under control skillfully and made a superb pass out to the right to find Newton. He put over a good cross, but Marlon – who was probably still groggy from the clash with the keeper – glanced his header wide.

It was an entertaining first half, although Wigan shaded it with their crisp passing. One noticeable tactic was that Wigan always looked to pass from dead ball situations rather than hoof it into the box. It was good football to watch. West Ham did look vulnerable to the ball lofted down the middle where Roberts was always waiting. Both Teale and Bullard also looked dangerous on the ball. The latter, a Canning Town boy who never got a look in whilst at West Ham, would not look out of place at all inn the Premiership.

At half time I retreated into the East Stand – not quite the same as the real thing – to partake of a legendary Wigan pie (it was fantastic) and escape the sun. There were a lot of red faces down there and I made the mistake of offering to pass a couple of cups of coke back from the front of the queue for refreshments. I ended up with half of it poured down my sleeve.

Roberts adds another to the tally

The teams cam out after the break with West Ham looking the brighter, but just when it looked like we might take the lead, Kavanagh launched a long ball forward on 50 minutes which was only half dealt with by Anton. Roberts gathered up the scraps, peeled away and hit an unstoppable shot into the bottom corner.

It very nearly got worse three minutes later when Teale put over a great cross to the far post which McCulloch wasted with a poor header.

But it was birthday boy Teddy that turned our fortunes ten minutes into the half when he beat Filan from close range. The ball arrived at his feet via a rather circuitous route. Ward launched a ball forward which Reo-Coker brought down well. There was then a rebound off a confused looking Wigan defence and Teddy does not waste opportunities like that.

Wigan were far from finished though and yet another ball over the top on 61 minutes beat Ward to find the ever dangerous Roberts. He squared a cross to find
an unmarked Wigan player just inside the box. Fortunately the shot was totally fluffed.

Anton then made another mistake on 63 minutes after he mistimed a jump following a long throw. The ball ran agonisingly across the face of goal but there was no Wigan player on hand to take advantage.

Marlon responds

A minute later Marlon nearly gave us the lead after he had been put through on goal. In similar fashion to the much disputed non sending off of the Derby keeper earlier on this season, Marlon pushed the ball just too wide. He gathered the ball, but the angle was too acute to shoot, so he had to wait for some bodies to get in the box. He did make a half decent cross, but Wigan defended this well.

If that had been Upton Park, the reaction may well have been one of criticism of Marlon. We’ve al heard it this year, but the travelling Hammers raucously to cheer Marlon and urge him on.

He appreciated that and the morale boost seemed to do the trick as almost immediately afterwards on 66 minutes, he gathered a fantastic chipped pass by Mark Noble and smashed the ball past Filan.

Ecstatic scenes of unbridled celebration followed by the realisation that there was still a lot of time left in the game. Fortunately, during the rest of the half, Wigan looked like they had run out of ideas and we managed to run the clock down. There was one excellent opportunity for Roberts on 86 minutes when he shaved the post with a header that the home fans all thought had gone in. Marlon also had a fine shot saved on 83 minutes after he did well to bring down a flick on by Teddy.

The four minutes of added time looked like the longest that Fred had experienced in his entire life, but the whistle ensured a £280 payout on the pre-match bet. Sweet as a nut.

Can defeat ever be a good thing?

A tremendous result which led to all of the players coming over to the travelling support to express their appreciation. Anton looked particularly animated and was shouting something like “What about the coach?” Pardew did move hesitantly towards the crowd but he is still persona non grata and was ignored by the fans when maybe a bit of recognition was warranted.

The trip back always seems easy when you’ve won a game and this was the third away defeat of the top three Championship clubs. Fred and I were raging though when we heard one so-called West Ham on Talksport actually moaning because we had won. His line was that it is better to lose so that the end of Brown could be hastened. Setting aside the fact that this piece of crazy logic might well be a non-sequitur, never once in 35 years of supporting West Ham have I wanted the club to lose a game. Now if it transpired that a West Ham defeat might send Sp*rs down then I might change my mind on this, but people who say this right now need to have a good look at themselves.

This result has put us back in the mix again and let’s hope that this is not yet another false dawn. We’ll find out on Tuesday when we visit Burnley.

(Player ratings by Madhammer).

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Player Ratings

Jimmy 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.


Tomas Repka
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.


Chris Powell
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.


Elliott Ward
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.


Anton Ferdinand
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.


Nigel Reo-Coker
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.


Hayden Mullins
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.


Mark Noble
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.


Shaun Newton
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.


Teddy Sheringham
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!


Marlon Harewood
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.


Substitutes


Carl Fletcher
(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.


Stephen Bywater
Did not play.


Gavin Williams
Did not play.


Matthew Etherington
Did not play.


Bobby Zamora
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: B.Curson.

Attendance: 12993.

Man of the Match: Anton Ferdinand.

West Ham United

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.

Substitutes: Ormerod (McCulloch 71), Mahon (Baines 87).

Subs not used: Walsh, Jackson, Graham.

Goals: Roberts (51).

Booked: Roberts (90), Mahon (90)..

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
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