Wigan and West Ham both arrived at a rainy windswept DW stadium today knowing anything less that a win would certainly doom the latter to relegation to the Championship next season and may doom the former depending on the Birmingham result.
Roberto Martinez opted to bring a restored to fitness Diame back into an otherwise unchanged side from that which drew with Villa last weekend with Victor Moses the man to make way.
Wigan had West Ham on the back foot from the off, with N’Zogbia and Diame pushing forward at every opportunity and Watson again calling the shots with both his distribution and his tackling, they appeared like a team determined to end the game as a contest by half time.
Indeed they almost got off to a dream start when what appeared to be a good shout for a penalty in the first minute for handball by a West Ham defender was waved away by a well placed Mike Dean who awarded a corner to Wigan instead.
Wigan were undeterred and continued to push forward and both Diame and Rodallega had shots at goal which were dealt with by the West Ham defence.
Up until this point it was all Wigan with West ham on the defensive and their large travelling support silenced by a highly motivated and committed Wigan Athletic side.
Wigan’s Achilles heel this season has been an inability to defend from crosses and again they were found wanting when from a Hitzlsperger corner Demba Ba rose unchallenged to bury the ball in the back of the Wigan goal.
If West ham expected this to dent Wigan’s confidence they were surprised as time and again the Latics pushed forward in search of an equaliser, shots went over, shots were blocked by the Hammer’s defence and when the ball did find a way through, Robert Green was well positioned to nullify the attack.
At this stage once again it was all Wigan and once again Wigan were caught by a sucker punch, West Ham broke down the left and won a corner, the ball was only partially cleared by Alcaraz from the corner to Tomkins who fired in a cross which was met with a glancing header by Ba again to leave Wigan staring down the barrel of a critical defeat.
Again though Wigan refused to lie down and with N’Zogbia giving the West Ham defence a torrid time it was only wasteful finishing from the home side with Rodallega the main culprit that prevented Wigan from reducing the deficit.
Close to half time Wigan were camped in the West Ham half , harrying the Hammers whenever they had the ball into mistakes and breaking into the area with purpose, both Diame and Cleverly going close with right footed curling shots just past the far post.
Wigan went in for the half time cuppa two nil down but the talk of the terraces was how they managed to be behind given the number of chances.
Latics emerged for the second half with renewed zeal, Roberto Martinez signalling his statement of intent by introducing Conor Sammon and Victor Moses for Tom Cleverly and James McCarthy, with Rodallega switching to the wing leaving Sammon to play the lone forward role.
Wigan again looked to be the dominant force with N’Zogbia whose dead leg was the source of much conjecture before kickoff sprinting around like a gazelle, however the best chance early in the second half fell to Watson whose long range shot narrowly went wide of the right hand post.
In the fifty fifth minute the comeback began in earnest, a free kick outside the area following a foul on N’Zogbia by Tomkins. There was some debate between Rodallega and N’Zogbia as to who would take it but following interference from Caldwell, N’Zogbia won the vote and repaid his captain’s faith with a wonderful curler around the wall into the top left hand corner of the net past the despairing dive of Robert Green.
Wigan looked a more balanced side with N’Zogbia supporting Sammon and Moses and Rodallega on the wings and the pressure was cranked up on the West Ham defence as time and again Wigan poured forward in search of the equaliser. When it came it was a well deserved debut goal for Sammon, the big Irishman who bartered the West Ham defence all through the second half, the big Irishman turning well in the area and firing an unstoppable shot past Robert Green. Credit must go to the referee for playing a good advantage after a foul earlier in the move
This brought wild celebrations from the Wigan fans which were only heightened as at that very moment a light aircraft flew overhead with the banner, ”Avram Grant, Millwall Legend” trailing behind it.
A draw was no good for West Ham and little better for Wigan and both sides dispensed with any semblance of midfield opting for end to end all out attack which resembled a five a side match at times.
Again and again both sides poured forwards in search of a winner and it looked as if it wasn’t going to be Wigan’s day when a shot from Watson hit the post and bounced back into the grateful arms of Green.
Charles N’Zogbia appears not to understand the meaning of giving up however and in the very last minute of time added on, a powerful shot from the edge of the penalty area was allowed to squirm into the net by keeper Green to give Wigan a much needed victory, condemning the Hammers to relegation and enabling Wigan to live to fight another day.
Wigan came out onto the pitch for a lap of honour but you could sense that both the players and the fans were very much aware that the survival job needs to be completed at Stoke next Sunday
Line Ups and ratings
Ali Al Habsi ….7
Emmerson Boyce….7 Gary Caldwell……7 Antolin Alcaraz ….7 Maynor Figueroa ….7
Ben Watson …8
Tom Cleverley…6 Mohamed Diame …8 James McCarthy …6 Charles N’Zogbia ….9
Hugo Rodallega …..7
Subs used Sammon for Cleverly (4 5mins)….8 Moses for McCarthy (45mins) …..7 McArthur for Rodallega (90+3mins)
Subs not used Chris Kirkland (gk), Franco Di Santo, J Gomez & S Gohuri
Jordan Spence Daniel Gabbidon James Tomkins Wayne Bridge
Jonathan Spector Thomas Hitzlsperger Jack Collison Zavon Hines
Frederic Piquionne Demba Ba
Scott Parker , Carlton Cole Robbie Keane
Manuel da Costa, Ruud Boffin, Matthew Upson & Freddie Sears
Man of Match… Charles N’Zogbia,his performances this season must have doubled his prospective transfer fee, a supremely talented individual
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