Injury forced Antolin Alcaraz to leave the field after 15 minutes. Up to that point Wigan Athletic had taken the game to the home team and looked confident and composed. The psychology changed after the Paraguayan went off. Once again, playing the better football, Wigan were to come home pointless.
Roberto Martinez had brought back Gary Caldwell in defence and Callum McManaman in attack. Maynor Figueroa was moved to left wing back and Franco Di Santo was left on the bench.
The result hinged on crucial moments, Alcaraz’ injury foremost. Early in the first half Shaun Maloney had been put through with a one on one with Jussi Jaaskelainan, but the goalkeeper blocked his shot. West Ham were to score a scrappy goal after 30 minutes when Matt Jarvis put in a centre that eluded everybody, including Robles in the Wigan goal. It went in somehow.
Following Alcaraz’ exit Wigan’s defence were all at sea and West Ham could have scored more goals before the half time whistle blew. Jean Beausejour had come on for Alcaraz, with Maynor Figueroa reverting to central defence from wing back. Wigan supporters would have been glad to hear the half time whistle, with their team just one behind.
Wigan came out with resolve after the break, taking the game to the home team. The second crucial moment of the match was to come came after 70 minutes. James McArthur’s shot was parried by Jaaskelainan but somehow eluding Arouna Kone at the far post.
No matter how much Wigan dominated the second half goals eluded them, with West Ham packed in defence. The Hammers were to score their second goal when Carroll’s speculative volley found Kevin Nolan, rather than the defenders around him, to deflect it home. Another “Bolton goal”, well taken, if fortuitous.
West Ham were to seal the game with another goal of the same ilk. Somehow Andy Carroll’s speculative volley found Kevin Nolan who deflected the ball in. Wigan attacked constantly but could not score. They had 63% of the possession in the match.
These matches are always set on a knife-edge. Latics had attacked the hosts from the start. They were there to win the game. Had Maloney’s shot gone in it would have been a different ball game. Then if McArthur’s effort in the second half had been put away, who knows what might have happened?
In the second half West Ham had dropped deep, to protect their lead. Wigan’s effort could not be faulted. They tried hard but could not scale that brick-wall West Ham defence.
Antolin Alcaraz has proved to be the cornerstone of Latics’ revival in recent weeks. He has been superb since he came back, making a huge difference to the defence. When he went off today, Wigan visibly wilted. It was to be the turning point of the match.
One hopes Alcaraz will be back. Otherwise Wigan’s central defence will be lacking its best player. It could be the key factor that determines their status in the Premier League.
Joel Robles: 7 – could be faulted with that scrappy opening goal, but so could the defence. Looks a very good young goalkeeper.
Emmerson Boyce: 6 – cannot be faulted for effort and commitment.
Antolin Alcaraz: injured and substituted aftger 15 minutes.
Paul Scharner: 6 –could not stamp his mark on the game.
Gary Caldwell: 5 – a less than auspicious return for the captain.
Maynor Figueroa: 5 – his poor final pass or shooting killed a number of promising moves.
James McCarthy: 6 – not up to his usual level, but worked hard as always.
Jordi Gomez: 5 – ineffective. Should have been substituted at half time when McManaman went off.
Callum McManaman: 5 – peripheral. Taken off at half time.
Arouna Kone: 6 – hard to understand how he was not in place to slot McArthur’s effort home after Jaaskelainan’s parry. Worked hard, but found the Hammers defence tough.
Shaun Maloney: 7 – tried to get things moving in the second half. Lots of good touches, but with no end result.
Jean Beausejour: 5 – came on for Alcaraz after 15 minutes, but not at his best.
James McArthur: 7– came on after half time. Helped Wigan gain the midfield.
Franco Di Santo: – brought on too late after 86 minutes.
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