Jarvis and Nolan give West Ham victory at Upton Park
17:20 20 April 2013
Premier League: West Ham United 2 Wigan Athletic 0
It may not have been a vintage victory for West Ham United but this hard-fought win was still enough to send Sam Allardyce’s side into the top half of the table and leave wobbling Wigan Athletic in deadly danger of the dreaded drop.
On an afternoon when results elsewhere were destined to conspire against the Latics, Matt Jarvis put the Hammers ahead on 21 minutes with his second strike of the season, before ton-up Kevin Nolan sealed victory with the 100th goal of his career, ten minutes from time.
Not surprisingly, following Wednesday evening’s tenacious 2-2 draw with champions-elect Manchester United, Big Sam’s 11th-placed side were unchanged.
But they started lethargically against a Wigan team that had not fared so well against Mancunian opposition in midweek, losing the dress rehearsal for next month’s FA Cup Final in a 1-0 defeat at City.
That reverse had still left Roberto Martinez’s side three points adrift of safety in 18th spot but, having introduced lone Englishman Callum McManaman and Gary Caldwell at the expense of substitutes Franco Di Santo and Jean Beausejour, the visitors confidently proceeded to play out the early exchanges in the Hammers’ half.
Indeed, after Antolin Alcaraz forced an early, low save out of Jussi Jaaskelainen, the fortunate Finn then gathered the ball between his knees to deny the breaking Shaun Maloney an almost certain ninth-minute opener.
At the other end, Joel Robles saw James Collins glance Gary O’Neil’s corner to the far post, where Nolan nodded wide and after the skipper’s prod goalwards was then parried by the Latics ‘keeper, Andy Carroll’s low, 20-yard free-kick was easily held, too.
Certainly, Wigan were playing the brighter football in the April sunshine and, after Arouna Kone fired just wide and Beausejour replaced the injured Alcaraz, Maloney then deposited a 25-yard free-kick onto the roof of the net.
A third-successive caution for Carroll following a midfield tangle with Caldwell summed up West Ham’s stuttering start but midway through the half, the Hammers broke the deadlock in fortuitous fashion.
The overlapping Jarvis curled in a low cross from the left flank, which eluded the outstretched toes of both Mohamed Diame and Nolan in the six-yard box and, although the wrong-footed Robles got a late hand to the ball, he just could not prevent it from nestling in the far corner of his goal.
That unlikely opener was probably indicative of the Latics’ luck but it was the catalyst for West Ham to finally get themselves into gear and, after Paul Scharner and Carroll each fired wildly into the crowd, Ricardo Vaz Te went far closer with a low shot that Robles held, before the Portuguese plunderer sent a bullet header just an inch or so wide.
On the stroke of half-time, Caldwell joined Carroll in the book following another tussle between the duo and, after then replacing McManaman with James MacArthur for the restart, Wigan showed that they were still up for the fight as Jordi soon tested Jaaskelainen with an angled shot before Kone clipped over the angle and Maloney curled wide, too.
On 51 minutes, Mark Noble replaced a disappointed O’Neil and the Hammers midfielder immediately signalled his return from a shoulder injury by squaring to Carroll, who sent his low 20-yarder just wide of the right-hand post.
Diame also curled an 18-yard effort into the arms of Robles before Joe Cole made a welcome entrance from the bench following his hamstring problems as Vaz Te stood down.
But with results elsewhere going against them, Wigan still pressed and after Emmerson Boyce’s downward header was held at the second attempt by Jaaskelainen, MacArthur then unleashed a stinging shot at the Hammers’ keeper, who did well to gather.
With a quarter-hour remaining, MacArthur caused yet more problems with a shot on the turn that Jaaskelainen beat aside and, fortunately, for West Ham, Kone - just a yard from goal - could not reach the loose ball and convert what would have been a deserved equaliser.
But having gone so close to levelling, Wigan then saw their afternoon unravel with just ten minutes remaining, when Carroll met Collins’ deep free-kick from halfway with an overhead kick that the swivelling Nolan then acrobatically smashed into the net to seal the victory that leaves West Ham United on 42 points and plucky Wigan staring starkly at relegation.
HAMMERS: Jaaskelainen, Demel, O’Brien, Collins, Reid, Nolan, O’Neil (Noble 51), Diame, Vaz Te (J. Cole 61), Jarvis, Carroll. Subs: Henderson, C.Cole, Collison, Taylor, Pogatetz.
LATICS: Robles, Scharner, Caldwell, Alcaraz (Beausejour 16), Boyce, Figueroa, McCarthy, Gomez (Di Santo 86), Maloney, McManaman (MacArthur h/t), Kone. Subs: Al Habsi, Henriquez, Espinoza, Stam.
Bookings: Carroll (18), Caldwell (45), J. Cole (76), Collins (90+2).
Referee: Neil Swarbrick.