The media is a strange beast. In the week following our bruising at Old Trafford, I note that many critics labelled Latics unlucky to lose 2–0, which completely surprised me. Little Wigan actually garnering what might be termed ‘praise’, let alone mainstream coverage? Never!
What’s more, we’ve turned out far better performances this year and only managed draws or dismal losses. Where were the papers to bemoan our fortunes then? Oh, that’s right, digging dirt on Wayne Rooney and creaming over Chelski and Man City as usual. But that’s okay. Here in this small part of North West England, we know our place in the hierarchy.
I’d love for us to keep plodding away, do our time in the Prem in the hope of eventually tasting a modicum of success akin to our début season in England’s top flight on our way to a Europa Cup campaign. Maybe then attitudes will change, but in the meantime we can continue enjoying a good old moan –the Latics fan’s single greatest pleasure– about anything and everything you could care to mention. All in good fun, you understand.
Pre-game, it’s no surprise all eyes and ears were on today’s opponents, the ailing Hammers. Rock bottom of the table and five points adrift of the safety zone, the West Ham marketing people dubbed today ‘Save Our Season’ day, and with good reason. Read between the lines and you may interpret this as ‘Save Our Manager‘, but that doesn’t sound quite as good, somehow. To many, this was Judgement Day in more ways than one, with Avram Grant perched precariously on an extremely thin ledge above the abyss that is temporary unemployment.
Yeah, should Avram be ordered back to the Job Centre, he would almost certainly crop up later in the year at Notts Forest or somewhere. Big deal. West Ham United is far bigger than any manager (except maybe Barry Fry) and a loss today would be a great blow to their confidence — not fatal by any means, but demoralising nonetheless.
Man, maybe this media stuff is rubbing off on myself in some way. I just criticised Avram Grant, a manager I have little knowledge of outside said tabloid klaptrap. Then again, I’m allowed to do this stuff because it’s my job as a blogger! Wahey for hypocrisy.
Anyway, the match. The first half was an extremely open affair, the ball travelling from end to end with regularity and both sides having their fair share of the game. Wigan put some good passing moves together, but it was West Ham, thanks to a good spell of football around the half hour mark, who had the better of the chances. Indeed, they managed to chalk up the game’s first goal through Valon Behrami on 34. Not a good sign, but Wigan would wrest some possession in the remainder of the half, partially helped by a couple of saves from Al-Habsi.
Unfortunately, we looked a bit short of men up front and relied a bit too much on N’Zogbia to put pressure on the Hammers defence. That said, the aforementioned Frenchman did carve out the odd half opportunity for Latics to get themselves on the scoresheet, proving there could be some goals available should things click into place.
It was the home side’s half, though, without a doubt, and things would have to improve if Wigan were to get something from the game. It did, eventually, but by that time Latics were 3–0 down and all but out of things. Had Mauro Boselli managed to score his penalty –awarded when Tom Cleverley was upended in the opposition area– it would have been 2–1 West Ham with plenty of time to equalise. But it, just like the whole Latics side at this point, was poor.
Forced to push forward and looking shaky at the back, Wigan conceded a third from Scott Parker to put the game to rest with ten minutes to play. Cleverley grabbed one back for the visitors with a top strike just inside the penalty area, but it was the only time anyone really challenged Robert Green. Oh, apart from when Steve Gohouri had the ball in the net in the final minutes, but the linesman awarded an erroneous offside decision. It didn’t matter, though, because it would have been simple consolation, and West Ham deservedly secured the vital points.
As for Latics, things are starting to look a bit precarious, and if we don’t win next week the pressure will well and truly be back on Martinez and co. Like it or not, this kind of thing tends to happen when you lose to the team at the foot of the table, and how disappointing it is.