Wigan sent packing as Hammers enter top ten

Posted by Peter Thorne

Ian Walton/Getty ImagesKevin Nolan: A bone of contention in the West Ham midfield

On a glorious spring afternoon in bright sunshine and under a heart-warming pure blue sky, West Ham gained three points in this rather unconvincing 2-0 victory against Wigan Athletic, moving the Hammers into the top ten and leaving them in a very handy position in the 'league within a league'.

- Match report: West Ham 2-0 Wigan
- Delaney: Time running out for Wigan

Level on points with Swansea and just three behind West Bromich Albion -- after that we enter the realms of the 'big boys' -- the Hammers can be well-pleased with this victory over a team who have become something of a thorn (no pun intended) in the side of the East London club in recent seasons.

A first half goal from the ever-improving Matt Jarvis and a game-killer ten minutes from the end by captain Kevin Nolan were enough to see off a spirited Wigan side who might have expected better given their second half display.

The Latics had looked the brighter side as the game began and the home fans had Jussi Jaaskelainen to thank for stopping a Shaun Maloney effort, before Jarvis put the Irons ahead with a long cross from the left that seemed to elude everyone before creeping into the net with Mohamed Diame closing in against his old team.

That goal came just after the 20 minute mark and seemed to take the steam out of Wigan as West Ham had a decent penalty shout turned down and Andy Carroll did what he seems to do a lot lately: hassling the defence and causing a general nuisance. Carroll had already been booked early on, but it deterred him little as he harried the Latics' defence leading up to the break.

In the second half though, the Hammers were pushed back as Wigan dominated play in front of a frustrated home crowd. It's times like this when Sam Allardyce's tactics are questioned as the home side seemed unable to control anything, frequently incapable of even getting out of their own half as Wigan pressurised.

With Wigan's James McCarthur on for Callum McManaman and Jordi Gomez pushed forward, chances from Gomez himself, Emmerson Boyce and Jean Beausejour were all saved by Jaaskelainen who, like a number of West Ham players recently, seems to have found a decent bit of form as the 'Hammer of the Year' ballots are being printed.

The Finnish keeper probably saved his best stop from McArthur after Maloney cut the ball back and, at that time, most Hammers fans felt an equaliser was sure to come.

But football can be a fickle mistress. In other seasons, West Ham themselves have seen these types of games get away from them and end in depressing defeat. This time, though, it seemed Wigan were to be the ones scratching their heads and wondering where it went wrong.

On 80 minutes a long free kick was chested down by Carroll, the ball lofted back over his head and there was his old friend Nolan -- as they have done so often between the pair of them -- volleying in to deny Wigan even a point.

As ever, Allardyce was bullish after the game pointing out that it was the result that mattered and it wasn't always possible to turn on the style as the Hammers had done against Manchester United in mid-week. With his team eyeing a very possible eighth place and leap-frogging the Swans and Baggies -- two teams that are considered to have had excellent seasons -- it's hard to argue with his assessment.

Allardyce suggested after that his tactic had been to exploit the fact that Wigan would need to chase the game and leave themselves exposed, and the Latics' boss Roberto Martinez certainly won't be happy with how that worked -- particularly with the first goal they conceded. But looking forward to what is now an assured Premier league season in 2013-14, Allardyce will surely need to try and plug what can be an alarming tendency to submit the midfield, defend stoutly and rely on a hit on the break.

For now, though, it's top ten and looking upward and most West Ham fans will accept that.

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