Monday 23 April 2018

Besieged Grant buys some time

West Ham United 3 Wigan Athletic 1

Paul Doyle

Many West Ham supporters had feared -- or perhaps secretly hoped -- that they were coming to Upton Park to witness Wigan administer the last rites to Avram Grant's regime. Instead they saw their team win for the first time in nine matches. Was this a renaissance or a stay of execution?

There was enough evidence to support either theory. Perhaps the only certainty is that Wigan, too, have cause to worry. West Ham's board had increased the pressure on Grant by billing this as a "save our season game" but despite five changes and the high stakes this was initially a game of distressingly low quality.

Then suddenly, after 34 minutes of torpor, the game was transformed. Lars Jacobsen lobbed a long ball towards the Wigan penalty spot, where Frederic Piquionne nodded down and Valon Behrami darted between two dithering Wigan defenders to stab home.

West Ham's fortunes improved further in the 56th minute when Victor Obinna doubled their lead, spanking a fine low drive into the corner from 16 yards. Then, on 62 minutes Rob Green, so often a fall guy, repelled a penalty from Wigan substitute Mauro Boselli after Danny Gabbidon had tripped Tom Cleverley. The result was sealed in the 75th minute when Scott Parker bounded forward and swapped passes with Obinna before netting from close range.

A clean sheet proved beyond The Hammers however, Cleverley curling into the top corner from the edge of the box late on after neat work by Charles N'zogbia. That was not enough to darken Grant's mood.

"We played very well, as we had done in all the games before Liverpool, it's just that this time we were efficient - we took our chances," the Israeli said. Roberto Martinez regretted the lack of efficiency from his team: "We only have ourselves to blame, we gave away three very cheap goals."


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