Scroll to Photostream above left for match photos, click on the statistics tab for match stats. Manager reaction below.
The chances of another famous Wigan Athletic escape act took a severe blow as they were beaten 2-0 at West Ham United.
Fresh from their midweek draw with Barclays Premier League leaders Manchester United, the hosts scored once in either half to leave Wigan in the relegation zone and put another dent in the FA Cup finalists’ survival bid.
A first Upton Park goal for Matt Jarvis and a Kevin Nolan volley secured the win which moved Sam Allardyce’s side into the top 10, although they were second best for much of the second half with Roberto Martinez’s men unable to make their dominance pay.
Wigan started brightly and were the first side to create an opening as Antolin Alcaraz - who was replaced after 15 minutes due to injury - fired a low shot straight at Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Hammers skipper Nolan had found the net just once since the turn of the year before this, but he had two half-chances to open the scoring as the hosts came back into the game.
First, he could not rise high enough to make meaningful contact with a Gary O’Neil corner that had been flicked into his path by James Collins before latching on to a free-kick and seeing his volley pushed clear by Wigan goalkeeper Joel Robles.
Dead-ball specialist Shaun Maloney put a 20-yard free-kick just over Jaaskelainen’s crossbar with both sides still in search of the opening goal.
It came just four minutes later when Jarvis’ cross from the left flank evaded both Mohamed Diame and Nolan before sneaking inside Robles’ far post.
Andy Carroll, such a thorn in the side of the Manchester United defence on Wednesday evening, was embroiled in a tussle with Wigan captain Gary Caldwell resulting in both men being shown a yellow card by referee Neil Swarbrick.
With half-time approaching, Wigan were struggling to keep possession as well as they had when the scores were level and both Collins and Diame had shots blocked after the Latics’ defence fell asleep at a quickly-taken West Ham free-kick.
Roberto Martinez made his second change at half-time as he introduced James McArthur in place of Callum McManaman.
The visitors came out attacking with both Jordi Gomez and Arouna Kone having strikes at Jaaskelainen’s goal within two minutes of the re-start.
Wigan continued to press but could not work a clear opening on West Ham’s goal, with the hosts fairing little better when they ventured forward.
Diame saw a dipping effort gathered by Robles just before the hour-mark before Joe Cole made his return from a hamstring injury, replacing Ricardo Vaz Te on the wing.
Wigan finally created a decent opportunity as Maynor Figueroa lofted a ball over the West Ham defence and Emmerson Boyce’s diving header was kept out by Jaaskelainen.
That effort seemed to galvanise Martinez’s side and they dominated for the next 15 minutes, culminating with substitute McArthur forcing a smart save out of the Finnish goalkeeper with 20 minutes remaining.
Paul Scharner then headed straight at Jaaskelainen when free inside the area with the home fans starting to show their tension as their fragile lead continued to be threatened.
But those worries were put to bed with a little over 10 minutes remaining as Nolan latched on to Carroll’s pass to volley West Ham into a two-goal lead and score his seventh of the season.
Carroll should have added a third himself after bursting into the area but he put his shot wide.
With all of the teams above Wigan picking up points, the defeat in east London means Martinez’s side are three points adrift of safety with just five games remaining.
West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce: "It's our first season back in the big league and if we can finish around this position, this was our maximum finish for us this season. We felt that our absolute maximum would be around tenth, if we could get there.
"We have had a really good run, in the last 10 games we have lost only three of those 10, won four and drawn three. We have put a really good stint in at the end of the season after a difficult time with all the injuries we had in December. We have really stepped up to the mark again and we have done a clinical job today, a professional job.
"We made life very difficult for Wigan, even with all the possession they had to create open and clear cut chances. At the other end, we showed that we have become more clinical in our finishing over the last few weeks, and that's why we are picking up wins instead of the losses through December.
"The clinical finishing today - Matt Jarvis' cross-cum-goal and Kevin Nolan's finish for his 100th goal - edged us just ahead of Wigan and got us a very valuable three points to take us to 42. I know mathematically we are still not safe and people will say I shouldn't say this, but it's been a long, long time since someone went down with 42 points."
Wigan Athletic manager Roberto Martinez: “Today, especially in the second half, we were the dominant force. We created many, many chances and we are the ones that conceded a goal. That is disappointing. The two goals that we conceded are a little bit soft, but if you look at the overall balance of play and the amount of chances that we created, we deserved to get much more than what we got today.
"Sometimes you have moments like that in a season when you play very well and luck doesn't allow you to collect the rewards that you deserve. We did really well in the second half and the scoreline doesn't reflect the performance at all.
"It's important that we don't drop our level of performance. If we keep performing like that, we will get the points that we need. The problem comes when you drop the performance, but that's what we are going to be focusing on to make sure we get refreshed and ready for the next game."
|27 Apr 2013||v Man City (A)|
|04 May 2013||v Newcastle (H)|
|12 May 2013||v Everton (A)|
|19 May 2013||v Reading (H)|
|14 Dec 2013||v West Ham (H)|
|21 Dec 2013||v Man Utd (A)|