Hammers gorge on Wigan's woes

West Ham United 4 Wigan Athletic 0
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The Independent Football

At last, at his eighth attempt since taking over as West Ham's manager, Alan Pardew, gained his first victory. But Wigan might suggest they had no chance, having had two players sent off, conceded a penalty and an own goal and at times seemed to be playing against the referee as well.

To their credit after all of those weeks when a win had become so elusive, West Ham were two ahead before the game became disfigured by the controversial sendings off and the penalty. Paul Jewell, the Wigan manager, took it all philosophically. "It became a matter of damage limitation and we didn't do that very well." The damage played into Pardew's grateful hands but he admitted: "I'm not getting ecstatic about it - we've got a lot of work to do."

Yesterday he seemed to be disadvantaged by being without the suspended Jermain Defoe, who is the club's only real class act, but had the impressive new signing from Nottingham Forest, Marlon Harewood, up front, and in the fourth minute had the advantage. A gentle, accurate flick across to Brian Deane by Hayden Mullins brought about a hard, low cross that Kevin Horlock firmly diverted in.

The West Ham fans are entitled to feel cynical about such early encouragement since they recently gave away a 3-0 lead against West Bromwich. However, here they might well have been facing 10 men after 14 minutes when a wild tackle by Wigan's Lee McCulloch on Tomas Repka received only a yellow card when it should have been red, and three minutes later they were two up by virtue of their own ingenuity and Wigan's misfortune.

Harewood, tall yet quick, swept down the right, dismissing three tacklers as if they were friendly bystanders, centred hard and Jason Jarrett got tangled up with the ball and knocked it into his own net.

Things got worse for Wigan when Geoff Horsfield was replaced by Neil Roberts, but they suffered their problems positively and gradually restored a semblance of their more familiar passing game. Hardly had they made their strides of recovery when the referee, Frazer Stretton, who had been so forgiving earlier, sent off their captain Matt Jackson, whose tackle on Mullins was slightly mistimed but not as dangerous.

Absurdly, five minutes into the second half referee Stretton reduced Wigan to nine men when he issued a second yellow to McCulloch for an immoderate tackle on Repka.

The referee's popularity with Wigan further declined when, in the 55th minute, he judged that an obstructive tackle by Jarrett was serious enough for a penalty, which Harewood comfortably shot in. No wonder that when Repka was substituted he first went to the referee, gratefully shaking his hand for his several favourable interventions which effectively gave West Ham the match.

Inevitably the Hammers increased their lead when Mullins played an inch perfect through pass to Harewood who casually beat John Filan.