West Ham's credentials as promotion candidates ought not to be in doubt after a hat-trick of away wins against the sides currently occupying the top three places in the Championship. The acid test from Alan Pardew's perspective, however, will come at Burnley tomorrow evening.
The outcome of his side's visit to Turf Moor will be an indicator, the West Ham manager believes, of whether or not they can force their way back into the play-off places. After taking only two points from the five previous games, Saturday's performance at the JJB Stadium rekindled Pardew's optimism. From this season, however, he knows only too well that one day's awakened belief can quickly turn to bewilderment.
"That's been our problem," he said. "We can have one great result but an iffy one next time." At least, for the moment, Pardew is off the hook with the fans, many of whom have been calling for his sacking. "They were great today," he said. "They have obviously made a conscious decision to put the troubles we have had this season behind them and just support the team."
Currently, it is a somewhat inexperienced one, including two 20-year-old central defenders in Anton Ferdinand and Elliott Ward, another of the same age in Nigel Reo-Coker in midfield, alongside the precocious 17-year-old, Mark Noble. Crucially, at the other end of the age scale, there is also Teddy Sheringham, who went off to celebrate his 39th birthday on Saturday evening.
The veteran lashed home his 19th goal of the season after Jason Roberts had put Wigan ahead. Marlon Harewood then drilled home a 67th-minute winner to deal a setback to Wigan, whose last-day draw with West Ham last season cost them a play-off spot.
Having been in an automatic promotion place virtually all season, anything other than a win for Paul Jewell's side against the leaders, Sunderland, at home tomorrow may let in Ipswich.
Goals: Roberts (51) 1-0; Sheringham (55) 1-1; Harewood (67) 1-2.
Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Filan; Eaden, Breckin, Baines (Mahon, 87), Wright; Teale, Kavanagh, Bullard, McCulloch (Ormerod, 71); Ellington, Roberts. Substitutes not used: Walsh (gk), Jackson, Graham.
West Ham United (4-4-2): Walker; Repka, Ferdinand, Ward, Powell; Newton (Fletcher, 88), Reo-Coker, Mullins, Noble; Sheringham, Harewood. Substitutes not used: Bywater (gk), Zamora, Etherington, Williams.
Referee: B Curson (Leicestershire).
Booked: Wigan: Roberts, Mahon. West Ham: Reo-Coker, Noble, Harewood.
Man of the match: Sheringham.
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