N’Zogbia’s late winner keeps Wigan alive but condemns Grant

Wigan Athletic 3 West Ham United 2

Charles N'Zogbia's 94th-minute goal extended Wigan's unlikely six-year Premier League adventure by at least another week as relegation cost West Ham's Avram Grant his job.

The Hammers were already on their way to the Championship, having squandered their two-goal lead, when N'Zogbia cut in from the right to beat Robert Green at his far post with a perfectly placed low shot.

Wigan might still be favourites to take the drop themselves, but their supporters burst on to the pitch on the final whistle, celebrating as though they had not merely avoided relegation but won the Champions League.

The euphoria might be temporary, but this result was a triumph for manager Roberto Martinez' half-time tactical reshuffle. "We have many, many options in the squad and we had to take risks," he said of his decision to bring on two impatient young attackers, Victor Moses and Conor Sammon, and move the hitherto quiet N'Zogbia into a more central role.

The pay-off was almost instantaneous. N'Zogbia was fouled by James Tomkins just outside the area, won the debate over who should take the free-kick and smashed it left-footed into the top-left corner.

"The Great Escape" was back on the schedule. After 67 minutes, Ben Watson found Sammon, the big Scottish striker taking a couple of slightly ponderous touches before finding his feet and firing past Green.

With perfect timing, a plane circled over the ground, with a trailing banner that read: "Avram Grant Millwall Legend."

"We had a real mountain to climb at half-time, but that's when the character comes through," Martinez said. That character may yet prove insufficient to keep them in the top division, but at least Wigan have given themselves a chance.

For half the game, though, the trusty left foot of Thomas Hitzlsperger and the head of Demba Ba seemed as though they might preserve a much-changed West Ham's slender Premier League lifeline.

Scott Parker, so often cast in the role of potential saviour this season, was only fit enough after his Achilles injury to take his place on the Hammers bench, where he had plenty of company from others also more familiar with a berth in the starting line-up. The general opinion was that the substitutes looked stronger than the team.

Wigan limited their changes to the recall of Mohamed Diame as an extra central midfielder. It smacked a little less of panic than Grant's selection, made in spite of the Hammers' encouraging record of five wins in their eight visits to the DW Stadium.

It looked promising enough for the Latics in the opening minutes. Tom Cleverley, the loan signing from Manchester United who has been such an asset this season, had one shot pushed around the post and set up another for Diame that went too high.

Gary Caldwell picked out Hugo Rodallega with a through-ball, but he shot straight at Green and, not for the first time this campaign, all Wigan's neat football amounted to nothing.

The West Ham fans who packed the away end had done their sums and knew what they thought of both teams' survival chances. "You're going down with the West Ham," they sang and, as soon as the partnership of Hitzlsperger and Ba got at the Wigan defence, that began to look the likely outcome.

The German pounced on an indecisive clearance to whip the ball in for the first goal, headed home powerfully by Ba. Wigan had hardly recovered from that when Hitzlsperger delivered a free-kick from the left with equal precision. Tomkins won it in the air beyond the far post and Ba was there again to finish it off. Ba Humbug, as they might say in the town that gave the world Uncle Joe's Mintballs.

It could have been worse if Watson had not cleared off the line from Frédéric Piquionne, but Wigan continued to enjoy more than their share of the possession without being able to take any of their chances.

Rodallega had an overhead kick well-saved and Diame was also frustrated by Green. The West Ham goalkeeper knew little, however, about the block he made from Rodallega's effort when the ball came back in from the resulting corner.

Green's luck ran out in the second half, although he could do little about any of the goals. He is one of the players now likely to join the exodus from Upton Park, led by Grant.

The manager played a dead bat about his own future in the immediate aftermath. "I'm not thinking about myself while I'm in this room. I'm just so sorry for these supporters. I wanted to do well for them," he said, pointing to the chance for a Ba hat-trick at 2-1 that could have brought a different result. That is all in the past for West Ham now, but for Wigan the glorious uncertainty goes on, at least until they play Stoke City on Sunday.

One thought had to occur to anyone watching this most exhilarating and dramatic of matches. If these two teams had displayed the same sense of urgency throughout the season they would not have been in this plight on its penultimate Sunday.

Substitutes: Wigan Moses (McCarthy, h-t), Sammon (Cleverley, h-t), McArthur (Rodallega, 90). West Ham Parker (Spector, 60), Cole (Piquionne 74), Keane (Collison 83). Unused Kirkland (gk), Gohouri, Gomez, Di Santo, West Ham Boffin (gk), Upson, Da Costa, Sears. Booked: Wigan N'Zogbia West Ham Parker. Man of the match N'Zogbia.

Match rating 8/10. Possession: Wigan 50% West Ham 50%. Attempts on target: Wigan 9 West Ham 3. Referee M Dean (Wirral).

Attendance 22,043.

Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape