West Ham United 0 Wigan Athletic 2: Hammers look on in envy as Jewell's forward gems shine

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The Independent Online

Home expectations plunged even more rapidly than the temperature at Upton Park last night as West Ham rediscovered what so many other Premiership teams have learnt this season - Wigan are cool operators.

Paul Jewell's side beat West Ham away en route to the Championship title earlier this year, and they maintained their bragging rights over the side who accompanied them into the top flight via the play-offs with a display that persuaded most of the home fans to trail away early into the chill East London streets.

The match was effectively decided in the space of a minute just before half-time when Wigan's forward partners, Jason Roberts and Henri Camara, took advantage of two defensive lapses by the home side to score a goal apiece.

It was a comprehensive victory, however, after which the Wigan manager Jewell could rightly claim that his goalkeeper Mike Pollitt had not been thoroughly tested once. Thus, at the halfway point of the season, the team so many predicted would return from whence they came after making their top-flight debut are in fifth place.

"Our only objective at the start of the season was to stay in the League, and we should do that now," Jewell said. "If we don't it will be the Devon Loch of all Devon Lochs."

The idea that this confident, coherent, combative unit will collapse in the home straight as the Queen's horse famously did in 1956 while in sight of a Grand National victory appears entirely unlikely, although a more recent image - that of the young jockey Roger Loughran who celebrated victory 100 yards too early at Leopardstown on Tuesday - soon came to mind for the Wigan manager.

"We saw that guy yesterday," he said with a grin. "And they banned him. If we don't stay up, I will get banned..."

Jewell will make sure that his men stay the course in the Premiership before contemplating anything more ambitious. But the suggestion that a Champions' League place might be within range earned an immediate rebuke: "If anyone mentions Wigan and the Champions' League, I say 'behave yourself'."

Wigan might have put clear water between themselves and their hosts as early as the 10th minute, when one of several swift balls over the top caused disarray in the West Ham defence. Roberts and Camara continued to harrass Anton Ferdinand and James Collins before they earned their breakthrough after 43 minutes.

After Ferdinand had failed to deal with a Graham Cavanagh header into the box, Camara kept the move flowing and supplied Roberts, who overran Collins's attempt at a tackle before driving his shot home.

Within a minute, the advantage was doubled as Camara's persistence in the box forced Paul Konchesky into giving the ball away to him, and he made short work of beating Roy Carroll from close range.

The West Ham manager Alan Pardew was a subdued figure afterwards. "Our goal this season was to make sure we made everyone we met play to their maximum, but for the first time we didn't do that tonight. We had a bad night, and Wigan didn't have to be at their best to win," he said. He had announced in his programme notes that the club had secured the services of the Israeli international striker Yaniv Katan ahead of the January transfer window, but his side ended the night looking as if they could do with cover in virtually every position.

West Ham (4-4-2): Carroll; Dailly, Ferdinand, Collins, Konchesky; Reo-Coker, Mullins, Fletcher (Zamora, 24), Etherington; Harewood (Aliadière, 80), Bellion (Newton, h-t) Substitutes not used: Hislop (gk), Clarke.

Wigan (4-4-2): Pollitt; Chimbonda, De Zeeuw, Jackson, Baines; Teale (Francis, 83), Bullard, Kavanagh, McCulloch; Roberts, Camara (Connolly, 80). Substitutes not used: Filan (gk), Henchoz, Wright.

Referee: S Bennett (Kent).

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