Off the pitch, there had been plenty of bile. On it, there was barely a shred of style. And so an unsatisfactory draw was perhaps inevitable given that West Ham were desperate for revenge for the three consecutive home defeats that Wigan had inflicted on them, while the visitors still had the bitter aftertaste of the Carlos Tevez affair. Bile is also something that has, too often, been associated with the career of Lee Bowyer, but the midfielder scored yesterday – his first goal in 35 appearances in West Ham colours – to save a vital point. He also stemmed the pressure that will build on Alan Curbishley if results do not improve.
The West Ham manager revealed his frustration at the score, and his team's modest start to this season. "I'm disappointed," Curbishley said. "I looked at the fixtures and was hoping to have more points."
Four points from three games, including that first-day loss to Manchester City, is not the kind of exhilaration dreamed of by West Ham's rampantly ambitious chairman, Eggert Magnusson, and despite his pleas for consolidation and mid-table progress, Curbishley has to deliver a more exciting return. Excitement was a commodity provided in abundance by Tevez, and the hole left by his departure is yet to be filled.
However with Dean Ashton, a second-half substitute after constant chanting from the home fans, and playing a role in the goal, there is an old talisman back in town.
Also absent yesterday was the Wigan chairman, Dave Whelan. Officially he was on holiday in St Tropez, although unofficially it was felt that it may have been diplomatic for him to give this one a skip given the noise he made over West Ham's behaviour. That was a shame for the manager, Chris Hutchings.
Favourite for the sack, the man who lasted less than four months at Bradford City after succeeding Paul Jewell is making a fist of the Premier League now. "It doesn't bother me in the slightest," Hutchings said of the scru-tiny he has been under. "I have got great faith in the players I have brought in and great belief in myself. We want a seasonlike the first one we had in the Premiership, not like last year."
Magnusson will concur with that. But he also returned to the Tevez theme himself in his programme notes, reiterating his threat, delivered last week, that if Sheffield United do not let the whole Tevez saga rest he will take legal action himself. "Desperate" and "without legal merit" he labelled the Blades's latest attempts to punish West Ham, showing a cutting edge of his own. If only his team had one too. They passed and passed and passed the ball, with Mark Noble committed and industrious, but desperately needed to take the early chances that came their way. Unfortunately they fell to Bobby Zamora, who was slow to react, before Anton Ferdinand planted a header wide.
And then Wigan began to threaten. Their edge came from the midfield guile of Jason Koumas and the energy of Paul Scharner. Firstly the two combined for the latter to head wide and then Koumas stepped insideto hit an angled shot that beat Robert Green only to strike a post and bounce away.
Wigan, compact and organised, shrugged off the loss of Antoine Sibierski, and had Antonio Valencia been braver, may have pulled ahead. Instead he snatched at a shot and pushed it wide while, soon after, Green was alert to save from the Ecuadorian. West Ham pleaded for a penalty when Noble appeared to be pulled back, and then a shot from the midfielder, after his free-kick cannoned back to him, drifted narrowly wide.
A goal was beckoning, and it was Wigan who took it. From Mario Melchiot's throw-in, Emile Heskey competed and the ball fell to Scharner. Unmarked, he twisted and sent an overhead kick into the corner of the net.
The Austrian ran over to Hutchings to celebrate. The manager remained passive, aware there were still a dozen minutes left. West Ham immediately attacked and Luis Boa Morte picked out Bowyer, who calmly slid home. "I don't think we deserved to get beaten," Curbishley said. Which was true. But it's still not what's expected of him.
Further reading: The Road from Wigan Pier: Wigan's Incredible Rise from Non-League to The PremiershipReuse content