Wigan Athletic 1 West Ham United 2: Pardew stays the same in West Ham's year of changes

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The Independent Football

This time last year, West Ham left Wigan having won by the same scoreline and by a similar route, going behind after a first-half playing second fiddle to the home side but recovering to finish on top, albeit without leaving it quite so late to score the decisive goal.

Identical results, yet entirely different circumstances, upon which Alan Pardew can reflect with some satisfaction. Then, for a substantial body of West Ham fans, he was practically public enemy No 1, a manager perhaps winning himself a stay of execution but seemingly destined to be sacrificed on the altar of a failed promotion campaign.

In the event, West Ham reached the play-offs and won. Now Pardew is in charge of a team preparing for their first FA Cup semi-final in 15 years and reaffirming themselves as a top 10 side in the Premiership. His approval rating could not be higher.

Pardew insists he never doubted himself, even in those dark days, ahead of last spring's visit to the JJB Stadium, when a run of five matches without a win looked to have dealt West Ham's hopes a fatal blow.

"I firmly believe that in the development of any team there is a tipping point, when all the good things you have done start to produce the results," he said. "We reached that tipping point last season, went on to win promotion and now we have secured our place in the Premiership for another year.

"Last season I was often frustrated with what I was seeing," he added, "but I did not doubt myself. The one thing I like to maintain in my management is consistency, not to get carried away and not to get too disheartened, to be what I am and try to always give the players a positive message."

Pardew will apply the same philosophy now. Even though the Cup draw has opened the way for West Ham, Charlton or Middlesbrough to try to usurp one of the superpowers in the final, not getting carried away means not allowing League form to become an irrelevance.

For a positive message, he draws on his own experience of reaching the Cup final with Crystal Palace in 1990. "I knew it was my one opportunity," he said. "There were five or six League games left and in the back of your mind you are thinking about how you should approach them. But I knew if I was to stay in the team I would have to play at full pelt.

"These guys have to do that. If I see anyone trying to protect themselves or not giving their all they will find they will not be playing."

It was a message Pardew drove home forcibly after a first half in which Wigan perhaps should have had more than Lee McCulloch's fine strike to show for their efforts. West Ham had Shaka Hislop to thank for keeping the deficit down to only one.

However, they had some luck when a mistake by Paul Scharner handed Marlon Harewood an equaliser and steadily upped their work-rate to match that of the home side, earning their reward when Nigel Reo-Coker slid home a late winner laid on by the evergreen Teddy Sheringham, who will be 40 on Sunday.

Pardew heralded "a great week" but had last year in mind as he declined to offer an assessment of the season. "You can't until it is finished. If we had been judged with eight or nine games to go last season I might now be out of a job."

Goals: McCulloch (45) 1-0; Harewood (52) 1-1; Reo-Coker (90) 1-2.

Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Filan (Pollitt, h-t); Chimbonda, Scharner, De Zeeuw, Baines; Teale (Thompson, 70), Kavanagh (Ziegler, 75), Bullard, McCulloch; Camara, Roberts. Substitutes not used: Jackson (gk), Johansson.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Hislop; Scaloni, Collins, Gabbidon, Konchesky; Benayoun (Newton, 89), Mullins, Reo-Coker, Etherington (Zamora, 71); Harewood, Ashton (Sheringham, 81). Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Clarke.

Referee: D Gallagher (Oxfordshire).

Booked: Wigan Kavanagh, McCulloch, Thompson.

Man of the match: Hislop.

Attendance: 18,736.

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