It was another case of what might have been for Wigan Athletic on Saturday, as their Premier League survival hopes start to hang on a thread.
The usual act of escaping at this time of year has most certainly stalled. An unconvincing draw at QPR a fortnight ago has been followed by better performances, but two damaging defeats in the past week.
Whilst the narrow loss at Manchester City was expected, given the quality between the two sides, the 2-0 defeat away at West Ham was a massive blow for Roberto Martinez. They only had themselves to blame too, wasting a string of opportunities which need to be taken at this level.
Shaun Maloney was the first player guilty of passing up on a decent chance. The Scot’s first near-miss came around 20 minutes in, when he dipped a free-kick just over Jussi Jaaskelainen’s goal. Soon afterwards, the visitors fell behind to an opener for the hosts, scored by the impressive Matt Jarvis.
As expected, Andy Carroll gave the Latics backline huge headaches with his aerial presence, with Gary Caldwell being brought in to deal with his height. Carroll did show his frustration early on, picking up a needless caution, and it was a good battle, but the general view was he got the better of his marker on the day, paving the way for a West Ham success that took them into the top half of the Premier League table for the first time since the turn of the year.
Martinez’s side improved after the break, with the introduction of James McArthur for the disappointing Callum McManaman. He provided fresh legs and fresh impetus, with his threat opening up more Wigan chances.
McArthur and Emmerson Boyce provided decent efforts which were blocked brilliantly by Jaaskelainen, and Paul Scharner wasted a gilt-edged opportunity when he headed straight at the Finnish goalkeeper, when two yards either side would have brought a crucial equaliser.
And it proved to be costly with 10 minutes remaining. The aerial agility of Carroll was the key in setting up the second West Ham goal for his good friend Kevin Nolan. Nolan reached a proud and deserved landmark of 100 club career goals, but that is a statistic that won’t be remembered by Wigan fans.
The state of the table should be though. Although still with a game in hand, Martinez could only listen to the depressing scorelines elsewhere from Loftus Road, Carrow Road and the Stadium of Light which provided big victories for Stoke, Norwich and Sunderland.
Tottenham next week won’t be easy, and with Arsenal in the run-in too, it makes an away trip to West Brom and a home encounter with Swansea City look even more imperative to collect maximum points from.
It isn’t over, but Saturday’s result(s) were a huge setback for Roberto Martinez. Three wins from five are required now. Unless more chances are taken in the coming weeks, Wigan’s eight-year stay in the Premier League might well be drawing towards a sorry conclusion.
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