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NOLAN'S TWISTER; Hammer blow for Wigan survival bid.


WESTHAM 2 Jarvis 21, Nolan 80 WIGAN 0 THE day Wigan Athletic make history may yet be eclipsed by a match which could decide their Premier League fate.

On May 11, they play in their first FA Cup final against Manchester City at Wembley. Glory beckons.

But on the following Sunday, the harsh reality of the new cash dynamic in football will be apparent when they play Aston Villa at the DW Stadium.

After yesterday's results, it is evolving as a head-to-head between Wigan and Villa for the final relegation place.

Only mathematics can keep Queens Park Rangers and Reading among the elite after their respective defeats yesterday.

It will be enthralling for the neutral; but nerve-wracking for managers Roberto Martinez of Wigan and Paul Lambert at Villa.

And it was no consolation to Martinez that his men had enough possession to have taken at least a point from Upton Park.

"We have the know-how to cope," he insisted. "We have five games left and we need three wins. We can achieve that. Today, the grass was very long out there. Maybe the machine is broken!" That was not the reason for the defeat and Martinez (right) knows it. Too many passes and too few shots might have had something to do with the outcome as well.

The problem was also that West Ham had the edge where it counted - in the opposition penalty area.

Upton Park was somewhat muted after the high octane midweek battle with Manchester United. And the ambivalence of the crowd seemed to spread to the players as Wigan showed immediate assurance. e crowd the an e cwwi n n oue ngoal Indeed if Shaun Maloney had shown composure to go with his technique when put through on goal in the 10th minute, Wigan would have been ahead.

w Instead Jussi Jaaskelainen smothered the ball at the striker' 21st toaba striker's feet - and in the 21st minute West Ham took the lead with a goal that was both freakish and farcical.

d ha destab Wigan's defence had been destabilised by the early loss of Antolin Alcaraz through injury but that was no excuse for the way a cross from Matt Jarvis was allowed to drift into the far corner of the net, eluding Wigan's defence and Mohamed Diame and Kevin Nolan's attempts to get a touch.

Even Jarvis seemed too embarrassed to celebrate.

Wigan's strength is a refusal to panic. If anything, they tend to play one pass too many rather than adopt a more direct approach.

So Jaaskelainen was called into action only once in the second half when he tipped away a fierce shot from James McArthur in the 72nd minute. It seemed inevitable that Wigan would pay for their lack of incisiveness and sure enough West Ham sealed it 10 minutes from time.

It was simple and direct - a free-kick from James Collins controlled by Andy Carroll on his chest and a neat ball through for Nolan (left) to hook the 100th goal of his career past Joel Robles.

Job done for manager Sam Allardyce, who said: "I feel really good. While it wasn't the best performance, the bottom line is, if you score your goals and take your chances, you win matches."

Job just started for Martinez.

STAMMERS VERDICT After the thriller against Manchester United, there was always going to be an air of anti-climax against Wigan. Interesting, but not captivating.

Today, the grass was very long out there... ROBERTO MARTINEZOPTA MATCH FACTS REF: NEIL SWARBRICK


MATT FINISH: West Ham's Matt Jarvis makes it 1-0

GAME OVER: Kevin Nolan settles the contest with West Ham's second goal on 80mins
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 21, 2013
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