West Ham (Bowyer 81) 1 - 1 Wigan (Scharner 78)
Attendance - 33,793
1. Well, That Wasn't Fun
In the end, this was probably a fair result. Fair in the sense that we were fairly poor, Wigan were fairly poor, the weather was set fair and I'm fairly sure that this was the worst Premiership game of the weekend.
Which is quite a statement when you consider that Aston Villa played Fulham in some sort of World Championship of Mediocrity.
OK, now let's be reasonable. This wasn't quite as egregious a display as the Man City game (although to be honest it would have required a mass outbreak of syphilis for it to have been worse than that) but this still wasn't exactly sparkling.
One can praise Wigan, one can criticise our midfield, one can even call Dave Whelan a gutless wonder but none of these things will change the bare fact that we have accrued just 4 points from a start to the season that really should have yielded more.
2. I Ain't Saying You're Dull But...
There was a curious sequence of events after about half an hour of this game:
The ball was blasted high and wide into the Wigan section of the stand. It was picked up by a policeman (who outnumbered the Wigan fans significantly). The policeman then attempted to throw the ball back on to the pitch but only succeeded in hitting a fellow officer and knocking his helmet off.
This was by some distance the most entertaining moment of the first half.
3. The Statistics
Our possession count was as high as 62% according to Match of the Day, which is probably a pretty accurate reflection of our territorial dominance, if not truly indicative of who was creating the better chances.
Our shot count was up at 16, but with just a Middlesbroughian 4 on target. Mark Noble, in particular, was guilty of wastefulness as he had 6 attempts, of which just one drew a save. He also reverted back to the West Ham default position of blasting any and all free kicks aimlessly into the stratosphere.
Elsewhere, Bobby Zamora committed three fouls to take the lead in the Premiership foul race with his 14th (!) of the season so far. At this point I'm wondering if we shouldn't just change his name to "Bobby Zamora : 2006/07 Version". On the face of it that seems like a ridiculous suggestion but then Bobby has been putting in some fairly ridiculous performances lately
4. The Opposition
Wigan began this game with some truly weird positional decisions. Jason Koumas, their best player, was marooned out on the left side of midfield, whilst behind him they opted for Kevin Kilbane as the titular left back.
I say that because, as a full back, Kevin Kilbane makes a darn good crash test dummy.
They began the game with just one up front, displaying a limited set of ambitions and with the dial firmly turned to "boredom". Some Wigan fans might argue that they actually started with a pair of strikers, but my retort to this would be that when the men in question are Antoine Sibierski and Emile Heskey then there is actually a pretty strong argument that you are in fact playing no strikers at all, so let's move on.
All in all Wigan turned in a decent enough away performance. They were well organised and when Koumas and Melchiot had possession they looked a reasonable enough side. Once they took the lead it seemed as though the game was up, although I have to confess that I didn't believe the Universe would allow a defence containing Titus Bramble and Kilbane to keep a clean sheet.
I mean, sure, strange things are happening around the globe at the moment, but there is such a thing as natural law.
5. The Referee
There was really only one decision to be made in this game, which was whether or not to award a penalty for Anders Granqvist's attempt at a reverse suplex on Mark Noble. It looked fairly clear cut to me but then I'm biased.
Either way, convicted price fixer Dave Whelan is a coward.
I might be high on opium but there are some things that I really need to say in this section.
Luis Boa Morte was, like, really quite good when he came on, man. In fact, he made more of an impression than Ashton, and it was he who set up Lee Bowyer for the equaliser with a perfectly weighted pass rather than his customary perfectly weighted falling on his arse.
Bowyer too deserves credit for his first goal in West Ham colours. It involved a lung bursting run (impressive), a neat finish (impressive) and outwitting Kevin Kilbane (2 out of 3 ain't bad). He celebrated by getting really, really angry. I am not surprised by this.
Curbishley probably deserves some praise too, given that it was the substitutes who made the biggest impact on the game. That said, his decision to swap Dyer in to the middle to accommodate Bowyer reduced the former to the role of bemused onlooker.
7. The No Show
So convicted price fixer Dave Whelan didn't make it to the game. I could refer to this as cowardice or insouciance, embarrassment or ego but either way I doubt he cares too much. He made a great deal of noise up until the Tevez affair no longer affected him, at which point he gave up and left Sheffield United to it. What a man.
Interestingly he also didn't bother to attend the AGM of the Premier League after the end of the season. Which is curious given that he was so intent on launching that campaign for fairness in football.
And let me tell you right here and now, anyone alleging that Dave Whelan clubs baby seals to death with frozen Swiss Rolls, solely so that he can lob them at passing schoolchildren from his nuclear powered chariot is just flat out lying.
8. The Return Of The King
Lucas Neill was back to skipper the side this week, and although he made a good early impression by being Not Jonathan Spector, he made less of an impression by not tackling Koumas very often.
Now let's not be churlish here. He is still an otherworldly being and is clearly of celestial lineage, but it probably wouldn't hurt for him to get some more matches under his belt as there was no question he looked a bit rusty.
He remains my favourite Australian (not a difficult task it has to be said - just don't be Hugh Jackman).
8. The Midweek Blues - Bristol Rovers 1 - 2 West Ham
More observant readers will have noticed that I didn't manage a preview for the Bristol Rovers cup tie. This is primarily because upon my return from an extended business trip, Mrs Shark greeted me at the door with a pair of secateurs and the immortal line "Hey honey, it sure is swell to see you again. Can you sort out our garden - I think a family of Komodo Dragons have moved into the undergrowth by our daughters playhouse"
All in all, our trip to the Recreation Ground went about as well as these early Cup games usually do. We managed to upset the form book and actually win the game, but this was overshadowed by a horrific injury to Kieron Dyer. Our pre season decision to evict those Gypsies and prosecute those Druids looks evermore foolish as the curse of our new signings continues.
A pretty nasty tackle from something called a "Joe Jacobson" did the trick as he caught an off balance Dyer on the shin and fractured both leg bones. It appears to be a complicated and severe injury that is likely to keep him out for the rest of the season.
It has to be said that at times I don't really blame Curbishley for looking like a man on Death Row.
9. Hells Bells!
On a brighter note Craig Bellamy got off the mark in style. His first goal was a belting 25 yard drive, although fear not, I'm sure we'll beat that out of him soon enough. His second owed more to some truly atrocious defending than it did to good football, but he took the chance well enough and managed not to get arrested in the process.
Elsewhere Bobby Zamora continues to look short of confidence and there is little doubt that he could do with a goal. I would persevere with him still, simply because Ashton doesn't look fit enough, and Carlton Cole is, well, Carlton Cole. As our next game is away at Reading I'd be tempted to play him for the simple reason that it's away from Upton Park. He looked far better at Birmingham when he didn't have the entire stadium howling for Ashton at every opportunity.
10. The Secret Diary Of Adriano Mole
Aug 28 (am) - Received interesting offer from West Ham. Am mulling it over.
Aug 28 (pm) - Look up West Ham. They are in England apparently.
Aug 29 (am) - Compare relative merits of Milan and Collier Row.
Aug 29 (pm) - Sack my agent
I'll talk more about this in the Reading preview but I'm officially sceptical. Let's leave it at that for the moment......