Ref justice overshadows Cole wonder goal
Wigan Athletic 0 West Ham United 1 THIS MATCH report should have been about a magnificent away win by West Ham. It should have been about a stunning passing move that swept from the halfway line into the penalty area and then into the net in the blinking
Wigan Athletic 0 West Ham United 1
THIS MATCH report should have been about a magnificent away win by West Ham. It should have been about a stunning passing move that swept from the halfway line into the penalty area and then into the net in the blinking of an eye, writes DAVE EVANS.
Instead, the bulk of this report is about possibly the worst referee in the history of Premier League football.
Stuart Attwell is simply not good enough to officiate at this level of football. He is probably not good enough to officiate at any level.
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Attwell is the referee of the phantom goal between Watford and Reading earlier in the season; this is the referee that has issued 80 yellow cards and seven red cards this season; this is the referee who spoiled this game.
His dismissal of Carlton Cole for a second yellow card would have been laughable if it hadn't been such a disgraceful decision.
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The West Ham striker had already been booked for a foul on Lee Cattermole where he looked to have got plenty of the ball, when on 36 minutes he went for Rob Green's long clearance with his boot instead of his head.
Despite never taking his eye off the ball, Attwell decided that his foul on Emmerson Boyce was worthy of another booking and Cole was on his way back to the dressing room.
In between the first booking and the second, Cole scored perhaps the goal of the season for the Hammers.
On 34 minutes, a brilliant one-touch passing move involving Herita Ilunga, Scott Parker, Mark Noble, David Di Michele twice and then Cole, ended with the striker stroking the ball past Chris Kirkland and into the corner of the net.
It was his 11th goal of the season, his first since January 28 and was worthy of winning any match, but it was overshadowed by his ridiculous sending off and the antics of Attwell for the rest of this match.
Unsurprisingly, the actions of the referee caused angry reactions among the players and bad tackles ensued.
Lucas Neill's x-rated challenge on Cattermole should have earned him a red card, but only merited a yellow in Attwell's book, while Michael Brown was apparently booked for being aggressive; Parker though wasn't shown a second yellow despite almost spontaneously combusting.
Cattermole was sent packing by Attwell on 52 minutes for a dreadful challenge on Parker, who was booed by the Wigan fans for the rest of the game, presumably for almost having his leg broken.
It was an ugly, bad-tempered match and just about all of it stemmed from Attwell's apalling first decision to send off Cole.
West Ham had started nervously. Mark Noble had come in for the injured Valon Behrami in the only change, but it was the defence that was looking shaky.
Neill conceded a foul just outside the box to immediately cause palpitations in the West Ham support, but this time Mido's goalbound blast was parried by Green and then quickly palmed away for a corner by the keeper.
A fine passing move between Parker and Jack Collison proved to be a dress rehearsal for the goal, as the Welsh midfielder played a delightful through ball to the sprinting Cole, only for the striker to fail to get in a shot as Kirkland came out.
Once Cole was off, West Ham seemed to have no outlet. Every time the ball was cleared by the Hammers, it seemed to come straight back as Di Michele had neither the control nor the pace of Cole to cause the Wigan defence enough problems.
However, the home side had few ideas of how to break down West Ham's solid midfield and defence.
Antonio Valencia did get down the right flank to cross for Mido to head against the outside of the post, while Cattermole drilled another shot inches wide, but the Hammers held on comfortably until half time.
Wigan started the second half brightly, but after Neill's challenge on Cattermole had gone relatively unpunished and then Cattermole himself was sent off, the home side never looked like getting back into this game.
Steve Bruce threw on Paul Scharner and Hugo Rodallega to freshen up the forward line, but if anything it was West Ham who looked the more likely once it was 10 against 10.
Di Michele combined well with Neill before playing a low ball into the centre where Noble almost turned the ball into the net from inside the six-yard box.
And after Savio had replaced the tiring Di Michele and Jonathan Spector had come on for Collison, who fell awkwardly while controlling the ball on the touchline, there were more chances for the Hammers.
Parker found the little German, who put Noble away only for the midfielder to see his shot blocked by Kirkland, while right at the death substitute Walter Lopez was put in by Spector, but the Uruguayan was stopped as he pulled the trigger, by a superb tackle by Maynor Figueroa.
West Ham clung on with relative ease to pull three points further away from Wigan and Fulham and pull two points back on Everton.
Manager Gianfranco Zola proved once again what a great diplomat he really is.
"We have to understand the referee is a human being and can make mistakes," he said. "Neither of Carlton Cole's challenges were bad tackles. Cattermole's was a bad tackle on Parker, as was Lucas Neill's on Cattermole."
Steve Bruce magnanimously accepted that West Ham deserved the victory, but he was rightly scathing of the official.
"The game was ruined as a spectacle," he slammed." Cole shouldn't have been sent off - referee, use a bit of common sense.
"It had the makings of a decent game, but how he sends someone off in the first half for something as petulant as that I don't know.
"Lucas Neill should have been off the pitch for his tackle, which was horrific. I have no complaints about Cattermole, he was stupid and silly, but he was incensed and he had a good right to be.
"I feel a bit sorry for the referee, because in my opinion Mr Attwell is not ready to step up to the plate."
For once, Steve Bruce was exactly right.
This was a deserved win, crowned by a brilliant goal, but the major talking point will be of a referee out of his depth.
It should not be allowed to happen again.
West Ham: Green 8, Neill 7, Ilunga 7, Upson 8, Tomkins 8, Noble 7, Parker 9 (Lopez 88), Kovac 7, Collison 7 (Spector 78, 7), Di Michele 7 (Savio 75, 7), Cole 8.
Attendance: 14,167. Referee! Stuart Attwell.