Wigan 1:2 West Ham

Hammers produced a stunning late show to see off Wigan and secure a place in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday afternoon.


Hayden Mullins' first strike for the club in the 80th minute was followed by David Connolly's superb individual effort five minutes later to see Alan Pardew's men through, although Wayne Quinn's late own goal made it a nervy last few moments for the visitors.


On a bitterly cold day in the North West, Hammers were made to fight hard for their victory against a Wigan side who lie one place above them in the league table but, in the end, it was quality that told to help Pardew's men make it back-to-back wins for the first time since he arrived at the club in mid-October.


The Hammers boss had been forced into making one change to the team that saw off Nottingham Forest last week. With the appeal against Jermain Defoe's third red card of the season falling on deaf ears, the young striker began the first of another five-game ban, with Kevin Horlock coming in to take his place.


That meant a straight-forward 4-4-2 formation, with Marlon Harewood joining David Connolly up front and Michael Carrick switching to an unusual role on the right side of midfield. Making a welcome return on the substitutes' bench was Christian Dailly - now recovered from a worrying bout of pleurisy.


On a bumpy and sticky pitch at the JJB Stadium, neither side made a hugely impressive start to their first match of 2004, although the hosts enjoyed the greater of the possession early on and showed more signs of threatening the opposition goal.


It still took until the 22nd minute before the first effort on target was registered, when Teale's cross from the right was met by Nathan Ellington, whose glancing header was spilled by David James. However, the England keeper made amends by diving at the feet of McCulloch to smother the loose ball.


Ellington and his partner Neil Roberts were beginning to cause the Hammers rearguard more and more problems, particularly to Tomas Repka who, despite looking calm and assured on the ball, received his 11th booking of the season for persistent fouls on Roberts.


Hammers improved to end the half strongly, though, and fashioned a couple of decent scoring chances. First Connolly slipped in a clever reverse pass for Harewood, who fired just wide from 12 yards out, then Connolly turned provider again to race down the right and send in an inviting cross that was only cleared as far as Horlock, whose poke back into the danger area was flicked just wide by Etherington.


Carrick then sent a stinging shot just inches wide, before Hammers created their best chance of the game on the stroke of half-time, when Harewood's clever flick released Etherington, whose cross from the left was met by Connolly, but the striker's neat effort crashed off the angle of post and crossbar and flew away for a goal-kick.


Pardew made a change at half-time, bringing on Don Hutchison in place of Horlock to add some much-needed width on the right-hand side. However, it was the hosts who made the better start after the interval and created a glorious opportunity to open the scoring.


Roberts released Ellington with a neat pass and the striker beat the offside trap to bear down on goal but saw his slide-rule effort tipped round the post by James, who was somewhat surprised to be awarded a goal-kick when he picked himself off the floor.


A few minutes later, Pardew was forced to make his second change of the game when, after another ill-timed lunge on Ellington, Repka was withdrawn for his own good and replaced by the returning Dailly, who will now keep his place as the Czech defender serves a two-match ban for reaching 10 yellow cards already this season.


As Hammers continued to adapt to the changes, Wigan pushed forward in anticipation of an imminent breakthrough. Teale's cut-back was hooked just wide by Roberts, while captain Jason De Vos had a powerful free-header saved on the line by James. Former Hammer Jimmy Bullard almost made it his very own dream afternoon with a free-kick that was deflected just inches over, while Roberts came close again with a sliced volley.


11 minutes from time, Pardew threw his last roll of the dice and sent on Neil Mellor for Harewood to add some fresh legs to the attack. The switch paid off almost immediately, as the young striker touched Connolly's pass into the path of Mullins, who strode through the heart of the Wigan defence before calmly slotting the ball past Filan from 12 yards out.


The goal clearly knocked the stuffing out of Paul Jewell's men, who were pushed on to the back-foot by a resurgent Hammers side as the final stages approached. Just five minutes later, the visitors made it two and put the tie beyond doubt in stylish fashion.


Latching on to a long clearance from Quinn, Connolly skipped between two defenders in the box before dummying another opponent and drawing Filan before striking confidently into the net. A classy goal from a classy striker clearly boosted by a return to his natural role higher up the pitch following Defoe's absence.


As demoralised Wigan wilted under the assault, it seemed possible that Hammers might grab another one or two before the final whistle. Instead, they made it a nervous final few minutes by gifting their opponents a thread of a lifeline.


A low cross from De Vos appeared to be harmless as Quinn prepared to clear without a Wigan striker in sight but, somehow, the Hammers left-back managed to completely slice the ball into his own net from six yards out - much to the amazement of most in the 11,793 crowd.


As the added-on-time board flashed up three minutes, there was a worrying sense of fear among the travelling support, but they needn't have worried, for Hammers held on firmly to secure their place in the fourth round draw that takes place on Monday lunchtime.

 Just as importantly, it finally gives Pardew the early signs of that elusive winning run he has been so desperate to build - one that will hopefully stretch to three matches when Preston North End visit Upton Park next Saturday.