Rare setback frustrates Curbs

Alan Curbishley was disappointed to come away from Wigan Athletic with nothing in the bag after such a positive week.

The 1-0 loss at the JJB Stadium was only the fourth defeat in an impressive run of 16 league matches for West Ham United, who can count themselves unfortunate not to have salvaged something from Saturday afternoon's game. One consolation is that the two teams directly above the tenth-placed Hammers remain within touching distance after both Portsmouth and Blackburn Rovers were held to draws.

"After our great result against Liverpool, we're disappointed because we never really got going," conceded Curbishley who saw Kevin Kilbane's first goal of the campaign settle the match upon a difficult surface. "It'll sound like sour grapes but the pitch is embarrassing. I was talking to Steve Bruce about it during the game because it's very difficult. I don't think that the Premier League are used to pitches like that and teams coming here will have to adapt because it's a big factor if you're trying to play some football."

The manager said he had always expected the contest to be settled by a free-kick or corner, as it was when Kilbane rose above Freddie Ljungberg to loop a header over Robert Green. "A big part of Wigan's play is the set-plays and balls in the box and I thought we coped quite well until obviously the last minute of the first half when we were undone," he said. "It was so frustrating because when we see it again we have probably got probably our smallest player on one of their biggest players."

Having gone behind so close to half-time, and with the pitch offering little to those wanting to string passes together, Curbishley admitted the second half was low on quality. "Eventually you end up knocking it long. It was very difficult. We got on top in the first half, but couldn't fashion that final ball and some of my players were then resorting to just putting it in there and hoping for a bit of a scrap. It never happened for us. I would have taken a point while the game was going on because I knew how difficult it was.

"It is a great three points for Wigan. I don't begrudge them it in terms of it was a tight game - they got the goal and edged it. I hope it does them a power of good." Curbishley's gracious sentiments were echoed by Bruce, who described the victory as a "big win" because "West Ham are a class act". To sum up a difficult day, perhaps the final word should go to Kilbane who admitted he was not even trying to score. "I tried to head it across goal and got a bit lucky with it, to be honest."

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