Hammers close to survival

2010-04-24 19:16

London - West Ham United all but assured themselves of a place in next season's English Premier League with a tense 3-2 victory over Wigan Athletic at Upton Park here on Saturday.

Scott Parker scored the decisive goal in the second half to complete a stunning comeback for the east London club and their under-pressure manager Gianfranco Zola.

Their win and Hull's defeat by Sunderland means West Ham are unlikely to be caught by Hull due to their far superior goal difference, while second-bottom Burnley would need to win their last three games to catch Zola's side.

West Ham are 100 million pounds in debt and would struggle to survive relegation to the Championship.

Co-owner David Gold billed this match as one of the most important games in the club's history after the disappointment of their 3-0 defeat by Liverpool last time out.

If he thought the result at Anfield was bad, he would have had struggled to watch Jonathan Spector gift Wigan the opening goal as early as the fourth minute.

Ben Watson's corner was not cleared and the ball struck American international Spector in the chest and bounced over the line for an own goal.

It was just the start the Latics needed and they were still clearly buzzing from their 3-2 victory over Arsenal.

West Ham should have hit back in the eighth minute when Carlton Cole raced through on goal.

The striker beat goalkeeper Chris Kirkland but his shot was cleared off the line by Gary Caldwell, who did well to get back.

Wigan pressed forward and James McCarthy was only denied a goal when his shot from 30 yards was tipped onto the bar by Robert Green.

It was a save that proved all the more valuable as seconds later West Ham drew level through Araujo Ilan.

The Brazilian started the 31st-minute move when he fed Cole, who hustled his way into the Wigan box and crossed for Ilan to slide home.

Radoslav Kovac then put West Ham ahead on the stroke of half-time.

Mark Noble's free-kick from distance was well saved by Kirkland but the goalkeeper was powerless to stop the Czech international from heading over the line.

But West Ham's confidence quickly drained away as they again failed to cope with a corner from Watson that allowed Wigan to pull level early in the second half.

Watson's delivery found its way to the far post where Hugo Rodallega was available to get the final touch.

West Ham's players appealed for handball and television replays looked to support their case but referee Alan Wiley ruled the goal stood.

Wigan, though, slowly tired while West Ham went in search of their winner.

And it came in the 77th minute when Parker lashed home a classy strike from 25 yards that gave Kirkland no chance.

The goal made for a nervy final minutes, especially when Wigan were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box.

But Watson's shot was easily saved by Green, who was relived to see the ball into his hands.