Stuart Attwell is the youngest referee in the Premier League and the inexperience showed through as the match went on. The first bit of controversy was why he sent Carlton Cole off, although this was at least borderline if not harsh.
The striker was booked for an innocuous late challenge on Michael Brown before scoring a fantastically worked goal and then was booked again for a high kick which caught Emmerson Boyce in the face. Two events that probably warranted one yellow, but as mentioned earlier, both could have been construed as yellows – harsh but red it was.
Here was blunder number two as Scott Parker (who had also got a yellow for a bad foul) went after Michael Brown shouting and squaring up to him as he just looked back bemused. Amazingly it was Michael Brown that got booked for aggressive behaviour, when he was the one that the aggression was being aimed at. Scott Parker was the one that should have followed his team mate down the tunnel.
The next massive decision blunder was when he only yellow carded Neil for a horrendous challenge on Lee Cattermole. The Australian defender knew exactly what he was doing as he lost the ball and flew into Cattermole’s shin with all studs showing.
The Latic’s midfielder didn’t writhe around like a girl (see later) and this is probably why the inexperienced ref decided to just yellow card him. This proved even more amazing as Cattermole later mistimed a challenge (badly) on Scott Parker (yes the one which shouldn’t have even been on the pitch a t the time), who decided to roll around feigning his agony.
The arching of the back and holding his head screaming like a girl worked a treat on the young ref, who gave Lee a straight red, being honest most refs would have sent him off for that challenge, it was bad, but not as bad as what he received off Neill earlier and he stayed on the green, they both should have walked.
But as I mentioned earlier, had the ref booked the right player in the Scott Parker ‘handbag gate’, he wouldn’t have been on the pitch for the foul to be committed and the result could have been very different 11 against 8.
Latics’ first real chance came from a free kick awarded 20 yards from goal, but Amr Zaki’s goal bound effort was tipped over by Green after 12 minutes. Mido was handed the set-piece responsibilities from almost identical range four minutes later, and Green saved again, this time at the second attempt with Antonio Valencia lurking.
West Ham threatened on 17 minutes when Cole outpaced Emmerson Boyce down the middle, but the striker’s touch to round Chris Kirkland was too heavy and the ball ran over the dead-ball line. The Hammers were coming into the game more and more, though, and took the lead on 34 minutes when a beautiful, crisp passing move involving Scott Parker, David Di Michele, Mark Noble and Di Michele again allowed Cole to curl a lovely shot beyond Kirkland.
Cole, however, was sensationally red-carded three minutes later for a second yellow card, and Latics nearly took immediate retribution when Valencia’s cross found the head of Mido at the near post, but the Egyptian’s header hit the right-hand upright and behind for a goal kick. Cattermole then fired a daisy-cutter agonisingly wide of the far post, but the visitors held on for the half-time whistle.
The former Middlesbrough man was in the wars three minutes into the second half, the victim of a very poor challenge from Lucas Neill that was fortunate to bring only a yellow card from referee Stuart Attwell.
That was perhaps on Cattermole’s mind as he went into a 50-50 with Parker three minutes later, but he can have no complaints at receiving red after a two-footed lunge that the West Ham man was lucky to get up from.
Fellow midfielder Brown, booked in the first half, was then withdrawn along with Amr Zaki as Bruce threw on Hugo Rodallega and Paul Scharner in an attempt to find an attacking spark.
Latics could not break down a determined rearguard, although they could perhaps have had a penalty in the dying seconds when Matthew Upson appeared to handle a goal bound shot from Mario Melchiot, with Rodallega also sending an overhead kick wide of the target.
Valencia and Mido had been restored to the team with Scharner and Olivier Kapo dropping to the bench, the only changes to the team that narrowly lost 2-1 at Chelsea on Saturday.
Report by Jason Taylor