Betfred Sport

Hammers getting the Blues

If losing second place in the Championship to Reading then getting thumped 4-2 by the Royals on home soil wasn’t bad enough, West Ham are suddenly facing up to the reality that they might not even be good enough for third spot this season.

Birmingham are on a roll and moved to within six points of the Hammers on Tuesday with a 3-1 win at Burnley. The Blues now also have a better goal difference than the Hammers.

If you are going to finish the season in the play-offs, the general idea is to go into the end-of-season lottery with some momentum.

Birmingham have it, but the Hammers are going backwards. It’s unlikely, but not beyond the realms of possibility, that the East Londoners could even miss out on the play-offs all together.

Marlon King got things moving at Burnley on Tuesday with a goal after 11 minutes, only for Danny Ings to equalise in the 74th minute. But Jordon Mutch restored Birmingham’s advantage a minute later and David Murphy secured vicitory with a third goal in the 88th minute.

Hammer blow

West Ham’s defeat against Reading could prove to be a Hammer blow for their promotion hopes. The Royals will go top if they beat Leeds at the Madejski Stadium on Friday afternoon, and that would take them seven points clear of Sam Allardyce’s side with just five games remaining.

Reading still have to visit current leaders Southampton in the run-in in what could turn out to be a title decider, but a top two finish is the primary goal for the Royals and on current form they look set to achieve that before they travel to Birmingham on the final day of the season.

As for the Hammers, their chances of automatic promotion are now looking very bleak and, on current form, going up via the play-offs could prove too big a challenge.

It now looks like Southampton and Reading to go up automatically, with the Royals in with a great chance of winning the title – the last time they won the Championship they went on to finish eighth the following season, their first in the Premier League.

But there is now an almighty scrap for the play-off places. With six games remaining for all 24 Championship sides, Birmingham and Blackpool, 3-0 winners against the Saints at the weekend, are looking strong at the right time, and just 10 points separate sixth-placed Brighton and 16th-placed Burnley.

By Mark Roach

Follow me on Twitter: @TotalFootballEd

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