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The Bubble Blower - Did Saints win the battle or the war?

On the back of West Ham’s narrow loss to Championship leaders Southampton, the Saints sit top, five points clear of the chasing pack and unbeaten at home for 18 matches in all competitions since their FA Cup fourth round defeat to Manchester United back in January.

Those are the facts, and even though facts don’t tell the whole truth in football, they certainly don’t lie. Nigel Atkins’ men have earned their bread and are looking very impressive at present.

Their side has a good balance in quality and experience, Atkins is one of the most exciting English managers around and in Ricky Lambert they have a potent goal machine who could be the difference between a good season and a great one.

Therefore the Hammers knew the challenge that laid in front of them on Tuesday night. Win there and you can win anywhere in this league, surely that would have been the message from Big Sam. However, in true cockney fashion, we fell short.

Although the result is not a disaster by any means, it is a battle that has been lost. And after beating Blackpool so comprehensively last weekend many would have tipped us to come away with at least a goal.

A disaster?

But is it a disaster? Games of that stature are normally classed as ‘six pointers’ but I beg to differ. True, a win would have seen the Irons climb above Saints to the top of the table.

Yet in a league as open as a turkey at Christmas, it is not one result that will determine who finishes above who (like in some leagues) it’s how well you do against everyone else; because every game is just as hard as the last.

Proof of that is West Ham’s next fixture. On Monday, the Hammers meet Brighton, a side who also gained promotion from League One last season and have started life in a new division very capably.

It should be a gripping game of football as both teams play with a similar style - ball to feet, or at least that’s what we say we do. Plus it is a chance for us to bounce back strongly and make up for our somewhat tentative approach at St Mary’s.

Therefore if we are going to challenge Southampton to the title then we need to demonstrate the character of champions. If we do, it will show our victors that we may have lost the battle but our claret and blue army remain highly dangerous in the war.

By Leigham Stone


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