Betfred Sport

Potential nightmare for Saints as Hammers close the gap to three points

West Ham - the team that couldn't win at home - went some way to making up for their poor run of form at Upton Park with a stunning 6-0 victory against fellow promotion hopefuls Brighton on Saturday.

Hammers fans have seen their side drop out of the top two following Reading's remarkable run - and it looked likely that they would have to settle for the end of season play-offs lottery.

But the Royals' win at Southampton on Friday night and Saturday's triumph has lifted the spirits in East London.

With two big wins in their last three games, Sam Allardyce's side are now just three points adrift of Southampton with three games remaining and are only three goals worse off than the Saints on goal difference.

It might be too little too late for the Hammers, but making up three points is not out of the question - and if they do pip Southampton to second place, it would represent a nightmare scenario for the south coast outfit, who have spent the entire season in the top two.

The Saints have had a bit of a wobble in recent weeks, dropping eight points in their last four games and, with Reading now the favourites to go on and claim the title, Southampton's fans are starting to get a bit nervous.

Bitter pill to swallow

If West Ham do pip Nigel Adkins' men, it could spell disaster for Saints supporters keen for a return to the big time. The last thing any side needs is a dent in morale going into the play-offs - and it would be a bitter pill to swallow if the only time the side slips out of the top two positions is the final day of the season.

Two goals from Ricardo Vaz Te (pictured) and Kevin Nolan's tap-in saw West Ham open up a 3-0 advantage against Brighton inside the first 11 minutes.

Vaz Te went on to complete a hat-trick with a spectacular bicycle kick in the second half, with Carlton Cole and a Gary Dicker own goal completing the rout.

Victory for West Ham at Bristol City on Tuesday and defeat for Southampton at Peterborough could see the Saints drop out of the automatic promotion places for the first time this season.

Southampton travel to Middlesbrough next Saturday, while West Ham's next game is not until the following Monday.

The Hammers' last fixture is at home to Hull in two weeks, with the Saints entertaining a Coventry side who could need a win to stay up.

By Mark Roach 

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