Southampton stumble sees West Ham re-emerge as favourites
Saints’ lead at the top is cut to two points ahead of vital midweek round
It was a near perfect Saturday for West Ham as they closed to within two points of Championship leaders Southampton and reassumed the mantle of favourites following a 3-1 victory over out-of-form Derby
The Irons were involved in the day’s late kick-off so knew that there was a massive opportunity to put pressure on their title rivals, who suffered their first defeat in nine earlier in the afternoon away to rejuvenated Bristol City.
On the few other occasions that the Saints had stuttered so far this season, Sam Allardyce’s side had struggled to take advantage and a repeat briefly appeared to be on the cards when Tamas Priskin fired the Rams in front on his debut.
Carlton Cole equalised before the break though and the hosts did the damage in the second half for the third match in a row, with Kevin Nolan and Mark Noble scoring to earn their team a third straight win, a feat that they hadn’t previously achieved.
The task of maintaining that momentum is sure to be a tricky one however as the midweek set of fixtures sends them to fourth-placed Middlesbrough, who haven’t been beaten at home in nine months.
West Ham won’t be too fearful of that streak as they boast the best travelling record in the division – triumphing on their last three away days – but their one loss came against a similarly strong home side in Southampton.
The newly-anointed 11/8 favourites to claim top spot are rated at 6/4 to win at the Riverside, yet tellingly the same odds are offered on Tony Mowbray’s men.
Southampton, now out to 13/8 to finish first, will relish a return to St Mary’s given their run of one victory in seven on the road, and are 4/7 to react by making it 30 points from a possible 30 in front of their fans against play-off hopefuls Hull.