Title favourites West Ham head to Southampton on a high

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It wasn’t just in the Premier League that an upcoming top-of-the-table tie was rendered even more tantalising by results this weekend, as West Ham produced perhaps their best display of the season ahead of their trip to Championship leaders Southampton.

The stutters of other clubs near the top such as Middlesbrough and Brighton had prevented it from getting too much attention, but the Irons had been in worrying form, winning only once in four and failing to net from open play in three of those games.

However, the visit of a Blackpool team boasting one of the best defensive records in the division surprisingly provided the opportunity for them to return to prominence, with strikers John Carew and Sam Baldock among the goals in a 4-0 rout.

It was their fourth four-goal show of the campaign and enabled them to climb up to second prior to Tuesday’s St Mary’s showdown with the Saints, who possess a perfect home record, while West Ham are still unbeaten away.

Nigel Adkins’ high-flyers, who last dropped points in front of their fans way back at the end of January and haven’t lost a league match there in 2011, failed to triumph for just the fourth time since promotion on Saturday, held 1-1 by strong starters Derby at Pride Park.

And though they are favoured at 6/5 to defeat Sam Allardyce’s side in midweek, they are rated considerably less likely to finish first, with odds of 7/2 leaving them a fair way behind the east Londoners, who are 15/8 favourites.

Tuesday presents West Ham with the chance to go top of the table for the first time since their pitiful relegation from the Premier League last May, and 7/4 is a tempting price on the basis of their 100 per cent win rate outside the capital thus far.

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