Southampton and West Ham United played out a 1-1 draw at St Mary’s Stadium that edges both sides further toward Premier League football next season.
The Saints dominated the first-half and only a wonderful Jussi Jaaskelainen save from a Rickie Lambert effort prevented the hosts from taking a lead to the interval that their superior play had merited.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men continued in the ascendancy in the second-half and Gaston Ramirez remained composed to give them a deserved lead with 59 minutes on the clock.
West Ham, who have struggled for goals on the road this season, drew level through a deflected Andy Carroll free-kick with 66 minutes gone and, despite considerable efforts from both sides, neither could muster a winner that would have taken them to 40 points.
The sacking of Nigel Adkins with his side 15th in the Premier League table was met with widespread derision but a record of three wins on the spin had put Pochettino’s Saints on the cusp of guaranteeing their Premier League survival with six games to spare.
Having beaten Liverpool, Chelsea and Reading, Southampton were firm favourites to get to the 40 point mark against a West Ham side who have lost ten on the road this season but whose strong home form had put them level on points with their hosts coming into the fixture.
Pochettino was without Luke Shaw, who was sidelined by a virus while in-form Jay Rodriguez was only fit enough for the bench but Adam Lallana – who this week signed a five year contract – came in to the team. Sam Allardyce made only one change from the draw at Liverpool with Andy Carroll – who was ineligible to play against his parent club - coming in for Carlton Cole.
West Ham have scored a joint-lowest nine goals on the road this season and, with Carroll an isolated figure leading their line, they struggled to fashion opportunities of note for the majority of the first-half.
The Hammers sum product of their forward play in the opening 45 minutes came in the shape of a blocked Kevin Nolan effort with half an hour gone with their host’s lucid forward play having pinned them back for large swathes of the first period.
The returning Lallana had been bright throughout but he saw an effort blocked from close range before a sliding attempt from Lambert produced a wonderful stop from Jussi Jaaskelainen ten minutes before the interval – with the Finnish veteran getting down sharply to turn the effort on to the post and then wide - as the hosts upped the pressure.
The Saints continued in the ascendancy and Lambert, the highest scoring Englishman in the Premier League this season, then flashed a header wide with the last incident of the half as the hosts failed to secure a first-half lead that their superior play had merited.
West Ham visibly defended further up the pitch come the second half and, in doing so, offered Carroll a greater degree of support but, with the hosts moving the ball at pace, they began to pin their visitors further and further back.
It was no more than the Saints deserved when Ramirez followed up his own blocked effort to give his side the lead just before the hour mark following a long punt from Artur Boruc, but credit to West Ham they remained composed to draw level only seven minutes later through a deflected Carroll free-kick from just outside the box.
With the game finely poised, the introduction of Rodriguez swung the game back in the favour of the hosts but they were unable to recapture the lead.
The closest they came was in the final minute as Rodriguez stung the palms of Jaaskelainen from outside the box but a share of the spoils means that both sides go into the final few - Southampton have five whereas the Hammers have six - games of the season almost certain of Premier League survival.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Rickie Lambert (Southampton) – led the line superbly well and was desperately unlucky not to have capped a fine performance with a goal.
Southampton: Boruc 6, Clyne 6, Yoshida 6, Hooiveld 6, Fox 6, Cork 7, Lallana 6, S.Davis 6, Schneiderlin 6, Ramirez 6, Lambert 8. Subs: Puncheon 6, Rodriguez 7.
West Ham United: Jaaskelainen 7, Demel 6, Collins 6, Tomkins 6, O'Brien 6, O'Neil 6, Diame 6, Nolan 6, Jarvis 6, Vaz Te 6, Carroll 6. Subs: Pogatetz 5, Taylor 6, Collison 6.
- Sports & Recreation
- West Ham United
- Andy Carroll
- Rickie Lambert