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Saturday, 5th May 2001

West Ham United 3
Southampton 0

by Neville Nixon

The Hammers finally guaranteed their Premiership status for next season with a comfortable victory over Southampton at Upton Park this afternoon.

Second half strikes from Joe Cole, Paolo Di Canio and Freddy Kanoute gave the Hammers the point they needed to ensure they cannot be relegated.

Harry Redknapp was delighted with the victory - and not just a little relieved. He told reporters after the game:

"That was a vital win for us. It's amazing what tension does to you - we looked so nervous before the first goal.

"But after that we looked a different side, and started playing like we were at the start of the season."

The win lifted the Hammers to 14th spot in the Premiership. Middlesbrough, who only managed a draw at Bradford need at least a point against the Hammers in the last game of the season at the Riverside next week to guarantee their survival (assuming Manchester City win at Ipswich on Monday night).

***

To say there was an air of tension at the Boleyn would have been an understatement to say the least! During half time that tension was being replaced by real concern as we heard that Coventry were two nil up, Derby were beating Man U and that the Boro were level ...

The Hammers started the Match looking tentative - you could almost smell the fear, it is indeed fortunate that the Saints looked even more out of sorts and were never really in the picture. That said, if it had not been for an amazing save by Shaka from Kevin Davies then things could have got really stressy.

Fortunately Psycho was in fine form - and he had to be, as time and again he was there to prevent the Hammers defence from being overrun by a very fast and agile Saints attack (although the goal drought they have experienced since Hod's departure was plainly explanatory).

Most Hammers fans were glad to see half time arrive with the score level at 0-0. Shaka was called upon to make another fine save shortly after the restart, which may well have been his way of showing the Boo Boys who were chanting "you fat bastard" that while he may not be so lithe that he can still move between the posts! Even his kicking was much better than in many recent games!

The introduction of Bassilla in place of the injured Stimac had already guaranteed more movement on the flanks as the boy does like to run; this extra dimension helped in the build up to the first goal with a long pass finding Freddie on the wing. He promptly lost the ball by falling over his own feet only to recover and pass to Toddie who suddenly got all clever and back-heeled to Joey who ran on , one touch - BANG, Goal! An absolute peach, the Boleyn explodes.

Tension starts to be replaced by hope and the Sun came out. That was it, all the touches, all the runs - even the miskicks started to come off in the Hammers favour, the goal obviously removing the strangling fear that had been so evident earlier on.

Following more fine work on the wing the ball again found Toddie who promptly back-heeled again, this time finding a previously subdued PDC who waltzed through the Saints defence like it didn't exist before sticking the ball past Jones for goal number two. Relief all round and eveyone is singing Bubbles.

Of course, West Ham being West Ham the defence still contrived to not keep a clean sheet, but Shaka was having none of it and began prowling around his area like the Shaka of old. With a general carnival atmosphere building up the Hammers played some beautiful stuff; touches, flicks, run ons, and none more so than a breathtaking sprint through the middle by Archie who had replaced Toddie to score only for the goal to be disallowed for offside.

'H's face had changed from hang dog to hang glider during the second half, especially when Freddie latched on to a PDC free kick and headed into the top corner for the third.

Hardly time to restart, but plenty of time to reflect! After the usual end of term presentations the crowd spilled out into the sunny bright and above all very happy streets surrounding Upton Park.

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