As I left Upton Park on Monday evening it was clear that no one knew whether to laugh or cry.
On one hand, we had just witnessed the type of home performance that we’ve been craving for months and salvaged a point from a game that looked all but over at the break. But on the other hand we knew that by dropping points we had an even steeper hill to climb if we were going to achieve automatic promotion.
Following Reading’s 1-0 win at Brighton last night, Allardyce’s men now have six points to make up in just four games. Although that’s only in the hope that one of Southampton or Reading don’t win more than six points from their remaining fixtures. It’s a huge ask. A monumental expectation. An almost impossible outcome. But it’s not mathematically impossible, meaning it can still be done.
Looking at the run-in, Reading arguably have the hardest. Yes, they have two consecutive home games with Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace but, they’re sandwiched by two very tough trips to Southampton and Birmingham. They are two games I think they’ll struggle to get anything from, leaving us with the task of ensuring we take at least seven points from the remaining 12 available to clinch second spot.
It would be unfair on Southampton if they don’t get promoted as Champions and I think they’ll do just that by winning all of their final four games. That’s not something that should worry us, though. Winning the league, that is. All we need to worry about is winning our games and hoping either Reading slip up twice, why just Reading? Because if we claw back six points now, it’s goal difference that will determine who finishes 2nd. Reading’s goal difference is only two goals better off than ours at the moment, so they’re the team we’d want to level points with.
Despite the current circumstances, though, the Easter Bank Holiday weekend began in emphatic and historical fashion. Winning 4-0 away at Barnsley set a new club record for most away wins in a single season and the football we played on the day was synonymous of a promotion winning side. Problem is, we haven’t done that every week.
Regardless of whether we win promotion or not, I’m sure there will be an inquest in to why we’ve made this season such hard work. We’ve recently been labelled as arrogant by people in the media and fans of opposition clubs, but the fact of the matter is this – We should be beating teams like Doncaster, Watford, Crystal Palace, Bristol City and Ipswich with the manager, players and budget we have. There shouldn’t have been a contest.
It’s accepted that every now and then said teams might cause an upset (like Ipswich did with their 5-1 thrashing of us at Portman Road) but, on the whole, those games should have been won. Why they weren’t won is a subject of real debate. Tactics, complacency, naivety and lack of confidence could all come in to play. That’s something I go on about with a few more thousand words, but what I have to say about it is what many of you will probably already know, so I won’t bore you with it now.
We’re staring the play-offs square in the face right now and that doesn’t necessarily mean our dreams of promotion are dead and buried. Look at it this way, if we do go up through the play-offs then at least we can enjoy a good day out at Wembley in the process. All we can do at this stage is keep supporting the boys, keep believing that something might finally go our way and just hope we’ll all be toasting an immediate return to the promised land come the end of the season.
Keep the faith, Hammers. We can do it.
Agree or disagree? Think it’s all over for us? Let me know on Twitter @jj2388