After a stuttering couple of weeks, West Ham returned to their natural winning ways with a convincing and “stylish” 3-1 win over Watford on Wednesday.
Andy Carroll made it six goals in six games to underscore his late-in-the-day re-emergence while Mark Noble netted two penalties to keep the Irons within touching distance of Manchester Utd, one place above.
However, manager Slaven Bilic was critical of his team’s lack of bite in front of goal with Victor Moses and Manuel Lanzini squandering chances that would have settled Boleyn Ground nerves.
When Sebastian Prodl pulled a goal back old fears returned but West Ham steered the game home to keep them in contention for European football in the new Olympic Stadium next season.
Bilic said afterwards: “We won and we did it in style. We played good football and we should, and could, have scored more goals. At the end it was a decisive game for us. We said to players this game is likely to decide whether we look up if we win or down if we lose.
“Of course there are still a few clubs below us queuing, but it is nice to have a five-point cushion over Southampton or nine points to Stoke.
“Liverpool are there and they are in good form, but we stay in the same distance from Manchester United.”
The Red Devils will be the last visitors to the Boleyn Ground as a result of a postponement due to FA Cup semi-final action which leaves West Ham with no match this weekend.