It has been more of a maze thana road, but Sam Allardyce still believes it will end in the Premier League. "We have three more games to win," the West Ham manager said after confirmation that his team would contest the play-offs, initially at Cardiff on Thursday, "and we'll do it".
Victory over Hull, though narrow, can have done his confidence no harm. Since trailing Birmingham 3-1 three weeks ago, they have scored 10 goals in two-and-a-bit home matches, conceding just one, which suggests that a tendency to be held at Upton Park may have been overcome in time to salvage the promotion campaign. Away performances, as Allardyce stressed, have been "the backbone of a very good season" so far. But Hull, whose manager, Nicky Barmby, was disappointed not to be in the play-offs, were forced back for the best part of an hour, sorely tested by the power of Carlton Cole, guile of Kevin Nolan and touches of Henri Lansbury.
West Ham had hoped for anearly goal to pressure Southampton and should have had one when Lansbury crossed only for Ricardo Vaz Te, his view obscured by Cole, to head wide from three yards. Lansbury was off target before Cole put West Ham ahead with a header from Matt Taylor's corner.
A slanting cross from Lansbury that bisected the visiting central defenders let Cole chest and volley his second before being taken off to rest, along with Vaz Te, for the City of Cardiff Stadium. Corry Evans put the result briefly in doubt, but Allardyce's men survived.
West Ham (4-3-1-2): Green; Demel, Tomkins, Reid, Taylor; Lansbury, Noble, O'Neil; Nolan (McCartney, 73); Cole (Baldock, 51), Vaz Te (Maynard, 60).
Hull (4-5-1): Mannone; Rosenior, Chester, Cooper, Dawson; King (Stewart, h-t), McKenna, Cairney (Brady, 73), Evans, Garcia; Fryatt.
Referee Nigel Miller.
Man of the match Lansbury (West Ham).
Match rating 5/10.