Happy Hammers banish the fears after first-half blitz scuppers Watford
West Ham 3 Watford 1
Two goals in the opening 10 minutes from Michail Antonio and Tomas Soucek set West Ham on their way to a win which all-but guarantees Premier League football next season.
An absolute blinder from Declan Rice from outside the area on 36 minutes made it a perfect first-half for the Hammers, who repelled a spirited response from the Hornets.
They now need only one more point from their remaining two matches to be sure of survival – though the chances are they have already done enough.
It was their two most dependable players since the restart who got the ball rolling – Antonio adding to the four he scored at Norwich last week to take his total for the season to nine, with Soucek adding a second to underline what an excellent loan signing he has been.
West Ham got just the start they needed – with Antonio blasting them ahead after only six minutes.
Watford made a hash of attempts to clear their lines and the ball fell nicely to Pablo Fornals, whose stab into space allowed the Hammers striker to drill a left-footer through the legs of Ben Foster.
Then, Soucek got on the end of a Jarrod Bowen cross to head past a stranded Foster to claim his third goal for the club since his move from Slavia Prague – all of them crucial in the battle to avert the drop.
A fine block with his legs by Lukasz Fabianski denied Ismaila Sarr a goal as the Hornets looked for a quick route back into the contest and there was plenty of endeavour from the visitors, who looked anything but a hopeless case.
But attempts to make spells of pressure tell were totally undermined after 36 minutes when Rice picked up the ball on the left edge of the Watford area and had room to unleash a pearler beyond Foster’s left hand.
Craig Dawson headed over from close range just before the break for the visitors and there was another near miss from a second half corner which Christian Kabasele glanced just wide – suggesting Watford were not ready to throw in the towel.
That impression was underlined when Troy Deeney gave his side a lifeline on 49 minutes by tucking home the rebound after an Abdoulaye Dacoure shot had cannoned back off a post.
The Hornets kept at it and asked questions with their high-tempo spells of pressure. But the Hammers held firm and it is the visitors who face a more anxious finale to the season, with Villa and Bournemouth both just three points behind.
Sebastian Haller came on for Fornals, and just as he had done against Burnley in West Ham’s last home match, he almost scored within seconds. Latching on to a miscue from Kabasele, he sent a volley over the advancing Forster, but the keeper just managed to fingertip it off target.
It did not prove crucial and the game ended with a scoreline which befits a 500th appearance in claret and blue for skipper Mark Noble, who can feel confident his side will have a top-flight fixture list again next season.
West Ham: Fabianski – Johnson, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell – Rice, Soucek – Bowen (Yarmolenko 81), Noble, Fornals (Haller 72) – Antonio (Balbuena 90). Subs not used: Anderson, Lanzini, Wihere, Masuaku, Randolph, Coventry