Survival hopes hit in Sheffield

West Ham United's Premiership status was left hanging by a thread after they slumped to a crushing 3-0 defeat against relegation rivals Sheffield United.

Following the recent revival that had reached a peak with last week's memorable triumph at Arsenal, Alan Curbishley's men now have it all to do, after goals from Michael Tonge, Phil Jagielka and Jon Stead pushed the Blades five points clear of us.

With confidence bubbling before the game, the Hammers boss had been able to name an unchanged starting line-up for the third game running, with George McCartney recovered from the illness that forced him off against Arsenal last week.

Not surprisingly, the match began at a blistering pace, with both sides eager to gain the upper hand early on and determined to show full commitment in their bid to secure Premiership survival.

On seven minutes, Colin Kazim-Richards was booked for a lunge on Anton Ferdinand and, just moments later, the Blades winger sliced a shot wide of the target after James Collins had failed to clear a cross from the right.

Hammers were finding space of their own, though, and Tevez looked to have broken free after 15 minutes, only to direct his cut-back behind the onrushing Zamora.

Five minutes later, Lee Bowyer became the next name in referee Steve Bennett's notebook for a challenge on Michael Tonge,

On the half hour mark, a break out of defence saw Nigel Reo-Coker release Tevez, but the Argentinean only managed to win a corner, and Zamora headed the subsequent centre wide of the target.

Three minutes later, Zamora provided the cross and Bowyer's diving header again sailed wide of Paddy Kenny's goal but, as the first half drew to a close, it seemed that Hammers were beginning to assert their authority.

However, in the space of two minutes, things went drastically wrong for the visitors. First Anton Ferdinand was booked - presumably for speaking out of turn to referee Bennett - then just moments later the Hammers defender was penalised again for blocking off Nade on the edge of the penalty area.

Mercifully, Bennett this time decided to keep his cards in his pocket, but Hammers were still punished, as Tonge stepped up to beat Green with a fierce right-foot strike and secure the vital opening goal for Neil Warnock's men.

The second half began in much the same fashion as the first, with both teams battling for supremacy, and it was Hammers who managed to gain the upper hand early on. First Noble fired a long-range effort over the bar, then the young midfielder was released by Zamora after a neat move, only to be blocked out by two defenders.

The hosts then lost defender Claude Davis through injury on 56 minutes, and just two minutes later Hammers looked to have found the breakthrough when Tevez's neat pass released the overlapping Neill, but Kenny pulled off a fine save low to his right to deny the defender.

Still Hammers kept pushing forward, though, and on 62 minutes, it was Tevez who found himself in the clear after cleverly cutting inside two defenders. Somehow, though, the striker ballooned a left-foot shot over the bar from just eight yards out. At that point, not many would have envisaged how costly the miss would turn out to be.

On 66 minutes, Curbs attempted to inject some impetus to his midfield with a double substitution, as Mullins and Boa Morte replaced Bowyer and Etherington but, just two minutes later, Sheffield United grabbed the second killer goal.

Keith Gillespie swung in a deep corner from the right, and Jagielka rose above Zamora to direct a powerful header into the far corner of the net.

Curbs then threw on Kepa Blanco in place of Noble to form a 4-3-3 formation in the hope of producing a memorable comeback but, with 12 minutes to go, the hosts broke through for a third time, as Stead fired a left-foot shot past Green from outside the box.

To compound Hammers' misery, Tevez was booked for diving in the final minute, and as the whistle blew on a devastating afternoon for West Ham United, the loyal travelling supporters trudged away hoping their team can pull off a dramatic turnaround against champions Chelsea on Wednesday night.