A disastrous start to the second half proved costly for Saints as they were defeated at Upton Park 4-1.
Despite controlling the first half and preventing the Hammers from scoring, Saints gave themselves a mountain to climb in a three minute spell which they ultimately never recovered from.
Nigel Adkins’ men looked on course for their first clean sheet of the season amongst a clutch of positives from a terrific opening 45 minute display, but a bizarre free-kick from distance which somehow went all the way in from Mark Noble, was quickly made worse by Kevin Nolan’s tap in at the far post that altered the game plan.
Adam Lallana managed to pull one back, and the introductions of Emmanuel Mayuka and Rickie Lambert were well timed as the visitors pushed hard for an equaliser.
However, a second strike from Noble this time a penalty from Fonte’s handball was added to late on by substitute Modibo Maiga’s sweet curling finish past Artur Boruc.
West Ham: Jaaskelainen, Tomkins (Spence 87), Reid, Collins, McCartney, Noble, Nolan (c), Diame (O'Neil 68), Benayoun, Jarvis, Carroll (Maiga 81). Subs (not used): Spiegel, Chambers, Cole, Hall.
Saints: Boruc, Clyne, Fonte, Hooiveld, Yoshida, Schneiderlin, S. Davis, Lallana (c), Puncheon (Mayuka 65), Rodriguez (Lambert 65), Guly. Subs (not used): K. Davis, Ward-Prowse, Seaborne, Chaplow, Reeves.
Referee: Neil Swarbrick
Adkins made four changes to his starting line up from the draw with Fulham prior to the international break.
Polish goalkeeper Boruc was handed a debut between the sticks, whilst Nathaniel Clyne returned to the team after injury. Jos Hooiveld rekindled his partnership with Jose Fonte in the centre of defence.
The Hammers got the match underway with Saints defending the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand in their changed strip of yellow and blue on a clear and mild afternoon in East London.
A competitive opening to the game saw the visitors settle early as they passed the ball around to good effect to quell the threat of the hosts’ direct style.
Saints were effective moving forward with both Puncheon and Lallana pulling the strings for the visitors who earned three corners inside the opening ten minutes, the latter of which resulted in Jos Hooiveld testing Jussi Jaaskelainen with a header at the far post.
The home side persisted with their aerial attacks which more often than not resulted in losing possession with Fonte and Hooiveld standing up impressively to the target of towering England forward Andy Carroll.
A swift break on 20 minutes almost saw Saints make the breakthrough when Schneiderlin’s lofted pass was cleverly latched onto by Rodriguez on the edge of the area, but the forward’s tricky half-volleyed effort dropped agonisingly wide of the far post.
Saints continued to cause West Ham problems with Lallana giving his opponents the run-around in midfield as the visitors increased their foothold on the game, adding to the home crowd’s frustrations, who were still yet to see a clear chance created by their side.
Adkins’ men remained on top in the game although the ambitious long range shots from Yoshida and Rodriguez which failed to test Jaaskelainen belied the quality of the build-up play from the visitors.
A brief stoppage to allow treatment for Hammers man James Tomkins didn’t interrupt the flow of the game, with Saints remaining the more dangerous of the teams where Lallana again caused the hosts problems in the latter stages of the half.
Goalless it remained however going into the break, the first time that had occurred in a Premier League match involving Saints this season.
Half Time: West Ham 0-0 Saints
In spite of the encouraging half that had gone before them, with barely a minute played of the new half, the hosts took the lead in somewhat bizarre circumstances.
An innocuous free-kick floated into the area evaded everyone inside the area including James Collins and Jose Fonte, leaving Mark NOBLE to celebrate a fortuitous strike and end Saints’ hopes of a first clean sheet of the campaign.
Unbelievably, matters were made worse two minutes later when Yossi Benayoun was afforded space inside the area on the right hand side and his ball across the six yard box was too inviting for NOLAN who tapped home a quick-fire second goal to double the Hammers’ lead.
A shell shocked Saints side sought a quick response to repair the damage caused in that destructive spell, but a confident home side were now looking more resolute with a two goal cushion behind them.
But find a way through Saints did on 64 minutes when Rodriguez battled his way past the Hammers defence to lay the ball into the path of LALLANA who crashed home his first goal of the season high into the back of Jaaskelainen’s net.
Buoyed by the goal, Adkins immediately made a double switch to push for an equaliser as both Rickie Lambert and Emmanuel Mayuka were introduced to the action in place of Rodriguez and Puncheon respectively.
It took a couple of minutes for Lambert to get his first touch of the ball, but when a free-kick was presented to Saints on the edge of the box, the striker had no hesitation in lining up a shot on goal. His dinked effort struck the woodwork on its way out of play, but the sense that a comeback was on the cards remained present.
The Hammers replaced Mohamed Diame with former Pompey midfielder Gary O’Neil, which preceded the hosts’ chance to make the game safe when Jose Fonte was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the area.
NOBLE stepped up for his second goal of the game by sending Boruc the wrong way, to restore West Ham’s two goal lead after 71 minutes.
A lull in the contest which was briefly perked up by a industrious run from Mayuka, was ended by the substitution of Carroll with nine minutes remaining - Modibo Maiga his replacement.
Saints went back on the attack in the closing stages with both Schneiderlin and Mayuka making the Hammers defence work, but a fantastic counter from the home side drew a fourth goal through the substitute MAIGA who curled a sublime strike past Boruc to add gloss to the performance from Sam Allardyce’s men.
Jordan Spence replaced Tomkins and Steven Davis made way for James Ward-Prowse in the final few minutes of play with the result long confirmed before the four additional minutes for stoppages.
Full Time: West Ham 4-1 Saints