Sam Allardyce is facing a race against time to keep his West Ham United job. The Hammers are wary of repeating their Avram Grant mistake – and that could be bad news for manager Allardyce.

The 4-1 defeat at Liverpool on Saturday means West Ham are just five points ahead of the Premier League’s bottom club Sunderland, who they face next at Upton Park.

That fixture may well be key to Allardyce’s hopes of keeping his job, with league games against Manchester United and Arsenal to follow. There is also a Capital One Cup quarter-final tie against fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur to negotiate.

Allardyce is under increasing pressure over poor results, performances and the club’s lack of striking options. Kevin Nolan’s red card at Anfield also underlined dissatisfaction among fans over the midfielder’s captaincy and role in the team.

West Ham co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold are traditionally reluctant to sack managers midseason and recognise Allardyce has been without striker Andy Carroll and lost key defender Winston Reid to injury.

Sullivan will fund a move for a new striker in the January transfer window and is already chasing targets, but Allardyce must prove he remains the best man to take the team forwards before then.

Despite the gratitude for promotion to the Premier League and last season’s impressive 10th-place finish, there is an acceptance within West Ham that the club cannot afford to stand unconditionally by Allardyce in the same way they backed Grant in 2010-11.

Senior figures at West Ham wanted to replace Grant with Martin O’Neill, but Sullivan and Gold opted to give the former Chelsea manager until the end of the season. That decision resulted in relegation and it is now accepted that Sullivan and Gold should have acted sooner.

West Ham insiders insist that error will not be repeated if results do not quickly improve under Allardyce. Failure to beat Sunderland would leave the club in serious danger of entering the new year in the bottom three.

Fulham moved level on points with the fourth-from-bottom West Ham on Sunday with a victory against Aston Villa and Crystal Palace have won two successive games under their new manager Tony Pulis.

West Ham have won one Premier League game since beating Tottenham 3-0 at the start of October, when Allardyce nicknamed himself Sam Allardici.