Malky Mackay takes his squad to Brighton on Wednesday knowing they face a battle for a play off place after any slight hope of going for a top two finish has eluded them.
"I think it's going to be difficult to get automatic promotion - there's no good sugar coating that," said Mackay.
"The two top clubs have shown the spending power this year with the teams they have got and the players they have got," he added.
"It's going to be difficult to match that. In January for West Ham to go out and bring in the players they have - it makes them much stronger.
"The top two are certainly looking strong.
"[For West Ham] to bring on Carlton Cole and Gary O'Neill - two guys who have been involved in the Premier League - shows the strength they have got."
"There's another eight teams going for the four [play-off] places," said the
"There are 13 games to go so we will keep going."
Brighton v Cardiff