Npower Championship Play-Off Semi-Final 2nd leg
West Ham United 3-0 Cardiff City 
(Aggregate 5-0)



Ricardo Vaz Te celebrates his side's second goal of the game which made the scoreline more emphatic as West Ham cruised to the play-off final


By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor from Upton Park 

West Ham sealed their place in the Championship play-off final by completing an emphatic semi-final double victory over Cardiff City.

The Hammers came into the second leg with a firm grip on the tie courtesy of a 2-0 win in Wales last week- naming an unchanged team from the first leg with

They strengthened this in the 15th minute when captain Kevin Nolan headed in from close range after getting on the end of a Matt Taylor corner. They made sure of the win when Ricardo Vaz Te fired in a superb drive past David Marshall with substitute Nicky Maynard adding a late third with a composed finish.

Sam Allardyce's side remain on course to make amends for allowing automatic promotion to slip through their fingers. They are now just one game away from the Premier League, with either Blackpool representing the final hurdle at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 19th May after their 2-2 draw at St Andrews secured a 3-2 aggregate victory over Birmingham City in the other play-off semi-final. It will be West Ham's first appearance at the national stadium since the 1981 League Cup final.

For much of this season, United occupied a top-two spot and looked likely to earn an instant return to the Premier League, but Reading's late surge and Southampton's greater consistency throughout the campaign consigned the Hammers to an extended route to the top flight.  

While West Ham's away form was the best in the regular Championship season- a fact they emphasized at Cardiff City Stadium last Thursday when Jack Collison's goals gave them an impressive first-leg win- their inconsistent home form is arguably the main reason they did not attain automatic elevation with a failure to kill off teams when on top in matches.

Four defeats and eight draws for the Hammers in the league this campaign on their own turf was enough to give Cardiff hope of upsetting the odds by becoming the first team to overturn a two-goal first-leg play-off deficit at this level and thus keep alive dreams of a first top-flight season in fifty years.

However, this depended on them scoring the first goal and their failure to achieve this killed the tie but did create one or two half chances early on which could have made things different. In the first four minutes

The Bluebirds had made an encouraging start- and could have had a penalty after eight minutes had referee Mike Dean not been unsighted for a clumsy Winston Reid challenge that felled Kenny Miller in the box- but instead they suffered a terminal blow when Nolan nodded in after Carlton Cole's initial header from Taylor's corner had been blocked.

Malky Mackay's side never recovered or responded as the home side capitalised on their position of superiority.

Gary O'Neil was close to extending West Ham's lead with a side-foot volley from twelve yards that struck the top of the bar, before Vaz Te did just that with a fiercely-struck shot that flew across City keeper David Marshall and into the far top-corner of the net. It took Cardiff around eighty minutes to have their best chance on goal as Liam Lawrence tried his luck from 20 yards, but shot harmlessly wide as the Welsh side’s play-off charge fizzled out.

With one eye on the final and confident that West Ham could see the game out, Allardyce took off goalscorer Nolan for George McCartney in order to preserve one of his key figures ahead of a date at Wembley. Malky Mackay responded by removing Stephen McPhail and Kenny Miller for Filip Kiss and Don Cowie with less than 15 minutes left on the clock.

The second half was a mere formality as a relaxed West Ham played out a comfortable 45 minutes, which they decorated right at the very end as substitute Maynard found space in the box to smash a shot past Marshall.

The Hammers' only concern throughout was an injury to Jack Collison, who scored twice in the first leg, with the Welshman taken to hospital as a precaution for a dislocated shoulder picked up in the final ten minutes of the game.


Adam Higgins
The Football Site- Chief Football Editor

"The tie for me was over last week at the Cardiff City Stadium- for me there was no way back for Cardiff unless West Ham would majorly make a mess of the situation and gift them goals which was highly unlikely. The professionalism and determination that the Hammers have shown over both legs has been fantastic. They know that when they missed out on automatic promotion that they had to fully focus on the play-offs and they have done two thirds of the job now. The game was there for West Ham to score more in today- Cardiff started brightly and needed to score first and early but couldn't do so. They might have had a penalty in the first ten minutes but in the end they have been outplayed in both legs, the Hammers wanted it more and they played some great football. I believe they will make it to the Premier League now if they play this well in the final."


Bank Holiday Monday 7th May 2012

Npower Championship Play-Off Semi-Final 2nd leg

Upton Park


West Ham United 3-0 Cardiff City                          KO 4:30pm                 (HT 2-0)

Nolan 15
Vaz Te 40
Maynard 90


West Ham:  1 Green- 7.5/10, 20 Demel- 7/10, 5 Tomkins- 7.5/10, 2 Reid- 7/10, 14 Taylor- 6.5/10, 4 Nolan (C)- 8/10 (McCartney 69- 3.5/10), 16 Noble- 9/10, 10 Collison- 6/10 (Lansbury 48- 4.5/10), 32 O'Neil- 7/10, 9 Cole- 7/10 (Maynard 86- 1.5/10), 12 Vaz Te- 7.5/10.

Subs not used:  13 Henderson, 18 Faubert

Booked:     Reid (67)


Cardiff City:  1 Marshall- 6.5/10, 2 McNaughton- 6.5/10 (Blake 81- 2/10), 5 Hudson- 6/10, 25 Turner- 6.5/10, 3 Taylor- 6/10, 13 Lawrence- 6.5/10, 7 Whittingham (C)- 7/10, 17 Gunnarsson- 5.5/10, 37 McPhail- 5/10 (Cowie 76- 2.5/10), 20 Mason- 6/10, 9 Miller- 6.5/10 (Kiss 76- 2.5/10).

Subs not used: 22 Heaton, 10 Earnshaw

Booked:     Miller (28), Hudson (50), Whittingham (80)


My Man of the Match:   Mark Noble (West Ham United)- Rating 9/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:   Stephen McPhail (Cardiff City)- Rating 5/10 



Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)- 7/10
Attendance: 34,682 



Match Facts

Possession: West Ham- 54%                  Cardiff City- 46%

Shots: West Ham- 10                       Cardiff City- 5

Shots on target: West Ham- 6                   Cardiff City- 2

Shots off target: West Ham- 4                  Cardiff City- 3

Corners: West Ham- 7                       Cardiff City- 2

Fouls: West Ham- 14                       Cardiff City- 10

Offside: West Ham- 3                       Cardiff City- 4

Assists: West Ham- Demel, Lansbury                   Cardiff City- None



West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce

"It is big pressure for us to go into the play-off final as favourites and knowing that a whole season's work is going ahead of us in one match. Whoever we get, Birmingham or Blackpool, we are probably going to be favourites and have to live with that. Hopefully we'll look forward to it and give another outstanding performance like we have done in both legs of the semi-final- I think the lads have approached it just like I told them to and how we have discussed it. The response at Cardiff and this performance were terrific. I'm pleased for everybody concerned with West Ham United because it has been a long season and the players could have easily given up on promotion after missing out on second place and the automatic route but they have done the opposite and not let themselves be affected by it. We have a huge opportunity to get into the golden league, not for the money from my point of view but because that is where it all happens. There has been a lot of hard work and it paid off today. The players excited and entertained the crowd. We've controlled both games and tactically whatever Cardiff threw at us we dealt with. It was about how we broke them down and the attitude and energy of the players. It's been a long time I've been in the job and dealing with pressure was something I dealt with in the early part by talking to a lot of people. I'm very nervous inside but can control it on the exterior to keep players calm."



Cardiff City manager Malky Mackay

"We're certainly going to try and improve the football club again. There's great strides been made this year on and off the pitch and I'm certainly going to be trying to push this again to make sure we get even better. It is disappointing for the fans to come and be heartbroken again and this play-off heartache is becoming a regular thing for the club- this has happened over the last three years now and we are desperate to change this. You have to remember that we are playing against a Premier League side in theory who have Premier League quality all over the pitch. A lot of people rely on me to lead this football team and this football club, that being the case that work has started already. We'll be trying to plan out the coming months ahead. You look at West Ham, and despite obviously the financial differences, there's a strength in depth they've got that has been apparent we don't have. I've not seen it again, but little things change games. But West Ham were clinical today. We were lucky to manage to get a team out on the pitch the first day of the season. We got to a memorable cup final that will probably live in people's memories for a long time and managed to get into the play-offs with the three teams that came down with the parachute payments. We've managed to go in an mix in with them and it's something I'm very proud of my group of players here. We're obviously disappointed, but we knew it would be a tough task. Congratulations to West Ham, they deservedly got to the final and good luck to them."


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