Hammers into play-off with Hull victory
By Tom Dowsett
Sunday 29 Apr 2012 13:21:00
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West Ham United missed out on automatic promotion and had to settle for a place in the play-offs, despite ending their regular-season with a 2-1 victory over Hull City on Saturday afternoon.

Just one change was made by manager Sam Allardyce to the team that won at Leicester City on Monday, as Henri Lansbury came in for Jack Collison.

There were a couple of surprises on the bench however, as Nicky Maynard was fit enough after suffering an ankle problem when the Hammers faced his old club Bristol City on April 17, while George McCartney has recovered from his concussion.
 
Knowing they had to win by four clear goals to return to the Barclays Premier League, the East Londoners could have sent a message down to the South coast as early as the fourth minute, when Mark Noble and Lansbury combined well to set up Ricardo Vaz Te, but he sent a header wide of the post when it seemed easier to score.

West Ham had another chance to take the lead on 34 minutes when Matthew Taylor's shot was scrambled away by the Tigers' goalkeeper, Vito Mannoe, after good play from James Tomkins and Gary O'Neil. A minute later however, Taylor hit the crossbar with a dipping cross.

The home side finally took the lead on 36 minutes when Taylor's corner was met by the head of Carlton Cole. The striker even beat a Tigers' defender, who was standing on the goal-line.

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The second half was only four minutes old when the Hammers increased their lead through Cole's second goal of the match. He controlled Lansbury's cross brilliantly and beat Hull defender Liam Cooper to smash a volley into the net.

Two minutes later it was the end of the striker's afternoon, as Big Sam replaced him with Sam Baldock.

A minute later the Hammers thought they should have been awarded a penalty as Vaz Te latched onto Baldock's clever ball and went down under the challenge of defender Andy Dawson, but nothing was given by referee Nigel Miller.

On the hour mark, Allardyce made his second change as he brought on Maynard for Vaz Te.

On 68 minutes, Robert Green was called into action for the first time in the match, as he made a superb save from  Corry Evans when he was through on goal. In the same passage of play, skipper Kevin Nolan injured himself trying to prevent Evans from scoring.

A change was made by both sides on 74 minutes. Nick Barmby brought on Tom Cairney to replace Robert Brady, while the Hammers replaced Nolan with McCartney.

On 78 minutes O'Neil tried a spectacular effort, but goalkeeper Mannone produced an acrobatic save to keep the scoreline down.

Two minutes later however, Hull did score when Evans put Guy Demel under pressure, causing the Ivory Coast defender to head the ball up into the air, then and mixup between him and Green allowed the Tigers to pull a goal back.

Four minutes later the visitors thought they had equalised when former Hammer Richard Garcia scored, but unfortunately for him the effort was ruled out for offside.

Shortly after three minutes of stoppage time were signalled in East London, down at St Mary's Southampton were celebrating their promotion back into the Barclays Premier League.

Stoppage time had then passed and the game was over, meaning West Ham had finished in 3rd place in the npower Championship. They will now face Cardiff City over two legs for a place in the play-off final on Saturday 19 May. The first of those is on Thursday at the Cardiff City Stadium.

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