Hammers thrash Bluebirds to make final
By Tom Dowsett
Tuesday 08 May 2012 14:17:00
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West Ham United are through to the play-off final, as the London club will return to the capital on 19 May after beating Cardiff City 3-0 at Upton Park on Monday afternoon making the overall score in the tie 5-0.

Sam Allardyce was able to name an unchanged side for the first time since the home game against Crystal Palace on 25 February.

Holding a 2-0 advantage from the first leg in Wales on Thursday night, the magnificent home support were hoping their team could grab an early goal to settle any nerves and kill off any chance of a Bluebirds comeback. On 15 minutes captain Kevin Nolan did just that when he was in the right place to head in Matthew Taylor's corner from Carlton Cole's knockdown.

Two minutes later, the Hammers could have gone further ahead, but unfortunately Gary O'Neil's volley hit the crossbar after it had looped over David Marshall in the Cardiff goal.

West Ham were very much in control of this tie and had another chance on 34 minutes when good team play from Cole, Mark Noble and Ricardo Vaz Te set up O'Neill who shot from the edge of the box, only for Marshall to make a fantastic save.

If there was any doubt in people's minds that West Ham would surpass the chance to take their place in the final, five minutes before half-time the tie was definitely made safe as Ricardo Vaz Te belted a shot into the bottom corner of the net, following good combination play from O'Neill and Guy Demel.

Shortly after the second 45 minutes had got underway, the man who had got the Hammers into such a strong position going into this match, Jack Collison, was challenged and fell awkwardly onto his shoulder. It turned out he had dislocated it and had to be replaced by Henri Lansbury, who had returned to the bench following his ommission from the squad for Thursday's 1st leg. It remains to be seen whether Collison will be fit for the East London club's final game of the season at England's national Stadium, where they will have their eyes on the ultimate prize of an immediate return to the Barclays Premier League.

With Collison having to come off earlier in the match, on 69 min, Big Sam made his second change as he replaced the skipper with George McCartney.

With four minutes of normal time to be played, West Ham's final change was made as Cole came off and Nicky Maynard replaced him.

In the final minute of normal time, the Hammers insured Cardiff's season ended by scoring a third goal through Nicky Maynard. He received possession from Lansbury and unleashed an unstoppable shot that rocketed past Marshall and sent the majority inside the ground wild.

After two minutes of stoppage time had been played, West Ham had booked their place at Wembley where they will face either Blackpool or Birmingham city, as they fight it out on Wednesday night to decide who will join the Hammers in the Final.

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