Wembley Win Confirms Hammers Promotion
By Tom Dowsett
Sunday 20 May 2012 16:54:00
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West Ham United have achieved their pre-season aim by bouncing straight back to the Barclays Premier League at the first attempt after suffering the pain of relegation last season by beating Blackpool 2-1 in the npower Championship play-off final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Sam Allardyce once again named the same starting line-up that had started the play-off semi-finals against Cardiff City in the two legs, having won the tie 5-0 on aggregate.

Ian Holloway's seasiders, having lost to the East Londoners by an aggregate score of 8-1 in the regular season's meetings, wanted to see if they could try and foil the Hammers' chances of going up and they certainly did start the brighter of the two sides.

Evidence of their attacking play was shown as early as the 3rd minute when a throw in wasn't cleared by the Hammers and Stephen Dobbie released a powerful shot which luckily Robert Green tipped onto the base of the post.

Blackpool went even closer on 14 minutes when Kevin Phillips set up Thomas Ince with a through ball. He then passed to Matt Phillips who was through on goal and only had Green to beat, but his effort was weak and the London side survived once again. A minute later and West Ham weren't dealing with the threat of Matt Phillips very well as Jack Collison's wayward header allowed the Blackpool winger to streak past Guy Demel and Winston Reid, only for him to curl his effort wide.

Having let the designated home side apply most of the pressure in the early stages, West Ham knew that the first goal could prove to be an important one. On 35 minutes they found an opening when Matthew Taylor ran down the left wing but his cross was blocked by Angel Martinez. He collected the ball again and lofted it over Ian Evatt and found Carlton Cole who finished superbly from seven yards out.

Minutes later, the Hammers could have grabbed a second goal when good play from Demel and Collison set up Gary O'Neil. He lifted the ball over to Ricardo Vaz Te who had time and space for a shot but he dragged his effort yards wide.

The second half began and West Ham got off to the worst of starts as, just 3 minutes in, Cole gave the ball away which allowed Ince to beat Green with a lovely effort to level the score. 2 minutes, later Blackpool almost went in front but Taylor was on hand to clear off the line from Alex Baptiste.

On 53 minutes Gary O'Neil's season was over as Big Sam brought George McCartney on to replace him.

As Demel fell to the turf earlier with what was a suspected knee injury, his season was also brought to a premature end as Allardyce replaced him with Julien Faubert.

On 63 minutes, skipper Kevin Nolan gave possession to Faubert who in turn picked out Cole with a superb ball. Cole spun and shot but Blackpool goalkeeper Matthew Gilks made a superb bottom-right corner save.

With 10 minutes of normal time still to be played, the Hammers could have grabbed that elusive 2nd goal. Good play from Taylor and Collison set up Nolan but his shot cannoned off the crossbar and when Collison tried to hit the net from the follow-up his effort went inches wide.

On 87 minutes West Ham's 2nd goal arrived! A cross from Nolan was nearly put into the net by Cole but the ball came back of Gilks. When the ball was loose again, Vaz Te slammed it into the back of the net and sent the Hammers' fans, who had sold out their Wembley allocation, ballistic.

4 minutes of stoppage time were signalled but an extra minute was added as Holloway made a double substitution. When the final whistle was blown, promotion back to the Barclays Premier League had been confirmed for the Hammers and their fans stayed behind to watch their team lift the Championship play-off trophy.

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