LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 07: Kevin Nolan of West Ham United celebrates scoring the opening goal with team mate Jack Collison during the nPower Championship Playoff Semi Final 2nd Leg between West Ham United and Cardiff City at the Boleyn Ground on May 7, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

West Ham United Vs. Cardiff: Hammers Cruise To Final

West Ham crushed a poor Cardiff City 3-0 at Upton Park, waltzing to the Championship playoff final with a 5-0 aggregate win.

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West Ham United Vs. Cardiff City, 2012 Championship Playoff: Final Score 3-0 Hammers; Wembley Awaits

West Ham United are headed to Wembley! It's not a huge surprise that the Hammers successfully navigated their way past Cardiff City, given that they had a 2-0 away lead, and there was something of the inevitable about their win at Upton Park. The visitors attempted to make a fight of things, but the wind was taken out of their sails very early after Kevin Nolan headed in a Matty Taylor corner from very close range.

The hosts had by far the better of the chances but failed to add to their lead until Ricardo Vas'Te hammered a wonderful shot across David Marshall and in just before the stroke of halftime. At 2-0 on the day and 4-0 on aggregate, the match was clearly more than over, and Cardiff looked like a beaten team. West Ham capped a superb performance with a lovely goal in the final stages when Nicky Maynard latched onto a through ball from Henri Lansbury and smashed past Marshall.

Sam Allardyce's men are now one win away from a return to the Premier League - they'll play the winner of Birmingham City and Blackpool. Cardiff, meanwhile, are consigned to yet another playoff defeat, their third in three years.

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West Ham United Vs. Cardiff City, 2012 Championship Playoffs: Sam Allardyce Nearing Top Flight Return

Cardiff City need to win by two goals at Upton Park on Monday to force extra time in their Championship playoff tie against West Ham.

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Cardiff Vs. West Ham United, 2012 Championship Playoffs: Final Score, Sam's Boys Win 2-0

Sam Allardyce's West Ham United are all but through to the Championship playoff final at Wembley Stadium after pulling off an impressive 2-0 road win over Cardiff City on Thursday evening. The Bluebirds look to be missing out on promotion yet again unless they can pull off an absolute miracle at Upton Park in the return leg next week.

Jack Collison scored both goals for West Ham, with the first coming early in the match and the second coming on a set piece near the end of the first half. He opened the scoring in the 9th minute, getting on the end of a great counter-attack. Ricardo Vaz Te created the chance with a cross and Collison hit a shot on target, but David Marshall was able to make a very impressive save. Unfortunately, the save deflected right into Collison's path and he headed the ball into the back of the net with his second chance.

With a one-goal lead in the early going on the road, West Ham were able to get a little more conservative and they defended the lead extremely well while looking dangerous on the counter, in true Allardyce fashion. Collison's second came in the 41st minute on a 20-yard strike that took a big deflection off of a Cardiff defender, following a corner kick.

Cardiff had chances to get back into the tie in the second half, but failed to take them. Veteran strikers Kenny Miller and the man that replaced him in the 74th minute, Robert Earnshaw, both had scoring chances but did not look sharp with their finishing by any stretch. The Bluebirds got the ball around the West Ham box plenty, but Robert Green was rarely called into action.

Kevin Nolan had the best chance of the second half with a clear header on a cross by Matty Taylor, but failed to direct the ball into the net with the goal at his mercy. In the end, his team didn't really need the extra goal, and shouldn't have too much of a problem advancing to Wembley after the second leg.

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Cardiff Vs. West Ham United, 2012 Championship Playoffs: Halftime, Hammers Up 2-0

Unless they can engineer a serious turnaround in the second half, Cardiff's chances of reaching Wembley are going to be over before they even play the second leg of their Championship playoff semifinal. West Ham United scored an early goal at Cardiff City Stadium and in typical Sam Allardyce fashion, he got his team to defend that lead very well. Late in the half, they found another goal in somewhat lucky fashion, and the Hammers lead 2-0 at halftime of the first leg.

Jack Collison scored both goals for West Ham, though neither was particularly pretty. The first came just nine minutes into the game and took some real fight and determination to score. He forced a very good save out of David Marshall with a volley off of a Ricardo Vaz Te cross, but Marshall couldn't push the ball out of play. Collison got back to the ball and nodded his second effort into the back of the net.

The second goal came following a corner kick, and it was aided by a big deflection. The shot came from 20 yards and took a big deflection off the back of a Cardiff defender before it floated into the net, giving Marshall no chance to make a save.

Just before the stroke of halftime, Marshall made an absolutely spectacular save on a header by Carlton Cole that would have effectively ended the tie after just 45 minutes of play. Cardiff are already in a massive hole that they will struggle to get out of, but that save might have kept some hope of a comeback alive. Heading to Upton Park with less than a draw would be a disaster.

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