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Antony Heath 6th May 2012 - 18:16

Hammers to nail down Wembley trip


West Ham v Cardiff - live on Sky Sports

16:30 - live on Sky Sports 1

Sam Allardyce's West Ham are firm favourites to progress to the Wembley showdown following Thursday's 2-0 victory away at the Cardiff City Stadium and they are as short as 1/16 to register a date at the twin towers. Cardiff have been pushed out to 7/1 to qualify in their bid to emulate their Welsh rivals Swansea's playoff heroics.

West Ham (7/10) did a thoroughly profession job in the first leg and gave themselves an ideal platform ahead of this return clash and they have to be fancied to finish the job off.  Surprisingly for this time of season Sam Allardyce has a full squad to choose from, however the manager will be unlikely making too many changes following the performance in Cardiff meaning that Carlton Cole (9/2 First/Last, 6/5 Anytime) and Ricardo Vaz Te (4/1 First/Last, Evs Anytime) are likely to lead the line while Jack Collinson (11/1 First/Last, 4/1 Anytime) will try to repeat his goal scoring heroics.

The Hammers have only lost four games at home in the league this season - although one of those was to 1-0 to Cardiff way back on the opening day (12/1 1-0 Cardiff). They have however only lost 1 of those 4 by a margin of 2 or more goals and that was against eventual champions Reading 4-2 making Cardiff's task of overturning the 2-0 deficit all the more unlikely. I expect West Ham to put in a solid defensive performance and attempt to hurt Cardiff on the counter attack as they know Cardiff will come looking for goals.

The Bluebirds (19/5, draw 11/4) are certainly up against it and will have to improve massively on their showing in home leg. They didn't create many chances and the ones they did create they were guilty of fluffing. I would fully expect Cardiff to maintain their habit of becoming playoff losers.

The pressure will be off for Malky Mackay's side and that might help them play an attacking an open game that should be the style they go for in order to overturn the aggregate loss. They will have to give plenty of support to the likely main man of Kenny Miller (7/1 First/Last, 2/1 Anytime) and the Scottish International will have to be much more clinical with his finishing. They will be handing late fitness tests to Midfielder Don Cowie and full-back Kevin McNaughton ahead of the trip to London.

On a stats front I would expect there to be a few goals with Cardiff pushing forward and West Ham set up to exploit therefore over 2.5 goals @ 10/11 and both teams to score @ 4/5 to be solid bets while a good outside shout would be a 2-2 draw @ 16/1. With Cardiff having to push forward other tempting bets are West Ham to come from behind and win or draw @ 15/4 and for the second half to be the highest scoring half @ Evs as gaps appear and desperation sets in.



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