Hammers on their way to Wembley
West Ham United,
West Ham are 90 minutes away from a return to the Barclays Premier League after sweeping aside Cardiff 3-0 (5-0 on aggregate) in their play-off semi-final.
The Hammers quickly shrugged off the disappointment of missing out on automatic promotion as goals from Kevin Nolan, Ricardo Vaz Te and Nicky Maynard booked them a trip to Wembley for the first time in 31 years. West Ham struck the crucial first blow from Matt Taylor's 15th-minute corner. Carlton Cole's close-range header was blocked by Cardiff skipper Mark Hudson but Nolan was on hand to nod the rebound over the line for his 13th goal of the season. Five minutes before the interval the hosts doubled their lead in style. Cardiff defender Stephen McPhail missed Guy Demel's pass but Vaz Te did not, taking the ball in his stride before blasting an unstoppable angled drive past David Marshall and into the net. And it was Hammers substitute Maynard who had the final say with a superb finish from Henri Lansbury's through-ball a minute from time. One year on from relegation, the Hammers will now face either Blackpool or Birmingham on May 19 for a shot at returning to the top flight and the estimated £90million reward promotion brings. Cardiff began the season with victory at Upton Park but ended it suffering play-off heartache for the third successive year.