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West Ham United - road to the play-off final
Published : 18 May 2012 15:18:21
West Ham were relegated to the Championship after finishing 20th in the Premier League last season.
Sam Allardyce was the man chosen to replace Avram Grant, in an attempt to bounce back to the top flight at the first time of asking.
They had started the season as the bookmakers favourite to win the league and despite losing Scott Parker on deadline day, they still assembled what was considered to be the best squad in the division.
Homegrown talents such as Mark Noble, James Tomkins and Jack Collison were complimented with experienced Premier League players such as Robert Green, Carlton Cole and new signing Kevin Nolan.
The season started with a disappointed 1-0 loss at home to Cardiff City, a defeat that was a sign of things to come for the Hammers at home.
Allardyce's side then went on an unbeaten run of seven games before tasting defeat at home to Ipswich Town.
Up until December they had lost only three times in the first four months of the season and secured impressive wins over fellow promotion hopefuls such as Blackpool, Leicester and Middlesbrough.
Excellent wins with 10-men soon came against rivals Millwall and Blackpool but following the 2-0 win away at Cardiff, they would draw five games in a row, five draws that may have cost them automatic promotion.
Despite spending the majority of the season in the top two places, a 4-2 defeat at home to Reading meant that automatic promotion was out of their hands.
New signing Ricardo Vaz Te inspired West Ham to an excellent 6-0 win over Brighton and a 4-0 win away at Barnsley.
They finished the season in third place and in great form despite missing out on the top two.
The defeat against eventual league winners Reading was their only defeat in three months.
Cardiff City had finished in 6th place making them West Ham's opponents in the Play-offs.
A 2-0 first leg win in Cardiff thanks to a brace from Jack Collison, gave the East London club the advantage.
Nolan, Vaz Te and Maynard scored the goals in the second leg that made the tie 5-0 on aggregate and booked a place at Wembley for the Hammers.
Blackpool v West Ham - match preview
Blackpool - West Ham play-off history
Importance of the play-offs