Filed: Saturday, 28th April 2012
By: Staff Writer
West Ham signed off their 2011/12 league campaign with a win against Hull City at the Boleyn - but it wasn't quite enough to secure automatic promotion.
Despite accruing 86 points over the course of the season - a figure that would have seen the Irons finish in the top two in four of the last five seasons - Southampton's 4-0 win over Coventry ensured it was they who would join Reading in the Premier League next season.
Always up against it, West Ham had to rely on relegated Coventry doing them a favour at St Mary's and sadly, that required upset never threatened to materialise.
To their credit, Sam Allardyce's side threw the kitchen sink at Hull in order to score the goals that could have seen them overtake the Saints in the event of a shock result on the South Coast.
Despite only leading 1-0 at half time - Carton Cole's 36th minute header being the difference between the teams - West Ham quite easily have been five or six ahead, such was their dominance against a team with one eye already on their summer holidays.
And had Ricardo Vaz Te not spurned a golden opportunity to put United ahead after just three minutes when he headed wide with the goal gaping at his mercy, one wonders if things may have turned out differently down in Southampton.
Coventry, already relegated from the Championship had a nervous Southampton on the rack during the opening stages of their game but crucially, failed to make the breakthrough.
And once Billy Sharp (whose play-acting at the Boleyn Ground in the 1-1 draw on Valentine’s Day led to the dismissal of Matt Taylor) opened the scoring on the quarter-hour mark, West Ham's slim chances of usurping the Saints all but disappeared.
By the time Cole put West Ham ahead at the BG nine minutes ahead of half time - nodding home a Matt Taylor corner that arose from the latter's cross that dipped wickedly before cannoning off the crossbar - Southampton had doubled their lead through Jose Fonte.
Chants of "whatever will be will be, we're going to Wembley" had already rang out around Upton Park leaving the players no doubt as to what was happening at Southampton.
As a result the second half saw a much less determined performance from Sam Allardyce's side - understandably in the circumstances - even though Cole doubled West Ham's lead with a superbly taken effort just four minutes after the restart.
With Southampton adding further goals through Hooiveld and Lallana (59 and 63 minutes respectively) Sam Allardyce, knowing the game was up decided to rest the likes of Cole, Vaz Te and captain Nolan, who took a nasty knock after colliding with Rob Green, ahead of the ensuing play-offs.
Sam Baldock and Nicky Maynard, both of whom were given the opportunity to stake their claims for a place in the play-offs flattered to deceive and it was no surprise when the visitors grabbed a consolation goal with nine minutes of normal time remaining.
Guy Demel made an absolute hash of a headed clearance, sending the ball looping up in the air on the edge of the six yard box and Rob Green was clearly prevented from jumping to grab the loose ball, which was headed into an empty net by Corry Evans.
However the fact that the foul was missed by referee Nigel Miller was of little surprise to Hammers fans who had seen the official miss a number of quite blatant infringements by Hull players during the game.
None of which were more obviously - nor nasty - than the elbow James Tomkins received from former Hammer Richard Garcia that left him writhing in agony and smashing the turf with his fist in fury after the challenge was deemed to be a legal one.
Another nasty tackle on Gary O'Neil after the ball had been played was similarly missed and could cost the former 'Boro player a place in the play-off semi finals, where Cardiff City - who secured sixth place in the Championship with a win at Crystal Palace - now await.
The two-legged affair promises to be something of a classic with both teams in rude heath having lost just one game between them since West Ham won 2-0 at the Stadiwm Dinas Caerdydd back on March 4th.
And it also throws up the very real prospect of West Ham making their first appearance at Wembley since 1981, when John Lyall's side drew 1-1 in the League Cup Final with Liverpool - who just happened to be the team who beat Cardiff in this season's League Cup Final.
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