Filed: Thursday, 3rd May 2012
By: Staff Writer
West Ham are 90 minutes away from Wembley after producing a thoroughly professional performance in the first leg of the Championship play-off semi final in Wales tonight.
Two first half goals from Welsh international Jack Collison were enough to give Sam Allardyce's side a commanding lead to take into the second leg at the Boleyn Ground next Monday afternoon.
And should the Hammers avoid defeat they will book a first visit to Wembley since 1981 when John Lyall's underdogs held European Champions Liverpool to a 1-1 draw under the now defunct Twin towers.
Watford-born Collison, who qualifies for the Welsh international team through his grandfather struck in the 8th and 41st minutes of the opening period to send West Ham into the second leg with a huge advantage.
The first of his two goals came slightly against the run of play as Cardiff, looking to capitalise on their home advantage had started the game the stronger. Kenny Miller's 3rd minute effort was inches away from dipping underneath Rob Green's crossbar.
But the home crowd were silenced just five minutes later when Collison showed enough determination to get on the end of Ricardo Vaz Te's cross at the second attempt having seen Marshall avert his initial effort.
JACK OF ALL TRADES: Collison's two goals
From there on the Hammers took full control of the first half with Cardiff failing to find their rhythm; Carlton Cole being particularly instrumental as the lynchpin of the attack despite receiving some rough treatment from the City defence.
Therefore it was no surprise when West Ham finally doubled their advantage four minutes ahead of the break when the 23-year-old midfielder scored a goal almost identical to that which proved to be the winner at Leicester recently.
Picking up a half-clearance some 30 yards from goal, the midfielder chested the ball down before firing a volley at goal that took a wicked deflection off former Portsmouth player Liam Lawrence, leaving 'keeper Marshall stranded.
Cardiff may feel slightly hard done by, but TV replays suggested the Collison's shot was goal bound anyway - albeit in the opposite side of David Marshall's goal.
Carlton Cole, outstanding throughout almost put the game beyond the home side in the final minute of the first half but a wonderful save from Marshall maintained a glimmer of hope for the Bluebirds.
Rejuvenated by the half time break, City gave their all in an attempt to claw their way back into the game but bar a good chance for the fairly anonymous Peter Whittingham - the home side's danger man - seconds after the restart, West Ham survived that all-important opening 15 minute period with consummate ease.
Thereafter both sides created several chances to add further goals; for Cardiff, Miller, Hudson and Mason missed from close range when they really should have tested Rob Green at the very least, whilst Nolan and Cole were both inches away from making the win an ever more comprehensive one for the visitors.
As it stands, the two sides pick up again next Monday afternoon with West Ham now overwhelming favourites to complete the job in hand.
Sam Allardyce, who once again got his tactics absolutely spot on will no doubt be hoping for more of the same in the second leg in front of a full house at the Boleyn Ground.
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