11:36am Monday 30th April 2012
SAM Allardyce insisted West Ham have banished the poor home form which cost them automatic promotion as they head into the play-offs.
The Hammers won a club record 13 matches on the road this season, but dropped a whopping 28 points at Upton Park, with six draws and a defeat from seven matches earlier this year seeing them slip out of the Championship’s top two.
Saturday’s 2-1 home win over Hull was not enough to secure promotion after Southampton held on to second spot by beating Coventry.
And they will head to Cardiff on Thursday for the first leg of their semi-final before the return next Monday.
And Allardyce, who has experienced the agony and the ecstasy of the play-offs with Blackpool and Bolton, scoffed at the suggestion they would be better off playing both legs away.
“Not the way we are playing now,” said the Upton Park manager.
“We’ve just battered Brighton 6-0 and in the first half we did what we had to do in terms of battering Hull, although we didn’t convert our chances, before the game drifted away.
“We also had a terrific comeback to draw 3-3 with Birmingham here, so now our home form is as good as it is away.
“We’ll go to Cardiff with the confidence that we have beaten them 2-0 at their place already, and we’ll go with the confidence that we are the third best team in this league.”
Carlton Cole also looks to have run into form at the right time, scoring either side of half-time against Hull to take his tally for the season to 14.
But the win came at a cost with midfielder Gary O’Neil a major doubt for Thursday after suffering an ankle injury in a challenge with Hull goalscorer Corry Evans.
The Hammers finished 11 points ahead of Cardiff, but Allardyce admitted that will count for nothing.
“What’s gone on before doesn’t matter now, you go into the play-offs as equals,” he added.
“Everyone talks about there being more disappointment for the team finishing third compared to the team that finished sixth.
“Sometimes that may be have been the case but there are times when the third-placed team has gone through.
“I did it with Bolton. After 55 minutes we were 2-0 down to West Brom and I was staring into the abyss of not being able to get this team into the Premier League.
“But we showed a real fighting spirit to get back to 2-2 in a critical 30 minutes. Then we won the second leg and went on to win the final.
“With Blackpool we won 2-0 at Bradford and then lost 3-0 at home in the second leg. Anything can happen.
“The pressure of the play-offs is unique. There is no league or cup game with the same atmosphere and we have to handle that and deliver on the day.”
Cole headed in Matt Taylor’s cross late in the first half, and then turned in Henri Lansbury's pass early in the second.
Corry Evans scored a header for Hull with nine minutes to go and Richard Garcia thought he had a late equaliser, but it was ruled out for offside.
Cardiff wrapped up the final play-off spot, but made their fans sweat first before beating Crystal Palace 2-1.
They fell behind at Selhurst Park when Wilfried Zaha linked up with Darren Ambrose to score a fine goal on the break after 13 minutes.
Cardiff struggled to impose themselves but Peter Whittingham scored a free-kick from a tight angle with his trusty left foot eight minutes into the second half and Don Cowie then volleyed in a second after the hour mark to turn it around.
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