Football: The curtain came down on the Upton Park season with a bravado display from West Ham, who booked their place in the play-off final by sweeping aside Cardiff City.
The game came exactly nine months to the day since the same two sides opened the Championship season, on that occasion Cardiff winning the encounter. There was never any danger of a repeat result this time.
The outcome was never in any doubt once it was clear that the Hammers had picked up from where they left off last Thursday in the first leg of the play-off semi-final in south Wales.
Already two down, Cardiff had a mountain to climb from the off and they never looked like getting beyond the foothills.
Home fans had only to wait until the 15th minute for any latent tension to evaporate as a corner came over with the first header from Carlton Cole saved by the keeper. However the resulting parry was headed home by Irons skipper Kevin Nolan.
The lead was nearly doubled as a Jack Collison run and cross resulted in Gary O’Neill volleying onto the bar.
The sweeping football that West Ham played would have had any purest of the West Ham way purring. The switches in the play and use of the full width of the pitch, particularly bringing in the full-backs Guy Demel and Matt Taylor, was a delight to behold.
The home side continued to dominate, getting their reward in the 40th minute when a combination between O’Neill and Demel opened the way for Ricardo Vaz Te to go past the defender and smash the ball into the net.
The second goal really took away whatever spirit Cardiff had left. The second half meandered along in the spring sunshine before sparking to life right at the death with Nicky Maynard put through in the 89th minute by Henri Lansbury to blast a third into the roof of the net.
A happy Sam Allardyce was already looking forward to the play-off final at Wembley. He was full of praise for his players for their confident performance over the two legs. “There were no nerves from the players,” he beamed. “Few mistakes were made and there was a lot of quality about our football.”
“We just need to now get where we want to be and win it,” added Allardyce, whose one regret was the dislocation of Collison’s shoulder that forced the midfielder off at the start of the second half. It now seems doubtful he will be available for the final.