West Ham v Cardiff: Hammers in control of semi-final tie

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West Ham put themselves in the driving seat for a Wembley appearance with a professional showing in Wales and are 4/6 to repeat the victory in the return leg at Upton Park.

The Hammers entered the play-offs on the back of two wins and that momentum looks to have continued which is crucial in the end of season knockout stages.

Sam Allardyce’s men are overwhelming favourites to make the final at 1/25.

Cardiff face a real uphill battle having to overturn a two goal deficit, and they are 4/1 to record a victory but will look favourably on the absence of an away goals rule in this competition.

The Bluebirds are very healthily priced to advance to the final however, and may be worth some attention at 8/1 as their hosts have lost four home games this season.

Malky Mackay’s men will not want to look to history for inspiration as only on six occasions in 25 years of Championship play-off football has a side lost the first leg and progressed to the final.

Strangely the last club to do so was West Ham back in 2004 after overcoming a 1-0 deficit in the first leg to beat Ipswich.

Carlton Cole proved a real threat all evening in the first meeting and despite not netting, he bagged four in his last five league games prior to that clash and is 5/1 to break the deadlock.

Set-pieces will be pivotal if the visitors are to record an unlikely win and Peter Whittingham looks a good price at 10/1 to notch the opener.

If Cardiff are to buck the trend and make it to Wembley they need to beat the home side by three clear goals, so any punters with faith in Mackay’s men should get behind a 3-0 win priced at 80/1.

However, the Irons last failed to find the target 15 matches ago so the likelihood of a clean sheet for the Welsh side looks low, a 3-1 victory at 66/1 to take the fixture to extra-time may be the best bet for those hoping to see Cardiff back in the capital come the 19th May.

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Aaron Cox

Aaron has written for a number of top-level publications, including FourFourTwo and the Manchester Evening News. As well as being a fanatical Rochdale AFC fan and blogger, he shares a passion for rugby league and golf.