Patchy home form is the Hammers' main worry


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The Independent Football

West Ham United should confirm their passage to the Championship play-off final this afternoon, when they host Cardiff City in their semi-final second leg, having won 2-0 in Wales last week.

If there is one reason for Hammers fans to worry it is the poverty of their team's home record in the Championship this season: Sam Allardyce's side have won just 11 of their 23 home league games, as many as Derby County and Ipswich Town. West Ham have already lost at home to Cardiff once this season, albeit by one goal, a margin which would send them through today.

The club's assistant manager, Neil McDonald, sounded confident that the atmosphere would be positive at the Boleyn Ground today, however. "I think two goals away from home is fantastic and our [recent] home form puts us in a good mood," McDonald said yesterday, referring to West Ham finishing the season with home wins over Brighton and Hull.

"I think the support we had the other night from the travelling fans was absolutely fantastic," McDonald continued. "I hope that will bounce on to the home game and the whole place will be trying to take the roof off the stadium. It will make it an intimidating place to come to, that's for sure.

"There will be a fantastic atmosphere but it still won't be an easy game to get through. Planning and preparation is the key – we've done it in one game [the first leg] and, hopefully, we can do it in the second."

While the Cardiff manager, Malky Mackay, knows that City are not favourites to play at Wembley for a second time this season, after their Carling Cup final defeat by Liverpool, he has not given up hope.

"Most people may now expect West Ham to make it through to the final, that could be a natural reaction, I suppose," Mackay said. "But myself and the team don't subscribe to that. We go into Monday afternoon trying to win the game. We have 90 minutes to score twice and, beyond that, to win the game. Right now we have a fighter's chance.

"We need to score, not necessarily early on, but we need to score first. If we do that then we get a toehold back in the game again. We know it's a stiff test, we understand that. But it's still only half-time. We've got to go there and ease our way into the game, looking to nick the first goal, which could prove important."