Play-Off semi-final first leg LIVE




Final score - Cardiff City 0-2 West Ham United

West Ham have the advantage at half-time, then. The job is not done, but a goal at home on Monday and Cardiff will need to score three to advance. Big Sam will be happy, but he'll save the delight for later. That was a superb away performance from the Hammers, it really was. They could have won by more, but they'll take a clean sheet and two away goals any day of the week - including a Thursday. Don't forget, the second leg is on Monday and less than 1,000 tickets remain. Click here to buy yours now! The club is also producing a one-off special 100-page souvenir matchday programme for the big game. To order yours now, click here. Right, that programme won't write itself so I'm signing off from the Cardiff City Stadium. Thanks for your company and see you on Bank Holiday Monday!

95 mins - West Ham have possession into the final minute. Cole finds Maynard, who crosses low but it's just in front of Taylor. So close to a chance for a third. The final whistle is blown seconds later!

94 mins - Noble takes the ball to the corner flag and wins a throw with help from Faubert. Noble does well again and wins a corner. Do West Ham stick or twist? The centre-backs stay at home.

93 mins - West Ham have possession for a while before a pass spins back to Green, whose clearance goes all the way through to Marshall.

92 mins - West Ham defend another Gunnarsson throw. Maynard races away down the right but Earnshaw of all people tracks back 70 yards to slow him.

91 mins - FIVE minutes! We have had no goals, three substitutions made at once and no physio on the pitch during the second half.

90 mins - Into the final minute. My guess is we'll have at least three added minutes, probably four.

89 mins - West Ham are defending resolutely. The crowd is 23,021, but a fair few of the home fans among them have already gone. As West Ham win a goal kick, a few more make for the exits.

88 mins - Some good possession ends with Cole's cross hitting Taylor and going straight to Marshall. He bowls the ball out to Gunnarsson, who is felled by Faubert. Yellow card for the Frenchman. The free-kick is fired over and nearly drops inside the six-yard box before McCartney clears.

86 mins - Cardiff have a corner after a bit of mis-communication between Faubert and Reid. It is nearly costly as the ball drops to Blake, but he smashes his volley over from about ten yards. Great chance. Collison is replaced by Maynard at the break in play.

85 mins - Maynard is called back to the bench.

84 mins - Maynard and Faye are warming up by the corner flag. Will Big Sam make a third change, if only to take a little time off the clock?

83 mins - Gunnarsson shoots after a neat flick from Earnshaw wrongfoots the West Ham centre-backs. He has a clear sight of goal from 25 yards, but falls as he hits it and the ball slices away and wide of the right-hand post. It's one of those chances where you puff your cheeks after it goes wide!

81 mins - It's too strong. Goal kick.

80 mins - Nice stuff. Taylor and McCartney combine well before the cross finds Cole's chest. He controls superbly and spins before laying off for Noble, whose shot takes a deflection and goes wide. The delivery is cleared but West Ham keep up the pressure and O'Neil's shot is also deflected wide for another corner. Noble to take...

78 mins - Gunnarsson hurls the throw in again. Reid heads clear but Cole is beaten to the ball on halfway. The cross falls to Earnshaw, but his volley flashes well wide.

76 mins - Whittingham has come over to the Cardiff left and will go up directly against Faubert. Meanwhile, McCartney reacts quickly and heads forward for Taylor. He fizzes a low cross that eludes Cole and and everybody inside the six-yard box. Collison collects and plays a one-two with Faubert, but his cross is an easy catch for Marshall.

74 mins - Three changes. Cowie and Miller are replaced by McPhail and Earnshaw. Demel is off and Faubert is on.

73 mins - Cardiff come again through the lively Mason. He tries to run Tomkins but the centre-back makes an inch-perfect slide tackle. Gunnarsson's throw is cleared back to him by Whittingham. His cross is headed inches wide by Hudson. The skipper holds his head in frustration.

72 mins - Cardiff have the ball in the net but it's ruled out for offside. Now we have a pitch invasion from one home fan. The game restarts and the cross comes in from the left again, Nolan shoots and it's just off-target. So close to 3-0.

71 mins - Taylor wins a free-kick wide on the left. Noble whips it in and the header from O'Neil is parried by Marshall.

70 mins - The away fans are making all the noise over there in the far right corner. Reid is fouled and West Ham have another free-kick.

66 mins - We're into the final 25 minutes here.

64 mins - Tomkins' header forward bounces through two defenders. Nolan challenges Marshall and gets to the ball first - or at least it looks like he does. He and the goalkeeper collide. Mr Swarbrick books Nolan.

63 mins - The long free-kick forward is won by a Bluebirds head and drops to Miller. He has time to control and shoot from 18 yards, but screws his left-foot volley off-target.

62 mins - Noble has his foot up but he clearly wins the ball in midfield as it flies 30 yards towards the Cardiff goal. Mr Swarbrick books Noble.

61 mins - Defensive change from Big Sam. Vaz Te is replaced by George McCartney.

60 mins - West Ham break and they have four men forward. Nolan finds Vaz Te and there are two men in the box, but the No12's cross is cut out. Corner. Noble delivers and Turner heads clear. Demel collects, but his cross is too strong.

Jack Collison

56 mins - Gunnarsson goes down on halfway under a challenge from Reid. The Kiwi gestures that it's a dive, but Mr Swarbrick blows for the free-kick.

54 mins - The hosts have started fast and win a corner off Taylor. The ball is won at the far post by Hudson, but Cole heads off the line! The follow-up shot goes miles over the top. Tomkins is booked for dissent. He thought Hudson had fouled him there.

52 mins - Cole does well to hold up play. Vaz Te drives the ball across to the far post where Marshall comes out to punch clear over the head of Taylor and Collison. Cardiff break and Miller looks to go clear. Tomkins gets back and is in the right place as Miller backheels to Cowie. Great defending.

50 mins - Green fumbles a high ball and Demel has to volley out for a throw. The home fans taunt Green with chants of "USA". Gunnarsson throws in again and Tomkins blocks it and then stabs the ball away. Cardiff keep up the pressure and the ball drops to Turner. He tries to get past Collison, but his cross is high and behind. Goal kick.

49 mins - Vaz Te gets in behind Blake and volleys goalwards. The full-back wears it in the face and concedes a corner. Noble takes it but Hudson heads clear from the edge of his six-yard box.

48 mins - Gunnarsson threatens with his feet this time, but by the time he plays in Lawrence, the winger has strayed offside.

46 mins - Cardiff kick-off the second half. Reid clears and Gunnarsson is going to start his long-throw show again. The ball is cleared back to the Iceland man. He crosses and Tomkins clears as far as Whittingham. He shoots first-time, wide.

I've just had a text from former West Ham performance analyst Tom Heddon, who now lives in Australia, which said "More of the same please". I completely agree. The job is only a quarter-done, but a strong second half could make the second leg a whole lot easier.

Half-time score - Cardiff City 0-2 West Ham United

47 mins - Boos from the home fans as the half-time whistle is blown. Wales international Collison has West Ham 2-0 up in Wales.

46 mins - We're into a minute of added time.

45 mins - So close to 3-0 as Cole stoops and heads towards the bottom corner from the right-wing cross. Marshall somehow keeps it out diving low to his left. Corner. The ball comes over and is cleared. The second cross comes in and Cole heads over.

44 mins - Nolan wins a free-kick inside his own half. The home fans thought he had handled. Nolan simply smiles as he trots back up the pitch.

43 mins - Cardiff have a chance to respond as Noble fouls Cowie 40 yards out. Nolan clears with his head, much to the delight of the bloke dressed as a banana in the away section.

41 mins - GOAL! Collison again! The corner is deep and flicks off a head and out to Collison about 30 yards out. He is unmarked and takes a touch and as the ball bounces forward he strikes it goalwards. It takes a slight deflection off Lawrence and wrong-foots Marshall. West Ham are in dreamland as the bench erupts.

40 mins - Nolan gets a foot in as Cardiff try to build up patiently. He immediately sends Cole away and he is one on one with Turner, but the defender gets back to concede the corner.

38 mins - Chance. Demel's clearance finds Cole in space. He has time to turn and tries to play in the overlapping Collison. He would be away, except he has gone too soon and is flagged offside.

37 mins - Mason does well to control with his back to goal and hold off Reid. He then runs around to his right and crosses. The ball loops into the air and drops towards Miller. The No9 tries the overhead kick, but is penalised for a foul on Tomkins for the high foot. The Cardiff players and fans aren't happy.

35 mins - Cardiff have come to life suddenly. First, Lawrence wants a penalty for a push by Vaz Te. Then Miller runs at the defence and shoots, but his effort from 25 yards flies just wide as Green is dives full-length to his left. It's amazing how an incident like that Collison air-shot changed the course of the game for a minute or two.

34 mins - Collison does well initially to swap passes with Nolan. Unfortunately, it then goes a bit wrong for the No10 as he swings his left foot at the ball and completely misses it.

33 mins - Both managers are out on the edge of their technical areas. Big Sam will clearly be the happier of the two, but we're only a sixth of the way through the tie. Miller threatens when runs at Tomkins, but the No5 does well.

29 mins - Cole is fouled again. He's in the mood tonight and is turning the tables on the Cardiff back four.

Jack Collison

28 mins - The drum is still beating in the home end, but West Ham are controlling the game at the moment. Unfortunately, the latest passage of play ends with Demel being flagged offside from Collison's lofted pass.

25 mins - West Ham have induced a bit of panic in the Cardiff defence. Marshall claps his gloves together in frustration as West Ham win another corner. Noble takes it but it's too high for Tomkins. Demel retrieves, but a push hands Cardiff a free-kick.

22 mins - Noble wins a sliding challenge and Gunnarsson has another chance to hurl the ball in. This time, it hits a Cardiff head and bounces behind. Green clears long and Cole controls on his chest before being felled. Taylor tries to roll the free-kick into Nolan, but makes a meal of it. Big Sam is not impressed as Marshall collects.

20 mins - Cole must be close to a booking here. He has been penalised three times already for fouls on the Cardiff centre-backs. I am too far away to see what exactly has been going on, but the No9 is not at all happy as Mr Swarbrick blows his whistle again. He and Nolan have a chat with the referee amid whistles from the home fans.

18 mins - Taylor's initial ball in is cleared to Noble. He finds Taylor again wide right. He checks and whips the ball in with his left foot, it takes a flick off a head and Tomkins is there at the far post to head a yard wide of the post. That was a difficult one because it was a bit high, but a chance nevertheless.

17 mins - A half-chance and maybe a penalty shout for West Ham. Collison comes down the right and then O'Neil plays in Cole. He spins and crosses, where Vaz Te battles and goes down. Nothing given, despite claims he was fouled. Moments later, Cole wins a corner.

15 mins - Gunnarsson's latest throw is headed high into the air. Green elects to punch and Taylor completes the clearance to Vaz Te.

14 mins - The hosts have a corner. Taylor misses his header and Lawrence crosses to the near post, where Reid gets in front of Mason to clear. Whittingham's corner goes deep and out for a throw on the far side, but not before clipping a West Ham head. Gunnarsson is clearly the Cardiff Rory Delap.

13 mins - Cardiff are seeing plenty of the ball and are knocking it around nicely enough. They certainly won't panic. Meanwhile, the two sets of supporters are trading 'patriotic' songs. Gunnarsson hurls another long throw into the box and the ball bounces through to Green.

11 mins - O'Neil is involved himself, collecting a lay-off from Nolan. He looks up and assesses his options before shooting from 25 yards. It is well-struck but too close to Marshall, who pats down and catches the ball as it bounces up to him.

10 mins - West Ham are an experienced team and Gary O'Neil is the first to tell his team-mates to calm down. He's right. There is a long way to go.

8 mins - GOAL! Collison! Vaz Te gets on the end of Cole's flicked header and to the byline before cutting the ball back for Collison. He cushions the volley goalwards and Marshall makes a fine save, but the No10 follows up and nods in from close-range. The din has got louder!

8 mins - The atmosphere is absolutely electric here, as you would expect. West Ham's fans are making a right din!

6 mins - Taylor's low cross is cleared but Noble wins the ball back. Demel gets involved before Cole collects a ball and flicks it over Hudson before slipping. The ball hits his knee and rolls out for a goal kick. Almost brilliant from Cole...

5 mins - Taylor and O'Neil combine before Cole wins a throw inside the Bluebirds half. That's better. The away end has filled up.

4 mins - A worrying moment as Collison collides with Blake and slips on the pitch-surround. He is down for a moment, but soon up and back into the action.

3 mins - Not the best of starts! Hudson beats Nolan to the ball and heads it back for Miller. Green is off his line, but the goalkeeper gets back in time to parry the ball aside for another corner. This is also cleared at the far post by Nolan.

2 mins - Cardiff show first. A long throw is only half-cleared and drops to Whittingham. He shoots first-time from 22 yards and the ball flicks off Tomkins and JUST clears the crossbar. The corner comes over and Cole heads clear.

1 min - Taylor has a couple of early touches. His first punt forward is collected by Marshall. The left-back then wins two headers which he powers forward. O'Neil finds Vaz Te and he passes inside for Cole, who cannot control.

7.46pm - The game kicks-off...

7.45pm - The two captains and mascots are called forward as the Cardiff fans are instructed to 'Do the Ayatollah!" by the PA announcer. The mascots jog off and we're nearly ready to go. The away fans are singing 'Bubbles' as Cardiff go into a huddle. West Ham will-kick off...

7.43pm - The stadium has filled up quickly, but there are still some blue seats in the away end. Let's hope they get inside soon. The rain has stopped for now, but it's still grey and cloudy overhead. The pitch looks in superb condition considering how many games have been played on it this season.

7.41pm - Here come the two teams, led by captains Kevin Nolan and Mark Hudson, to the strains of 'Hey Jude' by The Beatles. Interesting.

7.40pm - The West Ham fans had a ball last time we were here in March and they're singing their hearts out again. I'm not sure they have all arrived yet, though. Their section of the stadium looks a bit empty so close to kick-off. We have sold our allocation of 2,000 tickets but they are definitely not all in their seats yet.

7.33pm - Off go West Ham. Faye, Faubert and Demel are all sporting the bright orange boots that seem to be the latest craze. Carlton Cole has gone for the old-fashioned white footwear.

7.32pm - Cardiff's players head for the Home Dressing Room. The stadium is filling up slowly on a chilly night here in Wales. I'm told they have sold more than 23,000 tickets, but it won't be a sellout. We shall see...

7.30pm - According to the PA announcer, the mascot's favourite West Ham players are Kevin Noble and Mark Nolan. Good football knowledge...!

7.25pm - I have just spoken to Joint-Chairman David Gold, who is no doubt about the importance of the next 180 minutes of football. He said: "This match means so much to everyone at the club - the players, the supporters, the Board, everybody."

7.15pm - The Hammers are warming up in front of me on the pitch. So, no place for George McCartney fresh from his Players' Player of the Year award as Matt Taylor is preferred at left-back. He will have a big job tonight up against Cardiff's on-loan Portsmouth winger Liam Lawrence. The man to watch, however, could be 20-year-old Joe Mason, who has been voted Bluebirds' Player of the Season by the club's fans.


6.50pm - The teams are in! West Ham have selected the same starting XI as they did in the 2-1 win at Leicester City ten days ago. Abdoulaye Faye is back among the substitutes. For Cardiff, right-back Kevin McNaughton is out with an injury, with Wales international Darcy Blake replacing him.

Cardiff City: Marshall, Blake, Taylor, Hudson, Turner, Lawrence, Gunnarsson, Whittingham, Cowie, Mason, Miller
Subs: Heaton, Gerrard, Kiss, McPhail, Earnshaw

West Ham United: Green, Demel, Taylor, Reid, Tomkins, Noble, Nolan, Collison, O'Neil, Vaz Te, Cole
Subs: Henderson, McCartney, Faye, Maynard, Faubert

'Croeso i Gymru' or 'Welcome to Wales', as we might say, for tonight's npower Championship Play-Off semi-final firstleg between Cardiff City and West Ham United.

It is a cloudy day here in Cardiff - very different from the warm and sunny morning that welcomed the Hammers back on 4 March. That afternoon, West Ham travelled back up the M4 with a 2-0 victory under their belts. It goes without saying that an identical result this evening would be just the job.

We all wanted automatic promotion, but we're here in the Play-Offs and it is time to be positive. So, consider these statistics -

*West Ham have lost just one of their previous 18 league matches stretching back to the start of February.
*The Hammers won a club-record 13 away league games and have not lost any of their previous eight away matches - a run going back to 31 January.
*Sam Allardyce's side arrive in Wales unbeaten in six matches.
*West Ham have NEVER done anything but win at the Cardiff City Stadium.
*The Hammers have had an average of 20 shots on goal in their last six league matches.
*Big Sam's team have scored 18 goals in their previous six league matches - an average of three goals per game.

So, let's be upbeat!

This season, of course, Cardiff shocked West Ham by winning 1-0 at the Boleyn Ground on the opening day of the season. The Hammers, as I mentioned earlier, gained revenge here in March through goals from Kevin Nolan and George McCartney.

Team news-wise, Big Sam has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal. Gary O'Neil (ankle), Kevin Nolan (dead leg) and James Tomkins (head) are all fit to play, meaning the manager has a fully-fit squad at his disposal.

Former West Ham defender Malky Mackay, who has done such a good job at Cardiff since replacing Dave Jones last summer, also has a fit set of players to pick from.

Finally, tonight's referee is Neil Swarbrick, who has refereed West Ham once before this season - in the 3-0 defeat at champions Reading on 10 December 2011. He will be assisted by Ron Ganfield and Simon Long, while the fourth official will be Anthony Taylor.

The team news will be announced at 6.45pm and posted first on West Ham's official twitter feed here.