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Vaz Te seals West Ham's Premier League return

CLINCHER: West Ham's Ricardo Vaz Te scored the winner at Wembley

WEST HAM’S promotion was sealed with a typical Sam Allardyce performance. The east Londoners were second-best for large swathes of this final but their ability to take their chances punished Blackpool.

Ricardo Vaz Te’s 87th minute winner sealed West Ham’s promotion back to the Premier League at their first attempt, denying Blackpool that same honour, and provided a triumphant denouement to an often frustrating season in east London that saw West Ham drop into the play-offs despite occupying an automatic promotion slot for much of the campaign.

The Portuguese claimed his 12th West Ham goal of the season when Matt Gilks failed to deal with Kevin Nolan’s cross under pressure from the superb Carlton Cole. The ball broke for Vaz Te who struck the ball into the roof of the net unopposed from six yards.

It restored the lead established by Cole on 35 minutes that was subsequently wiped out by Thomas Ince early in the second-half.

That Blackpool were the better side will be of little solace to Ian Holloway’s men this evening but the Seasiders deserve credit for recovering from the sale of their best players last summer without access to the same financial resources available to their Wembley opponents.

Blackpool dealt with their cup final nerves better than West Ham and could have been at least two goals to the good within 15 minutes.

Stephen Dobbie fended off the attentions of left-back Matt Taylor in the third minute to strike a close-range shot that Robert Green steered onto the post. It set the tone for a contest in which the pressure on West Ham to triumph exceeded that of their opponents.

As Blackpool grew in confidence West Ham struggled for the sort of fluency that saw them strike eight goals past the Seasiders in their two Championship encounters this season.

Blackpool’s ease in possession saw them create the better chances in the opening period yet their profligacy was as marked as the woes of West Ham’s full-backs.

Matt Phillips should have done better on 14 minutes when Dobbie sent him clear but the forward’s attempt did not trouble Green. He had the chance to atone a minute later when he capitalised on right-back Guy Demel’s failure to deal with a long ball. Yet Phillips prodded his effort well wide and any regrets will have intensified when West Ham scored against the run of play on 35 minutes.

Thomas Ince was disposed deep inside the West Ham half by Taylor, who picked out Cole and the forward stole ahead of Ian Evatt to finish with a composure that had been missing from the east Londoners’ earlier attempts.

It was galling for Blackpool who looked to be drawing the sting from their opponents but typical of a West Ham side that have added greater potency to their approach play in recent weeks.

In the event Blackpool did not have to wait long for a riposte and parity came with redemption for Ince. The youngster allowed Phillips’ long ball from deep to bounce before steering the equaliser past Green.

A cup final goal at Wembley is special in its own right but represented something to savour for the 20-year-old, who was once again subjected to booing from large sections of the West Ham support.

Ince’s indiscretion was to be the son of Paul Ince, who left West Ham for Manchester United in acrimonious circumstances three years before Thomas was born.

Back in reality, Blackpool regained the impetus that had been theirs for long stretches of the match and on 49 minutes Taylor was forced to clear from under his own crossbar from Alex Baptiste’s goal-bound shot.

Ince was a persistent threat to a jittery West Ham backline, while Dobbie continued to have the better in midfield. Yet West Ham bided their time.

Kevin Nolan struck the bar on 80 minutes and as the tension increased so did the likelihood of a defensive mistake being met with the ultimate punishment and so it was to prove for the unfortunate Gilks, who failed to deal with Nolan’s cross for the winner.

The east Londoners will savour the moment but will be aware of the need for reinforcements if their next stay in the Premier League is to be prolonged.

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