HAMMERS UNFAZED BY EXPECTATION
West Ham are not afraid of their favourites tag as they head into the npower Championship play-offs, according to assistant boss Neil McDonald.
Cardiff manager Malky Mackay says his side, who finished sixth, 11 points behind the Hammers, are underdogs going into Thursday evening's semi-final first leg in Wales.
And Sam Allardyce's right-hand man McDonald is confident West Ham have quickly shrugged off the disappointment of missing out on automatic promotion to Southampton last Saturday.
"In our heart of hearts we always knew Southampton would win their last game," said McDonald.
"We were more disappointed when we drew at Bristol City before that in a game we needed to win.
"But the boys are in really good spirits and we are all ready for the game. There's a great atmosphere and good competition for places.
"We were favourites at the start of the season to go up so it was disappointing we didn't do it automatically. But we'll take the favourite tag if everyone wants to give it to us and we are ready for the two games against Cardiff."
The Hammers head along the M4 having won a club-record 13 games on the road this season and on the back of two successive home wins, including a 6-0 drubbing of Brighton.
Key players like Carlton Cole, who scored twice in Saturday's 2-1 victory over Hull, Kevin Nolan and Ricardo Vaz Te also appear to be coming into form at just the right time.
"Over our last six games we have had our three top scorers, Carlton, Kevin and Ricardo, score most of the goals and if we can keep that going that would be fantastic," added McDonald.
"There's no reason why we shouldn't handle the pressure. There were doubts about our home form but we've put that to bed with our last two games and our away form is fantastic. I don't think we have anything to be afraid of.
"It will be a unique atmosphere but our experienced players will calm everyone down and the ones who haven't done it before should be positive.
"It will be a close game but hopefully we can take advantage of our away form and then bring them back to Upton Park on Monday and show what we did in the last two matches, which is play positive football, create chances and score goals.
"Hopefully our away form will intimidate Cardiff. And if we get a good result there the whole place will lift because the supporters have been fantastic over the last two home matches. The momentum is there."
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