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The drama of the Championship play-offs is upon us and this game brings together two clubs who could be forgiven for fearing failure and he is backing under 2.5 goals

Cardiff will be looking to break their play-off hoodoo as they host West Ham in the first-leg of their Championship play-off semi-final on Thursday evening.

Malky Mackay’s men have every reason to be buzzing ahead of this one having edged out Middlesbrough on the final day to claim sixth spot and they have now gone 10 games without defeat.

But while the Bluebirds could view this as a bonus opportunity against a team that missed out on automatic promotion on the final weekend, the scars of previous failures may make for a nervy day.

Cardiff were edged out by Blackpool two years ago at Wembley before Reading ended their Premier League dreams at the semi-final stage last season.

But Mackay was not in charge for those disappointments and insists this is a fresh start. Cardiff are narrow favourites at 8/5 (2.6) with Paddy Power to win the first-leg at home.

Sam Allardyce will be smarting after his Hammers were pipped at the post and the former Bolton boss has come under-fire for his style of play.

But Allardyce will feel he has the big occasion players to get the job done here and with West Ham boasting the best away record in the Championship he has every right to be confident.

West Ham are 17/10 (2.7) with Paddy Power to take a lead back to Upton Park, a price that some will find difficult to resist given the big names on show. The draw is available at 9/4 (3.25).

In the goalscorer markets, Carlton Cole and Ricardo Vaz Te of West Ham are joint-favourites alongside Cardiff’s Kenny Miller at 6/1 (7.0).

That’s not a great price for Miller given the Scot has just one goal in his last 21 games. But the value might also be in looking beyond the West Ham pair too.

Kevin Nolan is available at 8/1 (9.0) to score the first goal of the game – as he has done four times in 2012. That is more than any West Ham player and is the value bet pick here. As is often the case, it may pay to look beyond the big names and Nolan's scoring record means he is overprices at 8/1 (9.0).

But the pick of the bets is to back a low-scoring game here. Just one of Cardiff’s last eight games featured more than two goals.

And while West Ham’s recent matches have been more open that was largely due to their desperation to catch the top two. Expect them to keep things tight.

You can back under 2.5 goals at 4/6 (1.67) with Paddy Power, although not the biggest price, it seems a solid investment in such a high pressure game.

BET
OF THE
DAY
BEST BET
VALUE BET
Under 2.5 goals at 4/6 (1.67) with Paddy Power
Kevin Nolan to score first at 8/1 (9.0) with Paddy Power

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Adam Bate is a professional freelance journalist who specialises in football and betting. He is editor of GhostGoal which can be found here - you can also follow Adam on Twitter

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