SAM ALLARDYCE admits West Ham will have to handle the pressure of being favourites again when they step out at Wembley for the npower Championship play-off final.
The Hammers are 90 minutes from an immediate return to the Barclays Premier League after completing a 5-0 aggregate demolition of Cardiff.
Goals from Kevin Nolan, Ricardo Vaz Te and Nicky Maynard ensured their were no jitters at Upton Park following their 2-0 first-leg win in Wales last week.
And West Ham, who were pre-season favourites for automatic promotion only to miss out on the final day, will face either Birmingham or Blackpool on May 19 for a place in the top flight.
“It’s a big pressure for us and whoever we get we will probably be favourites again,” said the Hammers boss and former Seasiders’ manager.
“But what a fantastic stage to go and play on. Hopefully the players can deliver yet another outstanding performance.”
Nolan, the Hammers 13-goal captain, said: “The goal settled us down, but I thought over the two ties we were the better side.
“Now we’ll look forward to Wednesday night and finding out who our opposition is.”
n BLACKBURN boss Steve Kean vowed to fight on after his side were relegated amid scenes of vitriol and protest at rain-sodden Ewood Park last night.
Kean was barracked mercilessly by Rovers fans throughout a tortuous game against Wigan which the visitors snatched 1-0 to guarantee their own Barclays Premier League safety with an Antolin Alcaraz header three minutes from time.
The Scot said: “I am not going to walk away. We’re devastated but we’ll live to fight another day.
“I will sit down with the owners and discuss a plan on how to assemble a squad to help us bounce back up straight away.
“We need to try to keep the majority of the squad together and add one or two experienced players that can help us.
“I am a big believer in my own ability and a big believer in the guys I have got in the dressing room.
“I have spoken to each and every one of them and they are devastated but I can’t fault their commitment.
“I am convinced we can go on and build a side that can move us forward again - but this is a massive setback.”
n LUTON Town and York City will meet in the Conference play-off final for the right to join champions Fleetwood Town in the Football League.
Luton defeated Wrexham 3-2 on aggregate in their semi-final, while York beat Mansfield 2-1 on aggregate after extra-time. The play-off final will be at Wembley on May 20.
n JUAN Mata has urged Chelsea not to throw in the towel on their top-four dream ahead of tonight’s Barclays Premier League trip to Liverpool.