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Nationwide Division One PO
Tuesday, 18th May 2004

West Ham United 2
Ipswich Town 0

by East Stand Martin

ESM Jnr and I were sitting in the traffic coming off the North Circular when a couple of Ipswich coaches drew up alongside on the way to the game. They thought I was giving ‘em the old two finger salute, but I was merely pointing out that we were going to win 2 – 0.

Bravado really, as I had spent most of the day in turmoil. Maybe it’s the impact of 18 months of pain and disappointment, but I’ve got to admit that I wasn’t feeling too confident. My humour wasn’t helped by the manager’s pre-match comments which seemed to predict meltdown if we fail to achieve promotion. Not the most positive thing to focus upon before this crucial match, was it?

Group therapy

Call it group therapy, but the minute I emerged into the hallowed ground of the East Stand Upper, my doubts began to fade. It put the hairs on the back of your neck up – an incredible sound of the massed ranks of Irons super-charged and up for it in a way which has not been experienced for a very long time. Call me sentimental, but I had a flash back to being a teenager and standing in the North Bank. This is what being a West Ham fan is all about, and watching your son bellow out ‘Knees up Mother Brown’.

The team was unchanged from Saturday, which did cause me some concern as I felt that Zamora had not merited inclusion. The problem was that the fall-back was Deano, who these days is always going to struggle to make it through the full 90.

Z-man had a chance to prove me wrong in the very first minute when he went on a run down the right. He got to the byline and fluffed it.

Close call

The next piece of action could have made the night a wake rather than a celebration. Darren Bent, who had been a right handful at Portman Road managed to break free and advanced menacingly on goal. One on one with Bywater, he scuffed in wide of the post. He will be ruing that one for some time to come.

This proved to be the last real opportunity of the half for Ipswich, as West Ham treated the Bent miss as a wake up call. On three minutes Carrick hit a great ball to Marlon who then went a powerful run down the middle. It had the mark of the goal he scored away at Norwich, but this time he blasted it over the bar.

Then on 5 minutes, Matty had his first say in the game with a terrific run down the left. He managed to square the ball back to the waiting Lomas who hit a volley as sweet as a nut at the top of the cross bar. Now the crowd was hitting frenzy level.

Z-man, who was not impressing again with his close control of the ball then was given a great opportunity to score when Connors rescued what looked like a lost cause by delivering a cross from the dead ball line. Z-man got a good head on it with both direction and power, but Kelvin Davis made a superb save, flinging himself to the left.

In these first 15 minutes, Carrick was really showing his class with a stunning array of passes. He found Matty on 14 minutes, but he blasted wide.

Who’s that at right back?

It was then that I began to notice this right back in a West Ham shirt who looked like Repka, but was passing like a midfielder. He was everywhere and was getting forward into some dangerous positions down the flank. Although the red mist did descend a bit later in the game when he began to berate the linesman over a couple of decisions, there can be little doubt that this was one of his best performances this season. Let’s hope for another one in Cardiff.

Dailly, who I think has been playing excellently over recent weeks then had everybody out of their seats (those that weren’t already standing up, that is) on 19 minutes when he struck an absolutely devastating shot from outside the area. The ball rose like a golf shot I saw Greg Norman play about 10 years ago, but once again Davis pulled off a magnificent save, this time diving to his right.

The second half of the first half saw West Ham lose a bit of tempo. Zamora put a header wide following a Matty cross on 21 minutes and just after the half hour Wilnis was lucky to stay on the pitch after he deliberately handled a Z-man pass that looked like it would have set Matty off through on goal.

A half clearly dominated by West Ham, but the fact was we will still behind. The task for Pardew was clearly to maintain belief that we could get a deserved breakthrough against an Ipswich side that looked totally blown away by the occasion.

Hammer of the Year does it again

The crowd was not quite so vocal as the teams emerged for the second half but the temperature soon got cranked up again by a run by Marlon on 47 minutes, which ended in a weak shot. But then came the breakthrough two minutes later when Matty received a short corner and burst into a trademark run. We got a fantastic view of the exquisite shot he made beyond the reach of the ‘keeper. Ecstatic. You don’t know the meaning of the word. Once again Matty showed why he is the Hammer of the Year.

Z-man’s last contribution before he was replaced by Deano on 57 minutes was to give the ball away again. Yet again another disappointing performance and the only downside on the night.

Deano’s head

Deano was immediately menacing in the air and his presence was required against Elliott, who seemed to be carrying on where he left off on Saturday. On 61 minutes, Deano got his head on a cross which fell to the feet of Connors. He should have put it away but failed to do so. A minute later Connors made a great link pass to Matty in full flight, but his shot soared high and wide.

On 64 minutes, Connors should have sealed it when Deano won another header which fell to the feat of the Irishman. He advanced rapidly on goal with just Davis to beat, but his lob shot over the keeper found the top netting rather than the goal.

Ipswich had created little at all in the second half, but it was an uncharacteristic error by Carrick on 68 minutes which nearly let them in. However, the ball was blasted wastefully wide.

The captain shows the way

The goal that took us to the Principality came on 70 minutes when the captain managed to stab out a shot after getting the ball in his vitals from a corner. Apart from the sheer delight of that goal going in, I was really pleased for Dailly himself who has taken a lot of unjustified barracking this year.

The last 20 minutes was a very nervy affair, particularly after Elliott was sent up front to try and intimidate in the box. Apparently there was a good shout for a penalty, when Dailly nearly turned from hero to zero, but the real frightener came in the very final minute, when Westlake hit a corking shot against the right hand upright. Sometimes they go in, but it would have been a very cruel outcome if it had.

I haven’t mentioned Mullins so far, but he has to take a lot of the credit for dealing with Bent, who was a real threat last Saturday. A very solid performance by the defence all round, and Melville did another excellent ‘old pro’s’ performance.

One more to go

The ground erupted into chaos when the final whistle went. ESM Jnr looked at me and said, “You can’t believe it, can you?” He was right, I was in a bit of shock as there was always a bit of me that felt that we might press the self-destruct button.

I’m glad that there was no lap of honour at the end. The job isn’t finished. Not for the team and not for the fans. We need to go to Cardiff and raise the roof like we’ve never done before. Wembley 1975. Wembley 1980. Cardiff 2004. We are on the road to fulfil our destiny and get back where we belong. As the captain said in an almost impenetrable Scottish accent when he was given the microphone, “One more to go and we’re going there to win.” How we stay up if we get there is a subject for another day.

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Player Ratings

Stephen Bywater
Comments to follow.


Tomas Repka
Comments to follow.


Hayden Mullins
Comments to follow.


Christian Dailly
Comments to follow.


Andy Melville
Comments to follow.


Michael Carrick
Comments to follow.


Steve Lomas
Comments to follow.


Matthew Etherington
Comments to follow.


Bobby Zamora
Comments to follow.


Marlon Harewood
Comments to follow.


David Connolly
Comments to follow.


Substitutes


Brian Deane
(Replaced Zamora, 57) Comments to follow.


Nigel Reo-Coker
(Replaced Connolly, 82) Comments to follow.


Pavel Srnicek
Did not play.


Rufus Brevett
Did not play.


Jobi McAnuff
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: N.Barry.

Attendance: 34052.

Man of the Match: Christian Dailly.

West Ham United

Goals: Matthew Etherington 50 Christian Dailly 71                

Booked: None booked.           .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Ipswich Town

Davis, Richards, Wilnis, Elliott, Miller, Magilton, Wright, Westlake, Kuqi, Bent, Naylor.

Substitutes: Armstrong (Kuqi 45), Reuser (Magilton 72).

Subs not used: Price, Diallo, Santos.

Goals: .

Booked: Wilnis (34).

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
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