Tuesday, 18th May 2004
It was a nervous day. I hadn't slept particularly well and found myself at 3am looking at the tv channels at the bottom end of the cable scale trying to work out why the world needs 8 shopping channels let alone why on earth NTL thinks I would need them. By lunchtime I had given up pacing up and down Gnome Towers like an expectant father and met up with Romford, Liam & Richie at the Golden Fleece by Wanstead Flats. It was very pleasant in the sunshine, despite the police tape around a suspected crime site and the presence of the Rentokil guy in the pub!
We then adjourned to the Wakefield where the air of anticipation was electric. The highlight of the pre-match was the tearful reunion of Spongey the sponge ball with his son, the result of a liaison with a beach ball that occurred during Spongey's trip to Wigan for the last match of the season.
It got to that time and I couldn't put it off any longer. I had to go to the ground. I got in earlier than normal where Jeremy Nicholas was working his butt off to get the crowd going. We had that bloke John Innes singing Nessun Dorma again and, in a hark back to days of old we were also treated to a chap in hunting gear playing the Post Horn Gallop as he lead the teams out. There were a surprising number of empties in the Ipswich end which seemed a shame as there were Hammers who would have sold their children to get a ticket.
We fielded a side unchanged from Saturday's disappointment at Portman Road and went for it right from the very start. Zamora broke well down the right but ran out of space when trying to get a cross in. however it was Ipswich who could have taken the lead with the first clear chance of the match. A long ball played over the top saw Darren Bent stay onside only to shoot wide with only Bywater to beat. It was a big let off, but a warning that was well heeded.
We started to take control. A fine ball from Carrick saw Harewood burst through as the Ipswich defence opened up only for Marlon to shoot over from distance. Then an early ball in from Etherington saw Lomas's first time effort hit the bar. Then came one of the moves of the match. Repka rescued a loose ball down the right and crossed from the byline, finding Connolly in the box. Connolly turned and clipped a cross into the path of Zamora, whose header brought out one of the saves of the season from Davies in the Ipswich goal. Despite being slightly on the wrong foot Davies managed to twist himself back to get a vital hand to the ball to put it out for a corner. Fabulous football all round and only 11 minutes gone!
A few minutes later a Carrick cross came out to Etherington whose shot from 20 yards was pulled wide. I mentally cursed Matty's inability to shoot at this point. On 19 minutes a Lomas cross was cleared only as far as Christian Dailly who let forth a thunderous drive from around 30 yards. This too found Davies in fine form as the 'keeper turned dailly's effort away. I mentally cursed the fact that Dailly never scores for us with his feet.
Shortly after Connolly got behind the defence and pulled the ball back for Etherington to cross. Zamora's header was a matter of inches wide.
Although it was a half we largely dominated there was a slight scare on 25 minutes gone when Bent drove the ball against a brave Dailly block. The ball struck Dailly's arm but the half-hearted penalty appeal was rightly rejected. Back up the other end Zamora's attempt to feed Etherington was blocked by Wilnis's hand and, although the Ipswich man's actions earned him a yellow, Carrick's resulting free kick was too high to bother the 'keeper.
Ipswich came back into things a little towards the end of the half. Bent stretched a volley wide from a narrow angle after Magilton's free-kick had clipped off Carrick's head.
Half time came after an excellent first half's entertainment. We were then treated if that's the word to TV's Will Mellor (no, me neither) trying to sing along to his England Euro 2004 song. A few of us gave up and started a chorus of Three Lions instead. Still all proceeds from the sale of the record go to the Bobby Moore Fund so one shouldn't complain really.
The second half began with a similar tempo to the first no mean feat on such a warm night. Harewood cut in from the right but his shot lacked power and was comfortably dealt with by Davies. A fine turn from Zamora saw his shot blocked out for a corner. Carricks corner was aimed at dailly but Elliot beat the skipper to the ball to give away another corner. What happened next is something nobody who was lucky enough to be there will forget for as long as they live. Carrick took a short corner to Etherington who rode the challenge from a defender before launching a piledriver into the far corner to send the crowd wild. People were hugging eachother all over the ground. Grown men, well ok, me, were seen to shed tears indeed I feel a slight contact lens problem now as I recall the incident. I made a mental note of thanks that I hadn't told anyone about my earlier thoughts about Etherington's shooting prowess thereby avoiding looking silly.
So game on. Connolly's intercepting header sent Zamora through only for Naylor to get a foot in for the corner. Then Connolly fed Etherington whose cross was superbly headed back across goal by Deane. Connolly took the ball early and put it over despite the Irishman having a lot more time than he thought. Connolly then fed Etherington whose shot was high and wide with Deane, who had by now replaced Zamora, perhaps better placed.
We surged forward in waves. Harewood burst through the middle and played in Connolly who tried to clip the ball over the advancing Davies. Unfortunately he also cleared the bar at the same time. With 20 minutes left a bywater clearance found Connolly whose turn was superb. The resulting shot clipped off a defender for a corner. Etherington's delivery was played by a defender straight into Dailly's wedding tackle. The skipper stayed on his feet long enough to poke the loose ball (no pun intended!) into the bottom right hand corner to cue more wild celebrations including I understand a certain Mr Pardew who I belive jumped into the crowd at this moment. More tears in eyes were seen and not just from Dailly whose goal celebrations consisted of being doubled up in obvious agony. Me? I really need new contact lenses as these ones are playing up again. I made another mental note of thanks that I hadn't told anyone about my earlier thoughts on Dailly's shooting prowess thereby avoiding looking silly.
Reo-Coker replaced Connolly for the last 10 or so as Ipswich threw everything they could up front. Referee Barry had time to have a chat to tell Alan Pardew to calm down. We survived another half-hearted shout for a spot kick as Elliot claimed to have been held back by Dailly. In truth it was nothing worse than Elliot had himself been getting away with up the other end all night and it would have been ridiculously harsh had the ref awarded it although we've seen some shocking stuff from the officials this season.
On 90 minutes it was heart in mouth time. A long throw from the right came out to Westlake whose shot came back off the post. We had to endure three minutes of stoppage time.
Ipswich forced a couple of corners before the ref finally blew the whistle to cue Bubbles, Twist & Shout, Viva Bobby Moore, Knees Up Mother Brown. The sight of everyone doing the Twist & Shout was something to behold. I even hugged the guy who sits near me who looks worryingly like Bob Hoskins!
I have to say that I'm struggling here. There is simply no way I can convey how special the atmosphere was. If you were there you know. If you had to watch it on the box I hope just one tenth of how special it was actually came over.
The rest of the night was a bit of a blur. I eventually got home via the Wakefield and Lord Stanley pubs, thanks to Bonehead who detoured via Gnome Towers to make sure I got back safely.
As this was the last home match of the season I ought to end with a few thank yous:
To Mr Howlett for allowing these insane ramblings to appear on this here interweb thingy.
To Malcolm, Martyn and especially Amelia in the press room for looking after the KUMB contingent.
To the other KUMB mods for letting me get away with monopolising the press conference pass.
To everyone in the Wakefield for pre & post match company.
To the lovely Charlotte for putting up with me slaving over a hot computer on Saturday evenings!
I thank you all.
Now let's bloody win the final and never get relegated again!
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A few saves to make but looked superb on crosses. Distribution improved a bit too.
Much has been written about Tomas. For my money this match was one of his best in claret and blue. If he played like this week in week out we'd have to find someone else to argue about.
Another good solid run-out for Mullins who now gets to face his old club in Cardiff.
Looked fairly solid at the back and caused Ipswich constant problems at set pieces. I hope for Mrs Dailly's sake that his goal caused no lasting damage. I presume that those who shamefully booed the skipper after the Millwall match were first amongst those to cheer.
I like the no-nonsense manner with which Melville goes about things. He gets in the way, wins the ball and gives it to someone better to do the creative stuff. Another strong performance.
Some superb passing and did a fair bit of chasing back when required as well.
No blade of grass uncovered. Desperately unlucky not to score when his shot clipped the bar in the first half.
Was double marked for much of the night but still caused a few problems. And THAT goal will live in the mind forever.
A goal will do this lad a power of good. Was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet in the first half before going off the boil a bit in the second.
Drifted in and out of things a bit but when he was in he caused Ipswich major problems.
The work-rate was superb as usual. Only the finishing was lacking.
(Replaced Zamora, 57) Looked quite useful when on for Zamora and linked up well with Connolly.
(Replaced Connolly, 82) On for the last ten minutes to bolster the midfield. Did ok.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Christian Dailly.
West Ham United
Goals: Matthew Etherington 50 Christian Dailly 71
Booked: None booked. .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Davis, Richards, Wilnis, Elliott, Miller, Magilton, Wright, Westlake, Kuqi, Bent, Naylor.
Substitutes: Armstrong (Kuqi 45), Reuser (Magilton 72).
Subs not used: Price, Diallo, Santos.
Booked: Wilnis (34).
Sent Off: None sent off..