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Coca Cola Championship
Saturday, 14th May 2005

West Ham United 2
Ipswich Town 2

by East Stand Martin

This has got to be one of the most perplexing days I have spent at football for a long time.

It started off in a quite surreal way with someone doing some ‘Ratpack’ numbers. Dean Martin is about as relevant to a playoff semi final as I would be to a Paul Ince testimonial night.

Then it all became clear – the bloke was a West Ham fan. Aha, now I get it, the old Terry Brown magic solution to all our problems. He’s West Ham, he’s got to be good. After all that was the logic when Roeder was given the manager’s job, so why not do it again with the pre-match entertainment?

I wonder if he runs his whole life like this? Dentist? Hammers fan that pulled all his teeth when all he needed was a filling. Lawyer? Stood on the North Bank as a boy and told him to sue Whistle. Hooker? Wore claret and blue knickers but gave him the clap. Amore my ar*e.

The dreaded ref

Next problem. Uriah Rennie appears. I could have discovered who was reffing before the game, but I have taken a circumspect approach to looking at who’s down to officiate at our matches since Oxford Fred blew a blood vessel when he found out that Graham Poll was the ref just prior to last year’s playoff final. Sometimes it’s better to remain ignorant.

You know Rennie’s an incompetent tw*t. I know he’s an incompetent tw*t. The whole f*cking world except the English FA knows he’s an incompetent tw*t.

Is it really too much to ask for a half decent official for game as big as this? We’ve had poor calibre refs all season, why punish us again when we are on two games away from a match that is worth £20 million +?

Even more bizarre, we get some geezer on the trumpet doing a little piece which used to feature about two decades or more ago as a pre kick-off ritual. Now I’ve been going a long time to Upton Park, but I can’t remember what that was supposed to do or mean. No doubt another piece of nostalgia that Mr Brown was happy with, but virtually no-one else in the crowd understood what the f*ck was going on except that their ear drums had exploded.

Back to the football…

Having navigated all of this nonsense, we all tried to focus on the team. Pardew went for consistency again in his selection and this was absolutely right. There were no grounds for any changes as much as some might argue for the old head of Dailly or the precocious skills of Mark Noble.

The match started at pretty high tempo and the first move of note was when Tom was found free out right. He hit a really good cross into the box but this evaded both Mullins and Marlon.

Reo-Coker gave the ball away in a dangerous position in his own half on 4 minutes, but fortunately Westlake was flagged offside, but it was a clearance downfield two minutes later which sent Upton Park into a frenzy, The ball seemed to bounce over Zamora and there was Matty to pick up the ball, accelerate into the box leaving Diallo for dead and pass the ball to the edge of the six yard box where Marlon had an easy finish. On the way through, it looked like Marlon caught a defenders leg, and Naylor, who was the victim, was complaining bitterly.

Ipswich rallied and it looked like the dangerous Bent would even the game up just two minutes later when he timed a run to perfection and picked up a ball inside the box. Jimmy Walker did very well to leap and parry Bent’s attempted lob.

Tom goes for glory, Z-man achieves it

Great work by Marlon saw Tom set free on 9 minutes but his 40 yard shot was never going to trouble the ‘keeper. How we would all love to see him score before he goes, but it doesn’t look like it will ever be at Upton Park.

A fantastic reverse pass by Reo-Coker on 12 minutes then sent Matty on his way again with Diallo getting nowhere near him. Another devastating ball in to the danger zone saw De Vos only manage a partial clearance which found Z-man. He pounced on the ball and smacked it into the back of the net.

Sheer and utter jubiliation and disbelief. Matty had been the lynchpin in both goals, becoming the tormentor of Ipswich once again. 2-0 in under 13 minutes against a team that had finished twelve points above us in the league. Of course, that league position meant absolutely nothing in the context of the play-offs, but this was the best start we had made all season against one of the top teams.

The tractor boys looked totally shell-shocked and we continued to press. Marlon managed a shot on goal on 15 minutes after a good turn on the edge of the box. Every time Ipswich tried to get the ball forward, the superb Eliott Ward was on hand to deal with it.

We were first almost every time when there was a loose ball around and Newton’s capture of one such ball running back on 22 minutes allowed Z-man to find some space and make a nice layoff which just got taken off Marlon’s foot in the box.

Ipswich had half a chance on 27 minutes as Tom managed to only half clear a ball knocked forward. This was picked up by Bent but his shot was blocked by Chris Powell around about the penalty spot.

From hero to zero

The next move saw a wonderful exchange of passes between Matty, Powell and Harewood, with the latter rolling an inch-perfect pass to Z-man. Unlike the howler he missed completely in a similar position last week at Watford, Zamora did achieve contact but he scuffed it horribly across the face of the goal. He and we may live to regret that miss as 3-0 up would have surely spelt curtains for Royle and his team.

Walker had to deal with the second Ipswich half chance on 36 minutes, when Bent found some space on the edge of the box. He managed to get a low shot away just under the body of the advancing Ward, but Jimmy dealt with it easily.

I was just beginning to think that my assessment of Rennie had been unfair when Naylor cynically took Marlon out on 41 minutes as he had turned past him. It was a clear yellow but he failed to punish the offence.

Rennie gives me indigestion

Often bad decisions are followed by others and after a speculative punt forward by Magilton, Rennie decided to penalise Tom for a foul on Kuqi on the edge of the D. Tom was not amused and was booked for dissent. Rennie then lost the plot further as he decided to move the ball forward about three yards, allowing Ipswich to position the ball right on the 18 yard line. He then seemed unable to get order, and we seemed to be unsure whether we wanted a defender on the post or not. Eventually Miller hit a shot which just caught the left edge of the wall, spinning onto the inside of the post. Unluckily for Jimmy, it rebounded off him and into the goal.

Although we felt very cheated by the Ipswich goal, there was every hope that we could build on one of the best first half performances of the season. We ran the show and Ipswich looked extremely vulnerable at the back. Matty had been everywhere and the central defence had easily coped with Kuqi and Bent. The midfield had grafted and our strikeforce looked hungry. The key issue was whether we could regain momentum after conceding the goal at the traditionally worst time.

Royle – who’s no fool – made some tactical changes at half time, taking off both ex-Hammer Kevin Horlock and Diallo. The latter had been destroyed by Matty and simply did not look fit. On came ex-Hammer Darren Currie and Matt Richards. Wilnis was switched over to try and ‘deal’ with Matty.

Z-man broke free on 49 minutes and ran menacingly into the box. He tried a one-two with Reo-Coker and go a half shot away which everybody could see deflected off a defender. No corner was given.The tone of the half was also set early on with two defenders always on Matty and it was clear that Matty was heading for some crunching challenges.

Tractor boys find their feet

Ipswich began to find their passing game and like us in the first half appeared to be consistently first to the ball. Magilton was running the show from the centre with deft passing, pretty much like he did at the first leg at Portman Road in the same fixture last year. Currie also brought some pace and trickery down the left.

Ipswich got their first corner on 57 minutes and Kuqi had a free header which he should have put on target. From the clearance, Matty was taken out by Wilnis but Rennie played advantage with Z-man picking the ball up and finding Mullins, who let fly with a shot from about thirty yards. This was deflected, and for one second it looked like it would beat Kelvin Davies who was mightily relieved to see it go wide. Rennie eventually caught up with Wilnis and gave him a yellow card.

From the corner, we were very unlucky not to score. Newton hit the ball in and Mullins did well to knock it back out to Newton again for a second bite at the cherry. The delivery was perfect and Anton did everything right, heading downwards into the turf. Somehow Davis managed to leap up and push the ball away from his top right hand corner.

Get Etherington

Clearly following orders from the manager, it was then Miller’s turn to take out Matty from behind on 62 minutes. Another bookable offence ignored by Rennie – a professional ref would have realised that Matty was being targeted and warranted protection.

Zamora stumbed over a ball a bit with his back to goal on 67 minutes but recovered well to find Chris Powell down the left. He sent over a good cross which looked like it landed on an Ipswich defender’s arm and led to loud shouts for a penalty from the Bobby Moore Lower. Marlon picked up the ball in the box, turned quickly and put a ball across the six yard line which was then cleared by a defender. From my angle it looked like he only just missed putting it in his own goal.

Miller made a lovely weighted pass on 69 minutes which sent Kuqi on his way down the right, but the Finnish international made a very wasteful final ball over the top of the goal and out for a throw. A minute later, a very similar ball was threaded through to Bent and this time, Anton had to be on hand to clear at the near post for a corner.

On 71 minutes, Matty decided to get some pay back on Westlake near the right touchline and ended up getting booked. The free kick was whipped in dangerously and Walker did very well to dive backwards and prevent the ball going into the top left hand corner of the goal.

Buckled under pressure

The pressure was beginning to mount and with 17 minutes left on the clock it was a defensive error which cost us the lead. Currie put over a floated cross which just beat the head of Ward. Bent was waiting, but Chris Powell got in a very good block to stop his shot at the far post. Unfortunately, the ball looped up and a complete lack of communication followed between Anton and Walker, leading to a collision between the two. Kuqi was waiting to snap up the loose ball and score.

The goal sparked a change, but it was one which confused me and the team as well. Noble came on for Zamora in what looked like a Cardiff-type change. It looked as if Pardew had decided that it was time to settle for a draw - what else could explain leaving Sergei on the bench?

On 79 minutes, we looked to have a good shout for a penalty as Noble went on a run to the edge of the box. From where I was sitting, De Vos seemed to tangle his leg up with the young midfielder and bring him down. Rennie was not interested. Right afterwards, Mullins surged forward from the halfway line and had a good shot on goal, but Davis was equal to it.

A free kick for Ipswich on 84 minutes saw Jimmy take the ball comfortably, but Naylor decided to follow through on the ‘keeper, and Rennie got it right with a booking this time.

5 minutes left? Fetch the Ukrainian

The usual cliché-ridden introduction of Sergei took place on 85 minutes as he replaced Shaun Newton. Newton has been to the playoffs twice before and won on both occasions. He has been excellent since he joined us and I hope that he makes it three out of three.

Marlon pulled some magic out of his repertoire again as he chested down a long ball, turned and shot just outside the box. It looked in all the way, but shaved the right hand post after taking a slight deflection which Rennie missed yet again.

It all fizzled out with Royle looking delighted to have retrieved the situation. The tactical changes by Ipswich at half time made a big difference to the direction of the game. For long periods, Ipswich held possession and passed the ball very well, with Magilton pulling the strings.

It was disappointing to concede a sloppy second goal, but it’s difficult to criticise Anton given his overall performance. We may well live to regret our failure to score three or four in that first half when Matty was rampant, but we should go to East Anglia feeling confident. We have been performing well away from home and we have beaten Ipswich at their place this season.

It is all still to play for, and the Ipswich defence looks shaky. It’s not going to be easy, but if we can cut out the errors and take our chances, then we will win and get back to Cardiff again. Who’s bringing the Norwich flag?

(Player comments by Graeme Howlett)

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Player Ratings

Jimmy Walker
Not the best of days for Jimmy, who had a part to play in both Ipswich goals. The first was pure misfortune; the second will raise question marks over the lack of communication with Anton Ferdinand. Almost got himself lobbed too and had to act quickly to avert disaster. On the bright side his distribution was good.


Tomas Repka
In what was almost certainly his last game at the Boleyn this was like a snapshot of his entire career - excellent throughout bar one glaring error. This time it was his reaction to the free-kick awarded against him which led to Ipswich's first goal.


Chris Powell
Fairly forward thinking in the first 45 but on the backfoot after the break, much like the rest of the side. Nice touch in handing his shirt to a young kid in the West Lower during the post-match lap of honour.


Elliott Ward
There were those who had raised question marks over Ward's involvement but he didn't put a foot wrong today.Almost notched his first goal for the club but kelvin Davis was equal to the task.


Anton Ferdinand
A brilliant performance tarnished by a moment of supreme confusion which allowed Ipswich back into the game. Still just about the best defensive performance by any defender at Upton Park this season.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Those bursting runs kept Ipswich on the backfoot during the first 45, but he along with the rest of the midfield struggled after the break once Joe Royle has made two changes to the midfiled.


Hayden Mullins
A very impressive performance; it's no coincidence that since Hayden was put out to play in his right position we have lost just once in something like 11 games.


Matthew Etherington
All the Sunday papers gave Etherington man of the match - I can only think they must have gone home at half time. Yet again we have 45 excellent minutes from Etherington, yet again he disappeared after the break. Involved heavily in both goals before becoming victim of Ipswich's dirty tactics.


Shaun Newton
Yet another really impressive performance from Ten Grand, who was unlucky to have been substituted late on. Having already won promotion via the play-offs with Wolves and Charlton he certainly has the experience and nous for these games; on Saturday it showed.


Bobby Zamora
Up against big Jason De Vos, Bobby did a good job - holding up the ball well and playing the simple pass. But despite scoring the second goal you would like to see him in the box a bit more. Good game though.


Marlon Harewood
The most frustrating part of Marlon's game is his reticence to challenge for headers. Today he made four challenges and won two. That statistic suggests that if he bothered a bit more often it would be worth his while.


Substitutes


Mark Noble
(Replaced Etherington, 73) Came on late, ran round a lot but didn't manage to get too involved.


Sergei Rebrov
(Replaced Newton, 82) Barely touched the ball after replacing Newton with a matter of minutes to go.


Stephen Bywater
Did not play.


Christian Dailly
Did not play.


Carl Fletcher
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: U.Rennie.

Attendance: 33723.

Man of the Match: Anton Ferdinand.

West Ham United

Goals: Marlon Harewood 7 Bobby Zamora 13                

Booked: Tomas Repka 43 Matthew Etherington 72        .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Ipswich Town

Davis, Wilonis, Diallo, De Vos, Naylor, Miller, Magilton, Horlock, Westlake, Kuqi, Bent.

Substitutes: Currie (Diallo 45), Richards (Horlock 45).

Subs not used: Price, Bowditch, Counago.

Goals: Walker og (44), Kuqi (74).

Booked: Wilnis (59), Naylor (85).

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
Match Report