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Saturday, 17th February 2001

Sunderland 0
West Ham United 1

by Amanda Lake

My first ever away match and despite a multitude of travel problems (the wonderful rail network) we eventually made it to the Stadium of Light in one piece even if we were rather exhausted. The atmosphere was completely different to anything that I have ever experience before and I really enjoyed it.

I was very dismayed by the number of empty seats in the stadium and that was in the Sunderland section. If that had been Upton Park we would have had a sell out, I am sure. And to think that there were Hammers who desperately wanted tickets but couldn't get them. If Sunderland had given us a few thousand more then we could have filled the place. However with the Hammers fans there I cannot tell you how proud I was to be a member of the Claret and Blue Army. Seeing all those supporters buses streaming in was enough to leave a lump in my throat.

Kick off came and started, fast furious and the determination to win. This lasted the entire 90 minutes. Hammers fans made enough noise to out shine the Sunderland fans and we never gave up. You have to give 110% when you play and the supporters are the same. Sunderland were strong from the outset but our back 3 were making sure that no-one sneaked through and managed to keep Kevin Phillips and Niall Quinn quiet throughout the entire match with odd chances from the two of them. Nothing spectacular though. However 5 minutes into the match and Kanoute was on goal, and then another chance on 10 minutes.

You knew that Freddie was going to score at some point but when was another matter. Freddie wasn't only battling the Sunderland defence but also the match officials. Its all too easy to have a go at them but they deserved criticism on Saturday, I was convinced that West Ham were playing against 14 men as opposed to the regulation 11. I swore that the linesman who was in charge of off siding Freddie had his flag half raised every time Freddie had a sniff of the ball. Coupled with that and some bad Sunderland fouls (some went unpunished/ignored call it what you will) we had the cards against us. We were unlucky to go in at half time without a goal.

Sunderland came out fighting in the second half and you knew that if one of they scored then we really did have a battle on our hands. We had to score first and keep defending and not let them in at any cost. The more the seconds ticked away the more nervous I was getting, I said a few prayers and hoped that divine intervention would be in favour of the hammers. Then Frank made a weak challenge on the goal (as much as I adore the guy he could have done much better). You them wonder if that was another chance squandered. A glance at the clock told me that it was near enough the time that di Canio had scored at Old Trafford and I remarked as such to my friend. I wasn't the only one that was thinking this I am sure. Then it seemed surreal. Michael to Frank and Frank is heading towards the goal and spots Freddie. A beautiful pass and already the Hammers are screaming. Through Sorensen and we are 1-0 up. I have never experienced such a feeling and I felt quite light headed once I had calmed down. Then it gets worse. You pray that we can keep the lead. We mucked up against Coventry and a bit of doubt does temporarily creep in. You watch the clock and the seconds tick away and they do seem to go much slower when you are there. It sounds silly but those last 10 minutes drag. You are screaming at the team and you are praying for any sort of miracle to happen.

Then the final whistle. It was a pure adrenaline rush. 6,000 or more Hammers going mental and our cup dreams are still alive. You can't help but have tears in your eyes and I admit to crying. Then you start thinking that Cardiff is now but two wins away.

We have now draw Tottenham at home and I think that if we can translate our away form to the game then we are seriously looking at that place in Cardiff and the mass exodus from the East End to South Wales (some of us will be grateful of the short journey for once). Its such a shame that we can't produce this kind of form in the Premiership..then we really would be a force to contend with.

Bring on Spurs and roll on May 12th...

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