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Saturday, 14th October 2000

Ipswich Town 1
West Ham United 1

by Richard Osbourne

I was at home with Sarah on Saturday morning, one eye on Sky's SoccerAM and one eye on my computer that was in pieces. The morning's job was to get the machine back in running order, all webbed up and ready for the Real Audio delights from Portman Road after being unable to get tickets constantly redialling on 3 consecutive phones for 2 hours two weeks before.

The phone rings and it is my good friend Neil from work who is an Ipswich fan. Following a volley of well aimed abuse about the fact that he has a ticket and I don't, I found myself swallowing my well chosen words when he tells me that he has flu and that I can have his ticket.

7.6 nanoseconds later I am on the train heading for Portman Road leaving a teary eyed wife in my wake. I like to think that the tears were for my departure and not because I had just struck gold. Growing up in Colchester (with a family of Dagenmites hence my WH support) I was no stranger to Portman Road. I had worked out however that the last time I had been there, Paul Mariner was a key player in the Blue's starting lineup. I met Neil's family and kissing the season ticket with some considerable passion, went into the ground surrounded by Ipswich fans.

Both teams came out at the same time, so I didn't look too out of place standing up clapping. Shaka in goal, Rio, Stimac and Stuart Pearce holding the back line. Winterburn and Tricky Trev taking up wingback positions, with support from Lomas, Joey Cole and 'Just like the one I used to know' Lampard. King Kanoute and Paulo Di Canio who always seems to get a warm welcome from any opposing fan base.. not.

From the kick off Ipswich were all over us like a blue rash. Their movement off the ball and on it was tearing our midfield apart. Great passes, crossed and challenges made us look second rate at best. We sank deeper and deeper into defence with everyone except Kanoute behind the ball. Gaps of 20 yards would open up like an Event Horizon in front of our 18 yard box.

Getting pushed further and further back, we were tripping over our own feet trying to clear the ball. When the ball was cleared, it barely left our half, falling at the feet of an Ipswich defender who simply passed it straight back to an advancing Ipswich player. A sustained piece of attacking from the opposition saw a great cross and a superbly taken glancing header by Marcus Stewart to convert their pressure into a positive position.

Not being surprised I even faked a clap so that I didn't look too conspicuous amongst the delighted fans. 1-0 and we were down with not much going for us.

Minutes (or was it seconds?) later the ball crashed off Shaka's post from a terrific strike outside the area. Matty 'Chisel features' Holland and his merry crew were making a laughing stock of us. Pearcey made some of the most diabolical challenges I have ever seen him make. Late and vicious he was duly inserted into the referees book. Throughout the first half his act did not improve and should have walked on no less than three other separate occasions. But hey, he is a legend so what ref could resist?

The ref was having a bad day which pretty much went in our favour; definitely a change for the better. One amusing incident saw Nigel Winterburn actually catch the ball with both arms into his stomach, turn his man, drop the ball to his feet and carry on, with the ref waving play on. Didn't catch me moaning though, I reserved that privilege to our performance.

Our players went in at half time with their heads hung low. We couldn't hold the ball for more than sixty seconds and had only had a couple of chances. Di Canio had twisted and turned making the keeper and defenders slide around him only to see his efforts put out for a corner. Richard Wright had not been tested at all, all our long range efforts had made a bee-line for the top of the Orwell Bridge.

I don't know what Harry laces their oranges with but we came out with the same team but looked a whole lot better. We started to push forward and finding space in the middle of the park, getting into the Ipswich half was no problem; we started to get the upper hand.

I nearly fell off my chair when Harry made a substitution. Winterburn came off (who wasn't having a bad game) and on came "he's here, he's there, he's every f*ing where, John Moncur"; And what a piece of tactical nouse. Moncs a forward playing midfielder replacing a defending midfielder... we were in business.

Ever pushing forward into the Ipswich half we toyed dangerously around the 18 yard box. Kanoute trying to run the ball into the net and not lashing at it came as a frustration to all of us (well just me actually, the Ipswich fans were delighted). Kanoute was booked for dissent after threatening to throw the ball at the ref and then booting it (the ball) away; never seen him like this, must be lessons from the Italian.

Once again Richard Wright had little to do, all our efforts at scoring came to nothing. We have scored 6 in the 18 yard box and four in the 6 yard box this season which typified the way we attacked. All our players can crack in a good shot from outside the area so please....

The crowd around me were getting very impatient. Calls for 'fresh legs Burley you tw*t' were constant amusement to me. At last Tricky Trev Sinclair got by his 3 defenders and broke to the goaline. A deft chip back saw Di Canio volley the ball into the back of the net. Now the crowd around me were getting very upset. I wanted to laugh, I wanted to sing, I wanted to cry, but all I could do was try to look glum with the biggest grin breaking across my chops.

Ipswich tried to break now and again but always pinned back. A through ball saw Stimac and Shaka both going for the ball just outside our area. David Johnson was bearing down on Stimac's left hand side so Stimac tried to hook the ball at full stretch with his right foot across Shaka to the awaiting Pearcey to avoid Johnson getting his grubby boots on it. A nasty clatter with the sliding Shaka saw Stimac roar in agony, Hislop's and Johnson's hands thrust into the air and the ball put into touch. The big man looked in a bad way with a huge gash across his leg as he was stretchered in agony below me off to the treatment room.

Pottsy came on to replace the injured man, but it seemed to be the opportunity Ipswich were waiting for all the half. Our defence in sixes and sevens, Ipswich spent the remaining three minutes bombarding our goal with Shaka denying their every effort.

The final whistle blew thankfully. I don't remember clock watching so badly for a long time. The last bit of sustained pressure was a testament to the home side. In summary, we deserved a draw. Ipswich played very well in the first half but failed to convert to the healthy lead they deserved. The second half saw us with the lion's share and pulling back the much needed goal, again we should have tested their keeper much more.

A very enjoyable game with some end to end stuff at times. The pundits who thought Ipswich were destined for relegation this season shall be sorely mistaken. If we played 'as a team' as well as Ipswich, with our flair and talent we would be top of the league today.

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