Coca Cola Championship
West Ham United 2 Ipswich Town 2

Saturday, 14th May 2005
by Graeme Howlett

West Ham let slip a two goal advantage against Ipswich in today's play-off first leg, leaving Wednesday's return match wide open.

With the away goals ruling NOT counting in the Championship play-off's both sides go into the second leg effectively starting from scratch following today's stalemate.

In the event of a draw after normal time in the second leg a further 30 minutes will be played, with a penalty shoot-out to follow if required. Which, on paper, would not appear to be a bad thing for the Hammers who have lost on just one of their last 14 visits to Portman Road.

But with just 13 minutes gone in this afternoon's game things looked much, much better for the Hammers, after Alan Pardew's side - buoyed by a lively atmosphere despite the ridiculously early 12.15 kick-off time - had Ipswich reeling after two goals from Marlon Harewood and Bobby Zamora.

Harewood got the Hammers off to a flyer after Matthew Etherington took advantage of a defensive lapse by Richard Naylor before skipping past the woeful (and later substituted) Drissa Diallo. Harewood had the simplest of chances after Etherington's generous pass - when a shot was possibly on - left him 2 yards out from an open goal.

With the Boleyn still rocking as a result of that goal, Bobby Zamora extended the Hammers lead on 13 minutes. Again Matthew Etherington was involved; his cross was only partially cleared by Jason De Vos and Zamora thumped the loose ball into the corner of Kelvin Davis' net to make it 2-0, and silence the travelling support.

Another goal at that point would have surely killed the visitors off, but Zamora and Harewood both saw chances go begging. With just a minute left of the first half, an innocuous-looking challenge on Shefki Kuqi by Tomas Repka - possibly playing his final game at the Boleyn - resulted in Uriah Rennie awarding a free-kick to the visitors some 25 yards from goal.

Repka protested immediately - and vehemently - and was rewarded with a yellow card and the ball being moved forward to the edge of the penalty area. After the resulting melee Tommy Miller's free-kick - via the outstretched leg of Repka - rebounded off the post before striking Jimmy Walker's leg and finding the back of the net. It was a cruel and undeserved blow for the Hammers who were well worth a two goal half-time cushion.

As the half-time whistle blew referee Rennie was greeted with a deafening chorus of boos by the home faithful. It was a scene that was to be repeated approximately an hour later upon the final whistle.

No doubt thinking how lucky his side were to go in just one down at the break, Ipswich manager Joe Royle responded by bringing on Darren Currie and Matthew Richards in place of Drissa Diallo and former Hammer Kevin Horlock for the second period. It was to prove a vital change, and by the time Alan Pardew reacted some 31 minutes later the damage had been done.

Currie proved a real livewire on the left-side for the Blues, and with that extra impetus - plus the odd-cynical challenge thrown in for good measure - the visitors began to take hold of the vital midfield battle. However they had keeper Kelvin Davis to thank for keeping them in the game when he made a world-class save from an Elliott Ward header on the hour mark.

If there are such things as 'turning points' in football matches then Davis' save could safely be considered as such - for just 14 minutes later, Ipswich were level.

Yet again Uriah Rennie had 28,000 people collectively up in arms when he booked the tiring Matthew Etherington for an(other) innocuous challenge on the right touchline, 30 yards from the Hammers goal. The resulting play saw Darren Currie's cross floated into the back post where the unusually quiet Darren Bent's shot was partially blocked by Chris Powell. As the ball dropped back into orbit the otherwise-excellent Anton Ferdinand became entangled with Jimmy Walker, and the ball dropped to the feet of Kuqi who gleefully tapped home the equaliser into an empty net.

Subsequent changes by Pardew - Noble for Zamora, Rebrov for Newton - were a case of too little, too late; Joe Royle's half-time changes having turned the game in Ipswich's favour. However there was still time for referee Rennie to fall foul of the home crowd once more; this time when substitute Noble had what appeared to be a legitimate shout for a penalty turned down.

So muted applause for the players at the final whistle, and a crescendo of boos for Uriah Rennie. As if that wasn't sufficient condemnation of his performance both managers criticised him in their post-match interviews.
How Joe Royle had cause to complain one can only wonder.

Speaking further after the game, Alan Pardew confirmed that Teddy Sheringham is definitely out of contention for Wednesday's match whilst Bobby Zamora's progress will be monitored after suffering further calf problems in today's game.

Whatever the result on Wednesday night, it couldn't be set up any better. For the second year in succession, Pardew's side go into the second leg with a lot of work still to do.

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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.


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

West Ham United: Jimmy Walker, Tomas Repka, Chris Powell, Elliott Ward, Anton Ferdinand, Nigel Reo-Coker, Hayden Mullins, Matthew Etherington, Shaun Newton, Bobby Zamora, Marlon Harewood.

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.

Subs not used: Price, Bowditch, Counago.

Goals: Walker og (44), Kuqi (74).

Booked: Wilnis (59), Naylor (85).

Sent off: None.

Referee: U.Rennie.

Attendance: 33,723.

Man of the Match: Anton Ferdinand.