Play-off heartache still haunts Michael Chopra

IT is the worst way to lose a football match.

On the day the Championship play-offs get under way, Ipswich Town striker Michael Chopra has relieved the heartache of two consecutive failed attempts at getting promoted to the Premier League through the end-of-season showcase.

Chopra was left in tears on the Wembley turf two years ago when Blackpool beat Cardiff City 3-2 before the Bluebirds lost in last year’s semi-final to Reading – in a match that also saw Jay Emmanuel-Thomas feature.

Now as Cardiff look to make it third time lucky, starting in tonight’s semi-final first-leg against West Ham, the memories are all too vivid for Town’s leading marksman.

Chopra said: “I was gutted to lose the final – it took me a long time to recover from it to be honest. We felt it was our year so to lose to Blackpool at Wembley was emotionally draining, even though they were the better team on the day.

“I scored the first goal which was a great feeling but to get so close and not win was terrible. Wembley really is the worst place to lose.”

But Cardiff, West Ham and fellow semi-finalists Birmingham City and Blackpool, who meet tomorrow night, will not yet be thinking about being just one victory off the Premier League.

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Town fans will watch tonight’s match in the frustrated knowledge that they went unbeaten against the two teams who finished third and sixth in the Championship. A 2-2 draw at Cardiff in October was followed by an impressive 3-0 win in February.

But it was against Sam Allardyce’s Hammers that Town really impressed – a 1-0 win at Upton Park in September and then a 5-1 Portman Road thrashing at the end of January.

Chopra added: “I joined Ipswich to get to the Premier League and that remains my goal.”