Jim wants repeat of magic night in 2000

INSPIRATIONAL Ipswich Town skipper Jim Magilton is delighted that the away goals rule will not count in the play-offs against West Ham.

INSPIRATIONAL Ipswich Town skipper Jim Magilton is delighted that the away goals rule will not count in the play-offs against West Ham, writes Derek Davis.

The Ulsterman, who was at the centre of two dramatic semi-final encounters against Bolton, believes a straight shoot-out is the fairest way of reaching the final.

Magilton achieved legend status at Portman Road in 2000 for his hat-trick against Wanderers which fired the Blues into the final against Barnsley and subsequently Premiership football.

The passion-driven Irishman was in his element in an epic semi-final which saw two Bolton players dismissed in extra time before Town ran out 5-3 winners, 7-5 on aggregate. But he also remembers the heartache of going out on away goals the year before after winning 4-3 at home in their second leg.

Magilton said: “Going out on away goals as we have in the past is very hard to take so I'm no fan of them. It is fairer that whoever scores the most goals over the two games will go through.”

Town will fancy their chances after banging in 84 league goals this season, the highest in the division, with Darren Bent knocking in 15 of them.

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The Hammers, though, are no slouches in front of goal either, with Marlon Harewood finishing the regular season on 25 league goals, 12 for Nottingham Forest before his £1m move to Upton Park.

David Connolly has caused problems for Town in the past while Bobby Zamora is a recognised finisher.

Magilton said: “Both sides have good goal-scoring potential and I'm sure the managers will be looking for them to come through.

“Semi-finals are always nerve-wracking affairs because no one likes to lose when you know what the prize at the end of it is.

“It would be heartbreaking to miss out and we are ready for it.

“Training has been really good and there is a very competitive edge to it now.”

Magilton yesterday told the EADT of his regret at the way he reacted after being substituted against Cardiff but was delighted that despite a poor team performance the Blues reached the play-offs but insists that is not enough.

He said: “It means nothing now unless we actually win through and get to Cardiff. The manager, staff and players of every club will feel exactly the same way.

“We will be more relaxed for West Ham. We have achieved the mission of getting to the play-offs and now we can go on from there. A repeat of the 2000 Bolton semi-finals would be nice.

“We were poor against Cardiff and that was down to a combination of a few things. There were a lot of nerves, we looked a little leg weary after along season.

“We have got that out of our system now and we can relax now and play more like ourselves.”

Magilton might have had even more than three goals in that memorable May night in 2000 but missed a penalty and stood aside to allow Jamie Clapham take one in extra time.

While it was a terrific individual performance on a night full of heroes, Magilton insists the hat-trick would have counted for nothing had they not gone on to reach the Premiership.

He said: “The first year we got beat was a fantastic game against Bolton but we eventually went out on away goals. So it was good that we had the chance to get revenge the following year which we did.

“Obviously people will talk about the hat-trick but it only ever meant anything to me because we went on and won at Wembley. If we had not done that then it would have been a personal memory, but the fact that we did go on and win meant it was doubly special.

“It was a wonderful night, fantastic celebrations, but the job had not been done and we still had to win at Wembley.”

And win they did with Tony Mowbray, Richard Naylor, Marcus Stewart and Martijn Reuser the goal heroes that day.

Magilton said: “The final was a great game, which Barnsley played their part in making so good.

“It was a boyhood dream to play there and win and it was marvellous occasion which I would love to repeat.

“It would be wonderful to go to Cardiff and win but we know it will be a very tough task. Every one of the four teams going into these play-offs will fancy their chances.”

All away tickets for the second leg at West Ham have now been sold and remaining tickets for the home game on Saturday, which kicks off at 12.15pm, can now also be bought over the phone on 01473 400555, as well as 0870 444 1062 or calling at the ticket office. Lines are open between 9am to 8pm.

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