Town crash out

ONCE again Ipswich Town were found wanting on the big occasion as they crashed out of the play-off semi-finals for the sixth time in their history, writes Derek Davis.

ONCE again Ipswich Town were found wanting on the big occasion as they crashed out of the play-off semi-finals for the sixth time in their history, writes Derek Davis.

A Bobby Zamora double ended Blues hopes of a place in the Premiership for at least another season as West Ham went through to meet either Preston or Derby in the final.

Although they huffed and puffed, Ipswich never seriously troubled Jimmy Walker in the Hammers goal, and the Londoners exploited the soft underbelly of Town – their midfield.

The Blues started with the side that finished so strongly at Upton Park in the first leg.

With Pablo Counago ruled out with a groin strain, Jimmy Juan, who has Champions' League experience with Monaco, got the nod over the untried Dean McDonald on the bench.

The Hammers brought in Carl Fletcher in place of wide man Shaun Newton while Zamora, who was struggling with a calf strain, held off the challenge from Mark Noble for a starting slot.

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The cauldron of noise asked for was duly supplied as the 30,000 sell-out crowd set the tempo, even the mascots covered their ears at the din.

In a frantic opening spell the best early chance fell for Darren Currie from a Jason De Vos flick on, but he hit his shot straight at Walker.

Currie almost deceived Walker with a swerving shot which the keeper looked to have covered, but it ended up bouncing off him and over the bar. It could so easily have gone in.

Tommy Miller struck a thunderous drive which was blocked then hit a left-foot first-time shot wide.

Apart from Richard Naylor causing problems at corners Town were mainly kept at arm's length by a rugged Hammers back line in the opening half.

The speed at which West Ham broke caused no end of problems and only outstanding goalkeeping from Kelvin Davis kept them at bay.

He produced a brilliant catch from a Zamora cross with Marlon Harewood lurking and then needed to be alert again when Matthew Etherington wriggled free into the box and hit a good shot. Davis punched away a Tomas Repka effort after he got on the end of a delightful crossfield ball from Fletcher.

Repka then laid out Davis with a wicked drive, which the Town player of the year put behind to safety with his face.

Naylor did enough to put Zamora off getting a clean shot after he found time to chest down a Chris Powell cross as Town clung on, with the midfield being overrun.

Ian Westlake's only contribution was a wildly late tackle on Etherington which earned him a booking. The Hammers' winger was roundly booed but should take it as a compliment to his ability to cause Ipswich so many problems.

Westlake put his team in more trouble when he failed to control a ball and Harewood pounced but was fouled and Naylor rescued the situation.

How it got to nil-nil at half time was almost inexplicable.

There was no let-up in the relentless pace with Nigel Reo-Coker forcing Davis to get down smartly to a 25-yard drive after being allowed to run from midfield unopposed. The keeper did the same with a Zamora effort and smothered another Harewood attempt.

Miller robbed Fletcher but sent his shot wide and Magilton curled a 30-yard free-kick off target.

The breakthrough for the Hammers came just after the hour when the Town midfield were once again absent and Fletcher played a ball in for Harewood, who turned Matt Richards. His low cross was turned in by Zamora from two yards out.

Their second stemmed from a Town free-kick which Harewood cleared. He then got the ball back just in front of the dug-outs before delivering a wonderful diagonal ball. The cross went between Fabian Wilnis and Magilton and Zamora hit a stunning left-foot volley to guide the ball past Davis.

Ipswich tried to respond and Anton Ferdinand blocked a Currie drive for a corner.

Dean Bowditch went on for Magilton and the substitution almost had the desired effect within moments as Currie picked Bowditch out with a lovely through ball and the youngster took it on his heel – but he couldn't get the shot away.

Bent went close with a downward header in time added on but Town's bubble had well and truly been burst by then.

Harewood behaved disgracefully by trying to get Davis in trouble but was himself booked for diving in an undignified and unpleasant climax.

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