Draw thriller at Upton Park
By Simon Fudge
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Ipswich Town fought back to earn a 2-2 first leg draw at West Ham United.Ipswich Town came from two goals down to earn a 2-2 first leg draw with West Ham United in their Championship play-off semi-final.
The Hammers stormed into a 2-0 lead inside a quarter of an hour after goals from Marlon Harewood and Bobby Zamora.
However, a James Walker own-goal just before half time and a fortuitous Shefki Kuqi equaliser in the second half means the tie is well-poised for Wednesday's second leg at Portman Road after a pulsating first 90 minutes.
Hammers boss Alan Pardew stuck with the side that defeated Watford 2-1 at Vicarage Road on the final day of the season last Sunday.
Ipswich manager Joe Royle made two changes, with Drissa Diallo making his first start in five months by replacing the departed David Unsworth following the end his loan spell from Portsmouth, while Kevin Horlock came in for Darren Currie in midfield.
In front of a vocal midday crowd at Upton Park, the home side started brightest on the confetti-laden pitch.
They drew first blood on six minutes, as Matthew Etherington's pace caused Diallo problems on the left-hand side.
Etherington latched onto a flicked Jimmy Walker clearance before outpacing Diallo into the visitors' box while Harewood innocuously clipped the heels of Richard Naylor, as he made his run into the box.
With Harewood unmarked, Etherington slipped the simple pass to the former Nottingham Forest striker to finish past Kelvin Davis with ease for 1-0.
The goal prompted an Ipswich response, but Walker did well to punch away the ball from the onrushing Darren Bent who beat West Ham's offside trap to latch on to Jim Magilton's chipped pass.
Kuqi then failed to test Walker with a woeful right foot strike as The Hammers looked the better side throughout the half.
The East Londoners consolidated their fine start with a second goal before the quarter hour mark, as Etherington again got the better of Diallo on the left.
His low cross struck the leg of Ipswich centre back Jason de Vos in front of goal and Zamora was on hand to smash home left footed for 2-0.
West Ham were excellent at this stage and Zamora had a great chance to make it three, but his left foot strike in front of goal went wide after a fine passing sequence between Powell and Harewood in the Ipswich box.
Tomas Repka looked dangerous from his right back position and the hard-nosed Czech defender went wide of goal with a right foot effort while Bent failed to bother Walker with a right foot strike of his own.
Despite being second best in the opening 45 minutes, Ipswich pulled a goal back from a free kick after Kuqi was fouled by Repka on the edge of the West Ham box.
Tommy Miller stepped up to hit a low right foot shot that deflected off the edge of the West Ham wall before hitting the base of the post, then striking Walker on his left leg and bouncing into his own net for 2-1.
The goal was a lifeline for Royle's men, who vented his anger at his West Ham counterpart Pardew just before the break.
The restart saw a more evenly-played spell from both sides, though Ipswich should have levelled matters from a Magilton corner from the right.
His sublime set-piece found Kuqi unmarked, but the Finland international failed to connect properly with his onrushing header while Hayden Mullins forced a corner with a deflected strike that went just wide of Davis's goal moments later.
Davis then made a fine far post save from Anton Ferdinand's header after Shaun Newton picked him out in the box with his cross from the right.
The visitors responded through substitute Darren Currie's free kick from the left that he sublimely curled goalwards with his right foot and forced Walker into a fine far post save.
But Ipswich would restore parity with 16 minutes left, as Currie's ball into the West Ham box saw Bent's goal-bound strike deflect into the air off Chris Powell.
As the ball dropped, both Ferdinand and Walker got their wires crossed and allowed the ball to fall to an unmarked Kuqi in front of goal and he slammed his shot home right footed for 2-2.
With West Ham squandering a two-goal lead, they pushed forward for a first leg winner, with substitute Mark Noble having his penalty appeals waved away by referee Uriah Rennie while Mullins forced a save from Davis with his strike.
Harewood then missed a glorious chance to claim his second goal after turning in front of de Vos on the edge of the Ipswich box, but went wide with a low right foot strike.
In the end, the match ended in a 2-2 draw and if Saturday's action is anything to go by, Wednesday's second leg could prove to be a thriller in Suffolk.
| ||West Ham||Ipswich Town|
|Shots on target||5||2|
|Shots off target||7||5|