30 May 2005
Championship play-off final
Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
West Ham United 1-0 Preston North End
Back in Cardiff for the second year running, and every West Ham United fan was praying that they had learnt their lessons from the previous season. It was a second chance that had to be taken.
The prize was quite simply the biggest in world football. West Ham United were ironically meeting Preston North End, their opponents back in 1964 when Bobby Moore lead the Hammers to their first major trophy. It was now Bobby Zamora who could be come a legend. Preston had nothing to lose, as they were unfancied at the start of the season and could enjoy the occasion. Alan Pardew's team had a job to do.
It started well enough for the Hammers with Tomas Repka hitting the post and Matthew Etherington going close, but by half-time neither side had really threatened. Just after the restart both Marlon Harewood and Zamora squandered glorious chances, and you wondered if it was to be West Ham United's day.
Then on 57 minutes Etherington raced free down the left flank and knocked over the perfect cross. Zamora elegantly clipped the ball towards the corner, just out reach of the diving keeper and sent the travelling thousands into ecstasy.
There was still time for more drama though. Jimmy Walker, who had been an immense presence between the sticks, twisted his knee claiming a cross.
He fell outside the box and was carried off in some pain. Stephen Bywater, who had not seen action since March, came on and immediately had to face a Preston free kick. The youngster got down low, held on to the ball and West Ham held on to victory.
When that final whistle sounded the release of pressure from every one of the Hammers support could have lifted the roof off of the stadium, if it wasn't already open. We were back were we belong.
West Ham United: Walker (Bywater 87), Repka, Ferdinand, Ward, Powell, Newton (Noble 82), Mullins, Reo-Coker, Etherington, Harewood, Zamora (Dailly 74).
18 May 2005
Championship play-off semi-final second leg
Ipswich Town 0-2 West Ham United (West Ham United win 4-2 on aggregate)
After a turbulent year, West Ham United secured a play-off spot on the final day with an away win at Watford. Their opponents were again Ipswich Town, but this time the roles were reversed. The Tractor Boys were unlucky to miss out on automatic promotion, after topping the league for so long, and visited the sixth-placed Hammers at the Boleyn Ground first.
The home side were off to a dream start when Marlon Harewood fired them ahead after only seven minutes and Bobby Zamora made two six minutes later. Ipswich pulled one back before half time however, and eventually equalised in the second half. The stage was set for another unbearably tense evening under the lights. Both sides created chances in the opening 45 minutes, but the game remained level at the break.
Bobby Zamora had not had the greatest of seasons so far, but he was about to begin to etch his name into Hammers folklore. Carl Fletcher found Harewood, who spun round his marker and in to the box before drilling a tantalising low cross right across the goalmouth. Zamora was ready and waiting to tap in the easiest but most vital goal of his career so far.
No sooner had West Ham settled into their stride again after the restart Zamora struck again. Alan Pardew's men were defending deep when the ball
broke out to Harewood on the right. His quick one-two with Nigel Reo-Coker sent the pacey striker away and he sent over a lofted ball towards Zamora.
If the first was one of Zamora's easiest goals, the second was surely one of the most difficult, but he watched the ball all the way on to his trusty
left foot before sending a looping volley over the stranded Kelvin Davis, and the Hammers back to Cardiff.
West Ham United: Walker, Repka (Dailly 76), Ferdinand, Ward, Powell, Harewood, Fletcher, Mullins, Reo-Coker, Etherington (Noble 89), Zamora (Newton 79).