Powell's Final Feeling

THERE was no mistaking the familiar grin on Chris Powell's face as he emerged from the dressing-room after the final whistle at Portman Road.

This time, however, the smile was even wider than usual, for the 35-year-old is now looking forward to the first major cup final of his career thanks to the memorable 2-0 victory over Ipswich Town.

Never mind personal milestones, though - as he reflected on another memorable night against the Tractor Boys, the left-back's only thought was to pay tribute to the team ethic that had been so evident as Hammers secured their place at the Millennium Stadium.

"It's a fantastic feeling for everyone connected with West Ham - the supporters, the players and all the staff" he said. "It's been a tough season, up and down, but we stuck at it and had belief in ourselves.

"I'm sure a lot of people thought we were down and out after the 2-2 draw at home, so it was a tough task for us to go come here and win, but we've playing well away from home recently and it really was the perfect night for us."

Having seen many critics write off the team's chances after letting a two-goal lead slip in the first leg at Upton Park on Saturday, the former England defender insisted that no such negativity had crept into Alan Pardew's squad as they prepared for the return clash, a point that was proved emphatically against a side with the best home record in the Championship this season.

"I know a few of our supporters were disheartened - I saw a few of them in the week," admitted Chris, "but I told them to remember that it was still 0-0 and we had an inner-confidence that, having come here and won on New Year's Day, we could do it again.

"Ipswich are a decent side, they finished third and have some very good players, but we have a lot of belief in the squad at the moment and I think maybe we had a bit of a psychological edge tonight. We sensed a bit of edginess among their players and fans, and once we went 1-0 up, you could see them thinking: 'Here we go again.'

"We gave a very professional performance and thoroughly deserved the win, as did the supporters, who were fantastic all night."

The sight of Chris orchestrating cheers among the ecstatic travelling Hammers fans after most of his team-mates had already headed down the tunnel last night was certainly an image to savour, and one that will hopefully be repeated in Cardiff on May 30th.

It may be his first-ever appearance a the Millennium Stadium, but the former Derby County and Charlton star is only too aware that the majority of supporters will be returning to the Welsh capital for the second year running, and he admits that his team-mates are desperate to make amends.

"I wasn't here last year, but I remember watching the game and I think, as a team, we've got a lot of making up to do" he said. "A few of the boys have said that they didn't perform on the day and I can tell that they are doubly determined to put that right.

"We know people will be talking about last season's failure and we have to use that in a positive way. 30,000 supporters were let down at the Millennium Stadium last year but we feel now, with the form we are in, we can give them a day out to remember this year."