Sheffield United 3-3 West Ham United
17 January 2004
West Ham United maintained their promotion challenge with a fine away point although felt they should have taken all three in what was a thrilling contest.
After going a goal down to Paul Peschisolido's fifth-minute opener, the Hammers battled back to take a commanding lead at the interval in front of 22,287 fans packed into a chilly Bramall Lane.
Michael Carrick restored parity in the 19th minute before Jon Harley smashed in a 20-yarder against his old club to spark wild celebrations among team-mates and fans alike. It was to be the left-back's only goal in the claret and blue - or rather dark blue as was worn on the day - in 15 appearances.
It seemed as if the Hammers would go on and take all three points when Marlon Harewdood converted from close range before the half-time whistle.
Paul Shaw, on as a second-half substitute, reduced the arrears for the Blades in the 73rd minute before Stephen Bywater made a fine penalty save from Michael Tonge three minutes later to keep the visitors in front.
Matthew Etherington then had a great chance to make the game safe only to spurn the opportunity. The Hammers were punished deep into added time when Phil Jagielka equalised to make it 3-3 but the main job of not losing to a promotion rival had been achieved.
It proved to be a very precious point as, come the end of the season, West Ham United earned a Play-Offs place after finishing fourth in the table - just three points ahead of Sheffield United who missed out in eighth place.
The Hammers saw off Ipswich Town in the semi-finals before losing out 1-0 to Crystal Palace in the final at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium. The West Ham fans would only have to wait 12 months more though for the chance to make amends....