The play-offs are looking ever more likely for the Hammers after a vital two points were dropped at Ashton Gate to leave the East Londoners five points behind Southampton in second, with two games left to play. Sam Allardyce has said that it would take a “miracle” for the Hammers to be in second come the end of the season as not only does it rely on Southampton slipping up away at Middlesbrough and at home to Coventry, but the Irons have to go to King Power Stadium, knowing only a win against the Foxes can keep their slim chances of promotion alive and have to win at home against Hull. With the dreaded playoffs looming, let’s look back at West Ham’s previous success in 2005, when they beat Preston at the Millennium Stadium, to gain promotion from the Championship at the second time of asking.
The Hammers finished sixth in the 2004/05 season, coming close behind Preston and Derby County, with Ipswich coming third 12 points ahead of the Hammers. The final positions meant that West
Ham faced Joe Royal’s Ipswich side that finished only two points behind Wigan in second place. The Tractor Boys arrived at Upton Park on the 14th of May 2005 hoping to take a win back to Portman Road but Royal’s men where 2-0 down inside 13 minutes, with Harewood and Zamora scoring for the Hammers. The Tractor Boys fought back to draw 2-2, with an own goal from Jimmy Walker and a late Shefki Kuqi strike earning Ipswich a draw. With the tie in the balance, the Hammers were under enormous pressure going into the second leg, knowing that losing would spell the end of the promotion dream and most likely, the end of Pardew’s West Ham career. The Hammers won 2-0
following two goals from on fire striker Bobby Zamora. The Millennium Stadium awaits.
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West Ham watched Derby and Preston draw the next day, which meant Preston secured a place in the final, following a 2-0 win in the first leg. The final was to be played on the 30 th of May, which
gave both teams plenty of time to prepare for what would be the biggest match of their lives, with the prize of Premier League football for the victor.
It was like being a child at Christmas for the two sets of supporters as the big day dawned. 70,275 fans were in the stadium to support their teams in the bid to play in the greatest league in the world.
The stage was set, the fans eagerly anticipating what was set to be a tremendous clash between to heavyweights of football, with both clubs having a decorated history. The teams were lead out to an
almighty roar from the crowd and fireworks as the nerves of both the fans and the players began to set in. The Hammers’ team lined up with Jimmy Walker in goal, Repka, Ward, Ferdinand and Powell at the back, Newton, Reo Coker, Mullins and Etherington in midfield and Harewood and Zamora upfront. Sheringham, Bywater, Dailly, Fletcher and Noble, the only player in the squad for the 2005 play-off final still playing for the club today, were on the bench. Preston kept their same team that drew to Derby in the previous game. The national anthem was sung as the two teams lined up side by side, knowing that a life changing 90 minutes lay ahead of them.
The game kicked off at 15:00 with the Hammers coming close to opening the scoring in the first four minutes. A through ball from Reo Coker to Repka opened up the Preston defence, but Repka’s
shot hit the outside of the post. The Hammers continued in the same vein, with both Zamora and Harewood going close. Preston had done the double over the Hammers in the League, however it
was the boys in claret and blue who enjoyed the early possession, passing the ball around nicely in Cardiff and going close through Matthew Etherington. The two sides went in 0-0 at the break, with
the second half being more of the same. Preston struggled to maintain possession, but managed to create chances through well worked set pieces, with Cresswell’s effort being cleared off the line. The Hammers then should have been 1-0 up following Reo-Coker’s pass through to Harewood, who saw his shot saved excellently by Carlo Nash and Zamora’s rebound cleared off the line.
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The Hammers took the lead in the 57th minute when Bobby Zamora slotted home from six yards from Matthew Etherington’s cross, cue 35,000 West Ham fans in the stadium to erupt and
thousands more around the country. It was no more than the Hammers deserved after their early dominance, who faced a nervy last half an hour, which turned out to be longer than they thought.
Zamora could have made it 2-0 and put the result beyond any doubt, but his header from Etherington’s free kick went over the bar. Billy Davis’ Preston didn’t give up and could have levelled
through both Nugent and Cresswell. The Preston side changed to 4-3-3 to try and grab a goal back and West Ham tried to maintain the lead, with Dailly replacing goal scorer Zamora.
With West Ham fans biting through whatever was left of their fingernails, Jimmy Walker handled outside the area and in the process, injured his knee. Walker left on a stretcher, with Stephen
Bywater replacing him for the last 10 minutes. The first job for Bywater was to save the free kick from McKenna, which he did with ease.
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The Lilywhites were throwing everything they had at the Hammers and they had further hope when the referee added on an extra seven minutes of injury time, however the Hammers held on
to secure promotion to the Premier League, after a 2 year absence. “I’m forever blowing bubbles” was heard in every pub in East London and around the Millennium Stadium, as the players and fans began to celebrate a remarkable return to the English top flight. For Preston, they were left with the thought of what might have been and their 44 year absence set to continue.
What are your memories of this famous victory? Do you think we can repeat it this year? Have we got a better chance this year? Tweet Me @TollyCoburn