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Memorable matches: West Ham

February 24 2012

Neil Shipperley holds aloft the play-off trophy

Neil Shipperley holds aloft the play-off trophy

Ahead of the clash with West Ham, Tom Wellman recalls Crystal Palace's memorable win over the Hammers in the 2004 play-off final.

May 29th 2004 was a day when echoes of Glad All Over reverberated around Cardiff City Centre for hours following the climax of a tight affair. Seven-and-a-half years on, the same city centre partied long into the night at the expense of our brave Eagles who marched all the way to the Carling Cup semis, but let’s not get into that.

Happier memories of Cardiff were pushed aside recently. The bitter pain still aches, so instead I’ll regale more fortuitous times in the Welsh capital.

We travel to Upton Park this Saturday for the first time since the 2003/04 season; one which still remains firmly etched in the memories of everyone at the club to this day.

Beginning the season awkwardly, our surge upwards coincided with Iain Dowie’s appointment and with a little help from our eventual play-off finalists; we met the Hammers in Cardiff to decide who would take the final Premier League spot for the following season.

Both sets of fans travelled westwards towards the Millennium Stadium, jamming the M4 up considerably as regular taunts from car windows and service stations continued along the painfully tedious crawl into Wales, the opposition assuming they could simply turn up and secure promotion.

How wrong they were. It wasn’t comfortable and nor was it pretty, neither was it in anywhere near resembling the ‘West Ham way’ as team spirit and determination outfought Super Alan Pardew’s bubble blowing army.

Goalscoring hero Andy Johnson sent a header just over before on-loan goalkeeper Nico Vaesen saved superbly from Bobby Zamora and Steve Lomas to keep it at 0-0. Typical of a final, both teams failed to create many significant chances.

That was until Johnson’s shot was pushed into Neil Shipperley’s path to convert an easy tap in and send the red and blue army wild. Half an hour remained, could we actually be about to gain promotion six months after being in the bottom three?

West Ham tried their best but a resilient back four denied them consistently and the time finally elapsed meaning Palace were back in the Premier League!

Scenes of vast joy and jubilation unfurled in the stands as Shipperley raised the cup aloft, beginning the crazy celebrations we continue to reminisce of as Glad All Over drowned out the defeated Hammer’s ‘Forever Blowing Bubbles’.

Palace: Vaesen; Butterfield (Powell 69’), Popovic, Leigertwood, Granville; Routledge, Riihilahti, Hughes, Derry; Shipperley, Johnson.

Subs not used: Freedman, Berthelin, Black, Watson.

Goals: Shipperley (61’)

Booked: Derry, Hughes, Routledge

Attendance: 72,523

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