Back in the Day: May 29th - Crystal Palace Beat West Ham in Cardiff
Saturday 29th May 2004
Crystal Palace 1-0 West Ham United
League Division One Play-Off Final – Att: 72,523
Manager: Iain Dowie
Iain Dowie’s Crystal Palace took on Alan Pardew’s West Ham United for a place in the Premier League at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Pardew’s men were the firm favourites for the match, but, after being in relegation trouble at Christmas, Dowie’s men believed they could upset the odds.
The Eagles had the best of the opening exchanges, and Andy Johnson headed over a Wayne Routledge cross from close range – if he would have left the ball alone there is no doubt that Neil Shipperley would have finished it behind him.
Either side of this AJ chance, Danny Butterfield and Shaun Derry both went close from free kicks and, from the corner that resulted from Derry’s effort, Danny Granville fluffed his effort at the back stick with the goal gaping.
Palace were nearly made to pay for missing their early chances. Michael Carrick released Bobby Zamora over the top, but the “Brighton Reject” was denied by Nico Vaesen. Moments later, Stephen Bywater had to be sharp to deny Johnson low down.
Christian Dailly headed wide a free header from a corner as West Ham started to get a foothold in the game, but the Palace defence did well to limit West Ham to shots from range.
Then came the big chance of the first half. Michael Hughes let fly from range, but his effort was blocked and spooned up into the air. Everyone stopped except Hughes, who followed his shot in, and suddenly he was one on one with Bywater. The Northern Ireland international tried to lift the ball over Bywater, but the stopper got a leg on the ball. It was not enough to stop the ball, however, and only Tomas Repka prevented the opening goal with a sliding goal-line clearance.
The teams went in goalless at the break.
Palace came out early in the second half, and Shipperley gave the Hammers an early warning sign with a shot from the edge of the area. David Connolly followed suit. Neither effort looked like threatening the scorers.
Tit for tat continued with half chances. Shipperley fired home from inside the six-yard box after picking up a Tony Popovic knockdown, before Steve Lomas let fly from range only to be denied by a flying Vaesen.
Then came the breakthrough. Johnson won possession around the halfway line and passed to Routledge. Routledge found Aki Riihilahti in the centre circle and the Finns pass released Johnson between the lines. His pace scared the Hammers’ defence. They backed off and backed off, inviting a shot. Johnson obliged with a left-footed effort, but it looked set to be gobbled up by Bywater. Instead, the keeper fumbled the ball and Shipperley was on hand to tap home from five yards out. The first man to him in celebration – Semi-Final hero Darren Powell, who was warming up behind the goal.
Connolly thought he had equalised almost immediately, but the linesman’s flag correctly denied the striker. Zamora then thought he had levelled; again a West Ham striker had strayed offside. In the crowd, the Palace fans were having a party at their opponent’s expense.
Brian Deane replaced Zamora and entered the field to a hero’s welcome from the Palace fans. The West Ham forward had scored against Wigan with the last kick of the regular season – a goal that put Palace into the Play-Offs at the Latics’ expense. Oh, how they must have been regretting that strike.
West Ham piled on the pressure in the closing stages but could do nothing other than create half chances. A stoppage-time brawl summed up the losing sides frustrations, a kick from Bywater straight into touch with their last chance to get it forward summed up their afternoon.
Graham Poll sounded the full-time whistle and Palace were back in the Premier League after six traumatic years away.
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