As West Ham prepare for their final season at the Boleyn Ground, the club’s commercial department are planning a series of special events for the 2015/16 season.
One such item they want to produce is a book in which fans’ memories of special matches or moments at the famous old ground will be recorded. The recent, exhilarating, FA Cup third-round replay against Everton is a worthy candidate for inclusion, I think.
As the Hammers are all but safe in the Premier League already this season with 36 points and with nearly four months to go, Sam Allardyce sees the FA Cup as a priority this time around, especially after their dismal showing in last year’s competition.
When the away tie was drawn, most West Ham fans must have thought that the Toffees would once again halt their progress into round four, given that their side had not beaten Everton home or away since April 2007.
After James Collins had headed them into the lead on 55 minutes, the Irons had chances to go further in front. True to form, Big Sam switched to a defensive formation as he was hoping that his side could hang on to what they had.
To their credit, they nearly managed it. But as he always seems to do against us, striker Romelu Lukaku popped up with an equaliser in stoppage time. Probably the last thing Everton could have done with, given their exploits in Europe this campaign.
The match was set up after that 1-1 draw at Goodison Park and what a long, eventful night it proved to be.
On the pitch, the teams served up a thriller. But off of it, it was a nightmare for many. Those in the ticket office and those manning turnstiles were overwhelmed by the horrendous queues. There were still supporters entering the stadium at half-time. One fan I know had ordered tickets online when the general sale period began on the Saturday and he told me he finally received them the morning after the game. Not good preparation by those involved, one has to say.
West Ham fans will tell you the atmosphere under the lights at Upton Park is invariably something to behold and despite all the pre-match frustrations, this was no different. Although it was goalless at the break, both teams had played well throughout, but it was Enner Valencia’s 59th minute strike that seemingly put the Hammers on their way to the fourth round for the first time in five years and a trip to Ashton Gate to take on Bristol City.
But I guess we should have known better! A late goal out of nowhere from Kevin Mirallas levelled the match again, which provided yet another 30 minutes of high drama.
The home side’s nemesis Lukaku netted yet again to seemingly break our hearts after just seven minutes and as extra time drew to a close, Roberto Martinez’s men looked on course to continue their phenomenal record against the Hammers. It was fair to say that the majority inside the ground took umbrage at this decision to introduce Carlton Cole off the bench, but just 100 seconds after the striker replaced James Collins, the manager’s plan to go with three upfront proved spot on, as Cole put the ball past Joel Robles to send Upton Park rocking again.
The action was now frenetic. Both sides tried desperately to find a winner in order to prevent penalties deciding the tie but with the scores all square on the night after two pulsating hours of football, there was still more drama to come.
As the first round of five came to an end Stewart Downing stepped up to win the tie. Surely he couldn’t miss; but he did. Life is never easy as a Hammers fan.
So, on to Round 10 of sudden death and it was down to the opposing goalkeepers to step up to the mark. Adrian added to his emerging cult-hero status and made sure of West Ham’s progression to give Allardyce a first cup win since being appointed manager in June 2011.
I’m sure many fans will have great memories that they will submit for this book, but for me this game will have to be in there with them.