Christian Dailly could not have been a more fitting play-off hero for West Ham United according to the club's manager, Alan Pardew.
On Tuesday night, the Scotland international hardly had the strength to hit the goal which secured his side a place in the First Division play-off final after being winded in the build-up. But he has been through the wars all season and even lost teeth in West Ham's attempt to bounce back at the first attempt from last summer's relegation.
Dailly's goal against Ipswich Town in the second leg of their semi-final ensured a 2-1 aggregate victory and only Crystal Palace now lie between them and a return to the Premiership, and Pardew paid tribute to his captain. "He is obviously from the Highlands," the West Ham manager said.
"He would have been a good extra in Braveheart. He literally has got scars everywhere this year. There is a lot of things you could say players don't do but people should focus on what players do do.
"Christian Dailly has been rock solid for us all year with his mentality and his professionalism and 90 per cent of his performances have been very assured. He was terrific."
Matthew Etherington had given Dailly the platform to shine with a spectacular opener which cancelled out Ipswich's slender advantage from the first leg at Portman Road. The former Tottenham winger was never given a real chance to prove his worth at White Hart Lane, but Pardew insists he is fulfilling his potential at Upton Park.
He said: "There are a lot of players in the Premiership out of the scene who need 10 or 15 games to get their confidence. They need that belief to be instilled in them. Matt's had that opportunity here. They doubled up on him and he had to be patient but when his moment came he produced a bit of Premiership quality. He was terrific.
"The work ethic of this team is strong and you know your warriors are going to give you everything but sometimes your offensive players are the key to victory if they work hard and that is what we got."
His Ipswich counterpart, Joe Royle, was bitterly disappointed that his side could not hold on to the advantage given to them by Darren Bent at Portman Road. Bent had a glorious chance to extend Town's aggregate lead within minutes of the kick-off, but he shot wide.
Ipswich did not offer a consistent threat to the West Ham goal until they were behind, although Ian Westlake's stoppage time shot could have forced extra-time had it not hit the woodwork.
But Royle admitted that class had told in the end, with the contribution of players like Etherington proving decisive.
Royle said: "West Ham were stronger throughout. Their million-pound players were the difference. We are a collection of raw lads."Reuse content