Sheringham pays penalty for Hammers

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The Independent Football

West Ham United 1 Ipswich Town 1

A little over two years ago, this fixture was a Premiership one but on Saturday it was in the Championship that they met. That was not all that had changed since they faced each other in March 2002 at Upton Park, when Ipswich succumbed to a 3-1 defeat and were drifting towards relegation.

Of course West Ham followed 12-months later and life has changed massively for both clubs since their salad days among the élite. For Ipswich, it had been a stay of just two years, for the Hammers, a dozen.

Just two players - full-back Fabian Wilnis and midfielder Tommy Miller - were in the Suffolk side's line-up at the weekend who also played that match two years ago, although Jim Magilton, who played on Saturday, was also an Ipswich player back then. For West Ham, the damage has been just as bad with, again, only a brace of players forming a common bond between now and then.

They went on to finish seventh that year, which must now seem like aeons ago for the east Londoners. Those around for that victory two years ago were Steve Lomas, back from injury and on the bench here, and Tomas Repka. Christian Dailly, a Hammer for almost four years, was here, but absent injured.

So many players have left both clubs in the last 30 months that they have given the impression of rebuilding on quicksand. With each season that passes without promotion and the resultant riches, more chopping and changing is required.

For the Ipswich manager, Joe Royle, the incumbent since October 2002, that process has barely stopped. As he noted after his side had come from behind on Saturday for a deserved point: "You feel a difference between these clubs. They've taken on four players recently. During the summer we lost eight and got two.

"The wage bill is also a quarter of what it was when I came. We're financially stable although not to the stage where we can bring players in. I've got a loan budget for one player from now until Christmas and I'll be looking to use that as soon as possible." With that, there is some promise in the air at both clubs. Ipswich recovered from a disastrous start to last year to make the play-offs, where they were beaten by West Ham, who lost in the final to Crystal Palace. Both sides are in the top six.

Ipswich were also able to rebuff a £3m offer from Charlton in August for their England under-21 striker Darren Bent, on whom many East Anglian promotion hopes rest these days. As Royle said: "We could turn down the money from Charlton and that was a big step. Clubs can make an offer for him in January but I'm going to lock him up."

Alan Pardew, the Hammers manager since last October, has most notably overseen the sale of David James, Jermain Defoe and recently Michael Carrick, but now feels that he finally has a steady squad with which he can work towards promotion. "We had so many fires to put out," he said, "but we're settled and stronger now. We can grow as a team." One of those four new signings, Malky Mackay, put the Hammers in front and Teddy Sheringham's penalty would have doubled that lead but he dragged it wide.

That proved crucial as Pablo Counago swivelled from six yards out to find the equaliser. It may not have improved their third place in the division, but it was certainly an improvement on March 2002.

Goals: Mackay (11) 1-0; Counago (57) 1-1. West Ham Utd: (4-4-2): Bywater; Powell, Mackay, Davenport, Repka; Etherington, Reo-Coker, Fletcher, Chadwick (Rebrov, 80); Sheringham (Mullins, 80), Harewood. Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Brevett, Lomas.

Ipswich Town: (4-4-2): Davis; Wilnis, De Vos, Naylor, Diallo; Westlake, Magilton (Dinning, 75), Horlock, Miller; Bent, Counago (Kuqi, 75) Substitutes not used: Price (gk), Richards, Bowditch.

Referee: R Styles (Waterlooville).

Bookings: Ipswich Town: Counago, Westlake.

Man of the Match: Reo-Coker.

Attendance: 28,812.