Town's play-off in lap of luxury

WHEN Ipswich Town kicks off its play-off campaign at West Ham the players will have one less thing to worry about – the chance of being hit by a wayward tennis ball are considerably lower than at their last game.

WHEN Ipswich Town kicks off its play-off campaign at West Ham the players will have one less thing to worry about - the chance of being hit by a wayward tennis ball are considerably lower than at their last game.

That was the farcical situation Town faced when playing at Brighton and Hove Albion's modest Withdean Stadium on Sunday.

But The Blues will go from the ridiculous to the sublime when they play at Upton Park on Saturday in the first leg of the play-off semi-final.

The Boleyn Stadium, with a capacity of 35,000, is one of the Championship's most impressive grounds.

Ipswich will be more likely to see purpose-built facilities and digital media technology than the rickety portable changing rooms and ramshackle temporary stands they had to deal with on the south coast.

The Seagull's sorry excuse for a stadium is by no means the fault of the club. The board and fans have been battling for a new 22,000-seater ground at neighbouring Falmer for years.

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But that does not disguise that the ground - originally built as a venue for Davis Cup tennis in the 1930s - is miles away from Championship standard.

The fact a ball from a neighbouring tennis court flew onto the pitch and stopped the game on Sunday says it all.

An impressive ground, like that at Upton Park, is far more likely to help create a good atmosphere, and Town know from the away leg of last year's play-off campaign how intimidating the Hammers' crowd can be.

Clarets' boss Alan Pardew encouraged his fans to make it a "hostile and jumping stadium" and it resulted in the loudest noise levels the stadium had ever seen.

It was worlds away from the hubbub at Brighton, but then there were only 7,000 fans there (and a dozen or so hiding up trees in the surrounding woodland).

On Saturday, Town fans will be sat in the two-tiered, 15,000 capacity Centenary Stand - a far cry from the temporary away stand at the Withdean which travelling fans said they thought was going to fall apart as they celebrated Shefki Kuqi's early goal.

WEBLINK: www.footballgroundguide.co.uk

What do you think of the standards of stadiums in the Championship? Are you proud of Portman Road? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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