United for the Blues

SUFFOLK was today holding its breath as Ipswich Town prepared for its biggest match for four years.Good luck messages were flooding in from across the area as the team prepared to travel to Upton Park for the second leg of the play-off semi-final against West Ham.

SUFFOLK was today holding its breath as Ipswich Town prepared for its biggest match for four years.

Good luck messages were flooding in from across the area as the team prepared to travel to Upton Park for the second leg of the play-off semi-final against West Ham.

More than 5,000 Town fans are heading to east London this afternoon – and hundreds of thousands more will be following the team's progress on satellite television or radio.

Good luck messages were flooding into the club – and former mayor Richard Risebrow was preparing his warpaint for a trip to Cardiff.

Town Wembley hero Roger Osborne will be watching the match on television tonight, but he was able to give today's players some advice.

"This is a massive game, but they all know that," he said. "They need to keep steady heads and we all hope they show the same commitment they did on Saturday," he said.

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Ipswich mayor Penny Breakwell will be at a function tonight, so will be unable to follow much of the match.

"I'll catch up with it on the radio. If they play like they did on Saturday they'll get through without any worry," she said.

Mr Risebrow's expressive face has summed up the agony and ecstasy of being a Town fan over recent years.

In 2000 he travelled to Wembley for the play-off final in full warpaint – and his anxiety at the Cardiff match as he tuned into the radio summed up the mood of thousands of Town fans.

"I'm going to my son's home to watch the match on Sky. I'd do anything for a ticket, but I missed out I'm afraid," he said.

"If we get through I'll be at the front of the queue for Cardiff tickets. I'll certainly get the facepaint out again – and the bunting for my house," he said.

Pubs and clubs around the county will be screening the match live – but one place you won't be able to see it is Portman Road.

"We aren't allowed to screen Sky matches except on match days," explained Town spokesman Terry Baxter.

"The only difference to that is if we beam back a match that isn't being screened – like with the Norwich match in March."

Portman Road has been gripped by nervous anticipation today – but there is a growing belief that the club can progress to Cardiff.

"We want to do the job in 90 minutes, though," he said. "We don't want to go through a repeat of the Sunderland-Palace match last night."

A total of 25 coaches was leaving Portman Road this afternoon taking about 1,500 fans to London.

Others were making their own way to West Ham, either by car or train.

Extra stops – and a relief train – will be run by One Anglia for fans heading to London today.

All trains from Ipswich to London between 3.41pm and 5.41pm will stop at Stratford where there is an easy underground link to Upton Park tube station.

On the way back trains will stop at Stratford at 10.38, 11.05, 11.27 and 11.38pm.

If there is extra time and penalties these may be held on police advice. One Anglia spokesman Peter Meades said fans will not be abandoned in east London however late the match finishes.

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