Mahon's good luck message

FORMER Portman Road loan star Alan Mahon today cast aside his own play-off pain to declare: "I'm backing Ipswich all the way."The Republic of Ireland international was a big hit during a 12-game, one-goal temporary stint with Town and was keen to make the move permanent.

By Mel Henderson

FORMER Portman Road loan star Alan Mahon today cast aside his own play-off pain to declare: "I'm backing Ipswich all the way."

The Republic of Ireland international was a big hit during a 12-game, one-goal temporary stint with Town and was keen to make the move permanent.

But instead it was ambitious Wigan who landed the 26-year-old midfielder, who is still recovering from the shock of Sunday's dramatic events.

While Town edged into the play-offs by virtue of a home draw with Cardiff, Mahon and Co looked like joining them by beating another top six side, West Ham, at the JJB Stadium.

The former Tranmere, Sporting Lisbon and Blackburn star today relived the last-gasp moment when Wigan's play-off dream was shattered.

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He said: "I had come off and I was watching the two live games on

separate monitors in the tunnel. There was just a minute or so left.

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"Crystal Palace were still losing 2-1 at Coventry, we were leading 1-0 and I was thinking to myself 'We're in here, we've made the play-offs'.

"Then I heard a roar and I ran up the tunnel to discover Brian Deane had popped one in for West Ham. It was a horrible

feeling, because it was too late for us to get back at them."

That goal closed the play-off door for Wigan and instead earned Palace, who looked like dropping out of the top six, a reprieve.

But Mahon, who will never forget his time at Ipswich, is now willing Ipswich to see off the Hammers en route to regaining their big-time status.

He added: "I've a lot of friends down there. I still speak to some of the lads – big Shefki, Tommy Miller, Jamma (Jermaine Wright) and Georges Santos – and I'd love them to go all the way.

"I keep an eye on how they are doing. I enjoyed my football there and everyone knows I would have been very interested in signing permanently.

"But they couldn't come up with the money to match what Blackburn wanted and Wigan did. They are another decent club and have been very good to me.

"To be honest I was looking forward to the play-offs and the possibility of playing Ipswich. That would have felt a bit strange to me, but you get these situations in football. In the end it just

wasn't to be."

Now, while his own season is over, his Portman Road pals hope they can win a double-header against the Hammers to set up a final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on May 29.

Mahon said: "I really hope Ipswich go on and win it. They deserve it – they have a great set of lads, great supporters and great management. They are a Premiership club in every way."

Town boss Joe Royle revealed that Mahon sent him a good-luck text message last week ahead of the last-day fixtures.

He added: "Alan's a good lad and I know he loved it here. We'd have dearly loved to have kept him, but we couldn't afford it."

n Durham referee Mark Clattenburg will be in charge of Ipswich's play-off clash with West Ham on Saturday.

Previously, he has only

officiated at one Town game – the East Anglian derby defeat at Norwich in March when he

dismissed defender Drissa Diallo.

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