Sat, Jul


SHAKA HISLOP relived the moment he feared lightning had struck twice when his challenge left team-mate Igor Stimac lying in agony.

Stimac will be out for a month after his right calf was sliced to the bone by Hislop's studs two minutes from the end of this intriguing contest.

The Croat collided with his keeper in a three-way race for the ball with speedy Ipswich striker David Johnson.

As soon as Stimac cried out in pain, Hislop signalled furiously to the West Ham bench for help and desperately tried to hold the wound together as blood seeped through the defender's sock.

Hammers and Ipswich fans alike watched in horror. For the Town faithful football games should carry an 18-certificate. This was the second time this season they have witnessed a freak injury, after the dreadful leg-break suffered by Aston Villa's Luc Nilis four weeks ago.

For Hislop - who himself broke his leg in action last season - memories came flooding back of the game against Chelsea three years ago in which his collision with striker Pierluigi Casiraghi left the Italian with career-threatening knee ligament damage.

Trinidadian-born Hislop stayed focused enough during the final few minutes on Saturday to shut out Ipswich, then sprinted down the tunnel for news on Stimac.

Hislop said afterwards: "It was one of the nastiest looking things I have ever seen. Right now my thoughts are with him and I wish him a speedy recovery. There were three of us going for the ball - all quite committed - and my studs caught him. Thankfully he is looking at it as just one of those things.

"That is a great relief to me because he has not only been a team-mate he has been a great friend."

Hislop admitted thoughts of Casiraghi had entered his mind once his stricken team-mate had hit the deck. "It did, which is why it's a big relief to come in and hear there are no broken bones or torn ligaments.

"I had to put it to the back of my mind at least for another two minutes because we had to get the draw for Igor's troubles.

"The first thing he asked me when I got into the dressing room was: 'Did we get a point?' When I said yes he smiled and lay back and that made it feel that it was all worthwhile. So from that respect it was a great load off my mind."

The incident marred an entertaining see-saw confrontation in which Ipswich took the lead after just five minutes.

Come the end of the season they could rue their inability to build on such an advantage. Marcus Stewart headed in his fifth goal in five games when he directed his header past Hislop from a Fabian Wilnis cross.

There then followed a 15-minute spell in which the Hammers should have been crushed. A last-ditch tackle from Rio Ferdinand prevented a second Town goal and Hislop was a relieved man to see Jim Magilton's shot come off the post into his arms.

For the Hammers, Joe Cole was quiet, Freddie Kanoute ran into cul-de-sacs and Paolo Di Canio preferred to go for the outrageous when keeping it simple would have paid dividends.

Still, the Italian proved just why he is worth persevering with when he rifled home a stunning left-foot volley from Trevor Sinclair's cross with 20 minutes left.

West Ham were lucky. Who knows what might have happened had Stewart, with the score 1-0, converted Jamie Clapham's through ball which dissected two defenders just before half-time?

Clapham has played a key role in Ipswich wins over Leeds and Everton. He has also helped the side take points off Manchester United and Arsenal. But he will probably get nowhere near the England side, because if Kevin Phillips cannot get a look-in at Sunderland, what chance does he have at even less fashionable Ipswich?

Still, if the next England manager wants to get the train to Portman Road, former Town and England man Kevin Beattie would gladly pay the train fare. The central defender played just nine games for his country - all at left back - and he believes Clapham could do far better. "I've been going on about him for a year now," said Beattie. "He is the fittest player at the club and has great defending and attacking skills. Also, unlike a lot of left-footed players he can use his right foot.

"That's what England have been crying out for. I've been admiring him since he came to the club from Spurs. He's really special."

Bombed out of White Hart Lane for only pounds 250,000 by that great judge of a player Christian Gross, Clapham has fought back admirably to reclaim the spotlight.

He said: "When Christian was around he made it clear that Spurs were a spending club and that he wouldn't play me in the team as he needed more experienced players. He never gave me an opportunity. Even when there were players injured he simply played people out of position."

Now better off out of it, Clapham is blossoming. And, with his feet doing as much talking as they have done this season, the international scene could be looking rosy for him sooner rather than later.

IPSWICH: R Wright 6, Wilnis 7, McGreal 6, Venus 7, Hreidarsson 6, J Wright 6, Magilton 7, Holland 7, Clapham 8, Naylor 7 (Scowcroft 71), Stewart 7 (Johnson, 82).

WEST HAM: Hislop 7, Ferdinand 6, Stimac 6, Pearce 6, Sinclair 7, Lomas 7, Lampard 6, Cole 6, Winterburn 6 (Moncur 57,6), Kanoute 6, Di Canio 7

Ipswich West Ham