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Thursday, May 20, 1999 Published at 23:24 GMT 00:24 UK

Sport: Football

Hornets sting the Blues

Holdsworth (far left) is sent off for a second bookable offence

Birmingham 1-0 Watford (agg 1-1)
Watford won 7-6 on penalties

Watford are a Wembley win away from a return to the top flight they left 11 years ago after a dramatic spot-kick win at St Andrew's.

Ian Brown reports from St Andrew's
The Blues of Birmingham City came out better on the night despite being a man down for most of the game.

But the visitors took the game to a penalty shoot-out because of their 1-0 first leg win at Vicarage Road last Sunday.

[ image: Michel Ngonge (on floor) scored Watford's first leg goal]
Michel Ngonge (on floor) scored Watford's first leg goal
The Hornets will now play Bolton Wanderers in the play-off final, with the prize of Premership football for the winners.

Victory there would give former England boss Graham Taylor a second successive promotion after his team came up from the second division just 12 months ago.

At that same time Bolton were dropping through the Premiership trapdoor after heartbreak on the last day of last season.

Dele early goal

In this game, City scored early on the night as a scarmble in the box resulted in the ball being played off striker Dele Adebola and into the net.

Blues came forward with menace for the next half an hour, until Watford eventually found their feet.

[ image: Birmingham's goal was scrappy but early]
Birmingham's goal was scrappy but early
The home side could not turn possession into a goal and had defender David Holdsworth sent off for a second bookable offence in the second half.

The former Watford player knew then he would miss out on a chance to face his brother Dean, who plays for Bolton, even if his side got through.

They held out, and were actually the stronger for the hour and seven minutes that remained despite their numerical disadvantage.

Shoot out

The first penalty was scored but the next two - by Birmingham's other former Hornet Paul Furlong and Watford's Steve Palmer - drew a blank.

City got back on track with their fourth and it was level pegging throughout as superbly struck kicks hit the back of the net all the way through to the 16th effort.

But Birmingham fans have argued for years that their ground is under a curse dating back to its earliest years, and it was to be the Blues' unlucky number 13 whose effort was saved after 13 successful kicks.

Former Newcastle youngster Chris Holland was the lonely, forlorn substitute whose weak kick was saved by Watford keeper Alec Chamberlain, a man who admitted he had been at fault for Adebola's goal anyway. Did he like it?

Taylor is an expert at getting teams up through the divisions, and his record of six promotions includes earlier efforts at Watford and success with Birmingham's neighbours Aston Villa in 1987-8.

[ image: Birmingham's Peter Ndlovu flies in on goal, but he hit the post]
Birmingham's Peter Ndlovu flies in on goal, but he hit the post
"I've been through penalty shoot-outs before and all you can do is support the players because they are on the nerve-wracking end," he said, while admitting the second leg performance itself had been disappointing.

"I am very pleased but in the game itself we very rarely put the ball across the face of the goal.

"That was disappointing but it's a night where we won't talk of disappointing things.

"These lads have come on, they may not be the best players but in terms of working for each other and as a team they have been excellent."

Shoot-out drama in full

  • 0-1 Peter Kennedy scores off the post to give Watford the best possible start
  • 0-1 Alec Chamberlain dives to his right to save Paul Furlong's effort
  • 0-1 Steve Palmer is the only man to miss for Watford, shooting wide
  • 1-1 Martin Grainger shoots low to the keeper's left to level it
  • 1-2 Richard Johnson scores via the cross bar
  • 2-2 Gary Rowett's blast puts Blues on terms
  • 2-3 Darren Bazeley goes for power as Watford edge back in front
  • 3-3 Lee Bradbury sends Chamberlain the wrong way
  • 3-4 Tommy Mooney slams the ball into the middle of the net
  • 4-4 Bryan Hughes' cool effort ensures it goes to sudden death
  • 4-5 Man-of-the-match Robert Page scores with the help of the bar
  • 5-5 Darren Purse sends the keeper the wrong way
  • 5-6 Allan Smart's cool finish puts the pressure back on Blues
  • 6-6 Birmingham's Kevin Poole keeps his head in a battle of the keepers
  • 6-7 Substitute Alon Hazan scores the 12th successive penalty of the shoot-out
  • 6-7 Chamberlain saves Chris Holland's effort to leave Watford jubilant and Birmingham heartbroken.

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