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Ron Jones
"If West Ham go on to win the cup they'll look back on this dramatic game"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 30 November, 1999, 22:50 GMT
Cole delivers Hammer blow
Marc Foe fails to cut out an Allan Johnston shot Marc Foe fails to cut out an Allan Johnston shot

Birmingham 2-3 West Ham

Teenage sensation Joe Cole scored his first ever goal for West Ham as Birmingham's Worthington Cup dreams were ended in remarkable fashion at St Andrews.

With just three minutes left the First Division side were winning 2-1 and heading into the quarter-finals.

Match facts
8: Hyde gives Birmingham the lead
23: Lomas levels with a long-range strike
44: Grainger's brilliant free-kick makes it 2-1 to City
87: Kitson sets up a fantastic climax
89: Cole sends West Ham into the quarter-finals
But first Paul Kitson levelled the scores and then, before the Blues could regroup, fellow substitute Cole, the 18-year-old who had inspired the visitors' comeback, completed the smash-and-grab act.

It was an astounding finale to a fourth round tie, in which injury-hit Birmingham had matched their more illustrious opponents with a doughy defensive display in the second half.

But just when it looked like Martin Grainger's magnificent free-kick would set up a possible last-eight clash with arch rivals Aston Villa, their tired defence suddenly capitulated.

Redknapp's real deal

Unlike some Premiership clubs, who have virtually selected reserve sides in the Worthington Cup, West Ham manager Harry Redknapp sees it as an important route into Europe and he sent out a full-strength outfit at St Andrews.

Steve Lomas' equaliser West Ham celebrate Steve Lomas' equaliser
But it was Trevor Francis' makeshift Birmingham side - conquerors of Newcastle in the previous round - who looked the more determined team at the start.

And they went ahead after eight minutes, thanks to the persistence of Graham Hyde.

On-loan Sunderland midfielder Allan Johnston decided to take the game to West Ham, beating one defender and racing into the area before shooting straight at Neil Ruddock.

But before the Hammers rearguard could hack the ball clear, Hyde scored at the second attempt, his snapshot giving Shaka Hislop in the West Ham goal no chance.

Shocked at falling behind, West Ham at last began to pose an attacking threat.

Martin Grainger's free-kick Martin Grainger's free-kick beats the wall and heads for the corner
And after Paolo Di Canio shot over, the visitors forced their way back into the tie with a piece of opportunism from their captain.

With the conditions in West Ham's favour in the first half, Lomas launched a speculative effort from 35 yards out. The strong wind gave his fierce shot extra pace and a deflection sent it rifling past helpless keeper Kevin Poole.

West Ham should have taken the lead three minutes later, but Paulo Wanchope - who has become a target of abuse from fans after scoring just once in 10 games - somehow poked the ball wide from a glorious position.

It proved a costly miss as Birmingham went ahead two minutes before the break.

When City were awarded a free-kick 10 yards outside the area it spelled immediate danger for West Ham, as dead-ball expert Grainger took responsibility. The full-back curled a stunning left-footed effort around the wall and into the top corner of Hislop's goal.

Hammers hit back

West Ham dominated the opening stages of the second half, despite losing Gary Charles with a gashed leg following an ugly challenge from Grainger.

With 52 minutes on the clock Charles made way for Cole, who only turned 18 three weeks ago, and with Kitson also replacing Wanchope, Hammers suddenly began to offer much more in the way of an attacking edge.

Graham Hyde slides in to tackle Marc Foe Goalscorer Graham Hyde slides in to tackle Marc Foe
But City, desperately defending in numbers, were largely able to nullify the opposition threat.

Substitute Cole had a rasping drive saved by Poole and Frank Lampard was denied in the area by a superb diving block from Gary Rowett.

Birmingham still created the occasional chance on the break and Darren Purse volleyed wide after linking well with Johnston and Grainger.

Then, with five minutes on the clock, Poole produced a world class save to keep Birmingham in front.

Lampard smacked a first-time shot towards the bottom corner but the keeper dived low to his right to remarkably turn the point-blank effort around the post.

That looked to be the turning point for Birmingham - but just when it seemed as though the save had won the game, West Ham levelled the scores, Kitson turning in the ball after Poole parried Di Canio's goalbound shot.

Suddenly West Ham had a new lease of life and Di Canio broke down the right flank before crossing for Cole, who stabbed the ball home to complete a stunning comeback.

Teams:

Birmingham:
Poole, Rowett, Hyde, Holdsworth, Grainger, Bass, Johnson, O'Connor, Holland, Purse, Johnston.
Subs: Hughes, Charlton, Newton, Gill, Bennett.

West Ham: Hislop, Ferdinand, Ruddock, Margas, Charles, Lomas, Lampard, Foe, Keller, Wanchope, Di Canio.
Subs: Minto, Kitson, Sinclair, Cole, Forrest.

Referee: G Poll (Tring
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