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Sunday, 28 April, 2002, 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK
Dublin dents Birmingham
Bryan Hughes celebrates his goal for Birmingham
Birmingham City 1-1 Millwall

Listen to live audio commentary of the second leg with BBC Five Live and BBC Sport Online.

Dion Dublin - on loan at Millwall from Aston Villa - silenced the taunts of St Andrews to score a vital leveller in the First Division play-off semi-final at Birmingham City.

Dublin's Villa Park links saw him jeered throughout by Birmingham's fans, but he had the last laugh on his tormentors with a late equaliser to give Millwall the edge in the race for the Premiership.

Bryan Hughes looked to have given Steve Bruce's side a vital advantage when he put Birmingham ahead early in the second half.

But Dublin struck with a trademark header to leave Millwall the optimistic side going into the second leg at The New Den.


We are still very, very nervous about playing Birmingham and we still face a massive task
Millwall manager Mark McGhee
Birmingham have fallen in the play-offs in the last three seasons, and the irony of Dublin's goal will not be lost on them as they attempt to avoid more heartbreak in their quest to reach the top flight.

The opening exchanges were nothing more than a predictable war of attrition, with both sides desperate not to make the mistake that could hand out a crucial advantage in the race for the Premiership.

MiIllwall settled quickly, and it needed a vital block from Birmingham goalkeeper Nico Vaesen to prevent Steven Reid's free-kick giving the Londoners the lead.

Dublin was predictably less than well received by the home crowd, but he ignored the criticism to enter the battle with fierce intent.

Millwall's Dion Dublin fies into the tackle
And the veteran Millwall striker angered the home fans when he was fortunate to escape a red card for a wild challenge with his elbow on Blues' defender Olivier Tebily.

Birmingham finally estalished a stranglehold as the interval approached, with Geoff Horsfield testing Tony Warner and Jeff Kenna firing narrowly off target.

But Millwall continued to force the pace, and dominated the start of the second period.

Tim Cahill was guilty of an awful miss after 50 minutes when Neil Harris found him unmarked in front of goal only six yards out and the Australian-born midfield man miskicked hopelessly.

And he was made to pay the ulimate price when Birmingham took the lead against the run of play after 55 minutes.

Martin Grainger was creator with a delicate pass that found Hughes unmarked the far post to send a right-foot angled drive past Warner.

Grainger almost doubled Birmingham's advantage ten minutes later with a 25-yard free-kick that swung inches wide of Warner's post.

Birmingham were suddely in the ascendancy - and Tommy Mooney wasted a perfect opportunity to give them valuable daylight for the second leg after 74 minutes.

Horsfield escaped the Millwall defence down the right flank, and Mooney looked certain to score when he pulled the ball back, but the burly striker was surprisingly outmuscled by Paul Ifill and the chance was gone.

This time it was Birmingham's turn to pay for generosity in front of goal - and it was Dublin who equalised with massive irony with eleven minutes left.

Reid's cross was an open invitation for Dublin to demonstrate his aerial prowess, and the former England striker rose to head expertly past Vaesen.


Birmingham: Vaesen, Kenna, Purse, Tebily, Grainger, Damien Johnson, Bryan Hughes, Carter, Mooney, John, Horsfield. Subs: Bennett, Lazaridis, Woodhouse, Andrew Johnson, Vickers.

Millwall: Warner, Lawrence, Nethercott, Ward, Bull, Ifill, Livermore, Cahill, Reid, Harris, Dublin. Subs: Gueret, Ryan, Bircham, Dyche, Claridge.

Referee: A Bates (Stoke on Trent)

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's Ian Brown
"It's certainly advantage Millwall"
Millwall assistant manager Steve Grit
"We know there's a long way to go"
Birmingham boss Steve Bruce
"It's half-time and there's all to play for"

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