Birmingham City 2 Norwich City 1
A thumping header by Liam Daish, their captain, swept Birmingham into the Coca-Cola Cup semi-finals on a tide of noise and emotion last night. With extra time only 90 seconds away and Norwich holding a numerical advantage following the dismissal of Gary Poole, the Irishman's intervention could not have been more timely.
Birmingham last reached the semi-finals of a major competition in 1975, since when cup capitulations to the likes of Altrincham and Kidderminster have been commonplace. Now, though, they can look forward to a double- header against Leeds for the right to return to Wembley, with the first leg at St Andrew's on 11 February. Moreover, the Brummie dream of a derby final against Aston Villa is now tantalisingly close to becoming reality.
Meanwhile, Barry Fry threatens to stage a new show: The Two Vinnies, Messrs Jones and Samways, will be expected to supply graft and craft respectively. On the evidence of this quarter-final replay it is the latter quality in shorter supply.
Norwich, who have won only once in 14 matches, were unable to translate their first-half superiority into goals. They then found themselves trailing to a fine effort by Jason Bowen, before Poole's aberration was followed by an equaliser from Jan Molby. Bart Griemink, Birmingham's Dutch keeper, made two good saves but ought to have been facing a penalty after Ashley Ward was sandwiched by Daish and Andy Edwards. The referee thought otherwise.
Birmingham took a 54th-minute lead with a goal of surprising subtlety. Steve Castle's deftly chipped pass over a square Norwich defence found Bowen racing into the area to beat Bryan Gunn with an equally delicate side-footed volley.
Poole, cautioned for a 32nd- minute foul on Keith O'Neill, eventually departed after handling a pass by Molby in the 68th minute. The Dane compounded the full-back's embarrassment by driving the first goal of his loan spell from Liverpool beyond Griemink from 25 yards with 12 minutes remaining.
It was left to Daish, rising unchallenged to head past Gunn, to spark scenes of wild rejoicing.The new Norwich manager, Gary Megson, cut a more sombre figure. "Once our equaliser went in, I was convinced there'd be only one winner - us," he said. "Unfortunately, so did my players, and they got caught out at the death."
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Griemink; Poole, Edwards, Daish, Frain; Donowa, Forsyth, Castle, Doherty (J Bowen, h/t); Claridge, Francis (Bull, 80). Substitute not used: Tait.
Norwich City (4-4-2): Gunn; Bradshaw, Prior, Polston, M Bowen; Eadie (Johnson, 64), Adams, Molby, O'Neill; Fleck, Ward. Substitutes not used: Marshall (gk), Newman.
Referee: R Gifford (Mid Glamorgan).