Football League Play-Offs: Early goals help Albion defy history

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The Independent Online
West Bromwich Albion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Swansea City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

(West Bromwich Albion win 3-2 on agg)

SO OSSIE'S going to Wembley again. To paraphrase that tacky old Tottenham song, Black Country knees will be going all trembly at the prospect of Mr Ardiles's West Brom side contesting the Second Division play-off final with Port Vale on 30 May.

Albion, slightly fortunate to escape with a 2-1 deficit from Sunday's first leg, effectively booked their first appearance beneath the Twin Towers since 1970 inside the first 20 minutes last night. Not only did Andy Hunt and Ian Hamilton overturn Swansea's lead, but Albion made nonsense of their lightweight image with some fierce challenges.

Welsh hopes were raised when Micky Mellon took the rugged approach too far and was dismissed, but the former Albion striker Colin West soon evened up the sides by giving the referee no option other than to send him off shortly after appearing as substitute.

Swansea seemed overawed by the Hawthorns' equivalent of hwyl, and never really recovered from Albion's opening barrage. Bob Taylor, three goals short of Albion's all-time record for a season, could have been excused for shooting when Kevin Donovan put him through after nine minutes. Instead he crossed low into the six- yard box, where Hunt turned in his 10th goal in 12 games since arriving on loan from Newcastle.

Eleven minutes later, after a short- corner routine with Donovan, Hamilton tried his luck from a tight angle and was as surprised as he was delighted when the ball passed between Andrew Legg's legs before squeezing past the unsighted Roger Freestone.

Albion survived a penalty appeal in the 53rd minute, when Tony Lange toppled Martin Hayes, but 60 seconds later the pendulum swung the visitors' way. Mellon, booked in the first minute for upending Russell Coughlin, repeated the offence on the same player with inevitable consequences.

Swansea - facing nine men for a time as Paul Raven had attention to a head wound - at last attacked in numbers. Andy McFarlane's header was saved by Lange, but seven minutes after charging on West trudged off for stamping on Hamilton.

While Taylor and Hamilton both failed in one-on-one situations against Freestone, Albion deservedly went through to ensure Ardiles's return to the venue he described afterwards as 'one of my favourite places'.

West Bromwich Albion: Lange; McNally, Lilwall, Bradley, Raven, Strodder, Hunt, Hamilton, Taylor, Mellon, Donovan. Substitutes not used: Garner, Reid.

Swansea City: Freestone; Lyttle, Jenkins, Walker, Harris, Hayes (West, 64), Cullen, Coughlin, McFarlane, Cornforth (Ford, 82), Legg.

Referee: A Gunn (Sussex).

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