Watford 0 Hull City 2: Barmby puts Hull in sight of a first Wembley final

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The Independent Football

Dean Windass is 39 years old and Nick Barmby is 34 and both were born in Hull. The pair might not feature much if the Tigers reach the Premier League next season but they picked their moment here at Vicarage Road, a goal apiece making almost certain that they will continue to shape the club's destiny in the short-term at least.

A first appearance at Wembley, in the Championship play-off final later this month, will be theirs if Hull safely negotiate the home leg of this play-off semi-final, at the KC Stadium on Wednesday night.

Not that Phil Brown assumes the tie is over. The Hull manager said: "There's all to play for. I'm taking nothing for granted because I've lost leads like this as a player before."

Brown also wanted to include his goalkeeper, Boaz Myhill, in the plaudits. "Dean and Nicky will get all the headlines," he said, "but our defence, including Boaz, was magnificent." In fact Brown's only gripe, after a game in which everything went his way, including a disallowed strike for the hosts who then had John Eustace sent off, was that Hull failed to completely secure the tie.

"A third goal would have killed it," their manager said. "That's my only disappointment."

Just four minutes had elapsed when Dan Shittu's headed "goal" was ruled out for a barely recognisable foul. Hull capitalised soon after, when Shittu and Mat Sadler challenged for the same header. The ball ran to Fraizer Campbell and the striker found Barmby from the byline. The former England midfielder swept home the cutback with ease from 10 yards.

Barmby, who has only just returned to the Hull first-team, was at the heart of the second goal too, finding the overlapping Andy Dawson. The full-back's cross was met by Campbell, whose header came off the crossbar, and Windass was the first to react.

Aidy Boothroyd's men eventually tested Myhill, but he reacted brilliantly. Four times he produced fine saves, including one outstanding jump to keep out Sadler's volley four minutes after the break.

Watford's sense of injustice was heightened 10 minutes later when Eustace was sent off for a harmless shove on Ian Ashbee. The fourth official told Brown that he saw a head-butt, yet replays proved otherwise and Boothroyd said he would appeal. He also felt Hull had pressured the referee, Kevin Friend, into producing a red card.

Hull could have made the second leg all but irrelevant if Campbell had taken one of his two late chances, either side of Nathan Doyle's curling shot from 20 yards that hit the post. If any of those had gone in, the Tigers would already be measuring up their Wembley suits.

Goals: Barmby (8) 0-1; Windass (22) 0-2

Watford (4-4-2): Lee; Doyley (O'Toole, 74), Shittu (Demerit, 61) Bromby, Sadler; Ainsworth (Priskin, 74), Eustace, Williamson, McAnuff; Smith, Ellington. Substitutes not used: Poom (gk), Mariappa.

Hull City (4-4-2): Myhill; Ricketts, Brown, Turner, Dawson; Garcia (Doyle, 74), Ashbee, Hughes, Barmby (Fagan, 64); Windass (Folan, 69), Campbell. Substitutes not used: Duke (gk), Walton.

Referee: K Friend (Leicestershire).

Booked: Hull Campbell.

Sent off: Eustace (59).

Man of the match: Myhill.

Attendance: 14,713.