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St Andrews Stadium (ATT 24,825) 25th April 2009 - Kick off 17:20 Ref: P Dowd

Birm'ham Birmingham City vs Preston North End Preston


McKenna hypnotises Blues

Lilywhites spoil potential Blues promotion party

By Chris Quinn.   Last Updated: 25/04/09 8:18pm

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Preston: Claimed vital victory

Preston: Claimed vital victory

Two wonder strikes from Preston kept their play-off hopes alive and spoiled Birmingham's potential promotion party.

Keith Fahey had given Birmingham the lead with a free header on 57 minutes before Paul McKenna, breaking Sir Tom Finney's appearance record, pulled The Lilywhites level with a fantastic 30-yard strike.

Ross Wallace then struck the winner three minutes from time for Preston with a fantastic left-footed free-kick that gave Maik Taylor no chance.

Birmingham had Lee Bowyer sent-off for an off-the-ball clash with Lee Williamson who also saw red. But Preston ended the game with nine men after Wallace received his second yellow card for taking his shirt off in celebration of his goal.

History was on Preston's side as they went into the encounter having won six of the previous seven meetings between the two clubs.

Both teams settled into their stride early on with Blues looking the more menacing in attack - and the first clear-cut opening went their way in the 17th minute.

Sebastian Larsson chipped the ball over the North End defence and with Bowyer challenging keeper Andy Lonergan, the ball broke free to Garry O'Connor.

With Lonergan out of position, the striker tried his luck from the edge of the area but Billy Jones was on hand to head clear.

Sedgwick striked post

Preston then reminded the hosts of their threat midway through the half when Mellor's left-wing cross evaded everyone before coming back off Maik Taylor's far post, Chris Sedgwick firing the rebound into the side netting.

Franck Queudrue was penalised for trying to punch the ball into the net while Preston were looking dangerous at the other end.

But neither side could find the opener as the first half drew to a close.

Birmingham-born Aston Villa fan Sean St Ledger wasted a glorious opportunity to become party pooper within the opening stages of the second half when he somehow headed wide from close range with the goal at his mercy.

And the Lilywhites paid the price in the 57th minute as Fahey lost Sedgwick at the far post before heading home James McFadden's right-wing cross to send St Andrew's wild.

Matters soon heated up on the pitch as Bowyer and Williamson were shown straight red cards for violent conduct after a supposed clash of heads.

Stunning strike

And out of nowhere North End levelled courtesy of a stunner from McKenna - drilling the ball into the top corner from fully 30 yards after Carr's clearance header.

Jerome thought he had won it for Blues only to see his header ruled out for offside, before coming within inches of converting McFadden's cross.

Fahey then drilled over for Blues before Jerome was guilty of blazing over the bar from just six yards when he really should have scored.

But Wallace stole the show for the visitors before seeing red in a dramatic finale which also saw St Ledger clear off the line.

The result leaves Birmingham just one point ahead of third-placed Sheffield United ahead of their trip to the Madjeski Stadium next Sunday, while the Blades go to Crystal Palace.

North End, meanwhile, are two points adrift of sixth-placed Burnley and three off Cardiff in fifth and host QPR on what is going to be some final day.

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Sky Bet Championship

Sky Bet Championship
Pos Team P Pts
1 Watford 44 85
2 Bournemouth 44 84
3 Middlesbrough 44 84
4 Norwich City 44 82
5 Derby County 44 76
6 Ipswich Town 44 75
7 Brentford 44 72
8 Wolverhampton Wanderers 44 72
9 Blackburn Rovers 44 63
10 Charlton Athletic 44 60
11 Nottingham Forest 44 59
12 Sheffield Wednesday 44 59
13 Birmingham City 44 57
14 Cardiff City 44 56
15 Huddersfield Town 44 53
16 Leeds United 44 52
17 Bolton Wanderers 44 51
18 Fulham 44 49
19 Reading 43 47
20 Brighton and Hove Albion 44 46
21 Rotherham United 43 41
22 Millwall 44 40
23 Wigan Athletic 44 39
24 Blackpool 44 25