Tuesday, 20 August 2013


Today I am making my way to the birthplace of 'The Bard', Stratford-upon-Avon. I am taking in the game in the Women's Super League between the home team, Birmingham City and Arsenal.

The weather is mainly sunny interspersed with clouds and not oppressively hot and humid. I have arrived at Stratford's rail station at 1:10 pm and it takes me about 35 minutes walking at a brisk pace to get to the DCS Stadium which Birmingham lease off Stratford Town. It's situated in the village of Tiddington, about 1 mile away from the town. Although it's a Sunday, there are still plenty of tourists around.

So I've made it to the ground with just enough time for a cuppa before the game starts at 2pm.

Arsenal soon take the lead. In the 7th minute, they have a corner and their English international centre-back, Steph Houghton rises up well to head home at the far post.

The Blues are struggling to stem the attacks from this powerful Arsenal team who fail to convert several chances. They aren't to be denied for long though and score their second in the 20th minute.

A powerful free kick from Houghton comes back off a post, the rebound is struck against the bar and eventually the ball is crossed for White to head in off the post. 

20 minutes later it looks all over for Birmingham as Arsenal's Davison is left unmarked to stroke the ball home for goal number 3. When half-time arrives I can't see The Blues making a comeback.

Of course I'm wrong as a rejuvenated Birmingham team come out fighting and press strongly. After just 2 minutes Coral Haines strikes the bar with a great shot. About 8 minutes later they score through a deflected shot.

The Blues are having much of the attacking play now and go close to scoring on several occasions but some good, sometimes desperate defending from Arsenal keep them at bay.

It's an absorbing contest now and Arsenal are still dangerous on the counter-attack.

2 experienced International players come on as substitutes. Rachel Williams for Birmingham and later Rachel Yankey for Arsenal. Both have chances too but fail to convert them.

In injury time, Arsenal's young forward Davies, has a shot blocked by Blues keeper Penney.

  (Penney, the Birmingham keeper hangs on to the ball under pressure)

So Arsenal are worthy winners thanks to their great 1st-half performance and look to have a good chance to be crowned champions again in a few weeks time. Birmingham can take heart from a worthy 2nd-half fight back and from a good sized crowd of 561 today.



Sunday, 4 August 2013


I finally got my football season under way today when I took in the pre-season friendly between Pilkington XXX of the Midland Combination Premier League and Solihull Moors Under-21's side.

Originally I had earmarked the Midland Alliance game at Heath Hayes v Loughborough University as my first game, as it would have been a new ground for me. However I received an email from the Pilkington President, Saul Gray, asking me to come along to their game as there was going to be a special presentation for one of their committee members, a certain, Dennis Ellis, in recognition of his 50 years of service to Non-League football in the Birmingham area and he wanted me to take photos of the occasion. I agreed to go as I like to hear about these kind of stories of dedicated service to the game.

When I set out on the train from Worcester Foregate Street, the weather forecast was of sunshine and showers and the closer we got to Birmingham, the cloudier it got. On the way to my destination at King's Norton it did rain but miraculously stopped just before we reached there.

I arrived at the Triplex Sports Ground in time for the presentation at 1pm. Dennis Ellis was invited to join Pilkington's committee last year and his presentation was set up at the ground for Dennis surrounded by his good wife,family and friends.Dennis was a keen player in the South Birmingham Saturday and Sunday Leagues but unfortunately sustained a severe leg injury which curtailed his playing career at an early age. In his 50 years of service to the game, Dennis has taken on the roles of, Club Secretary, Press Officer, Referee, member of the Birmingham County FA Council, Secretary & Manager of a successful Sunday football team for 13 years AND a kit man. He was instrumental in the rise of the Castle Vale football team too until they folded last year. A successful man of many roles and a gentleman too by all who know him.

Steve Poole, the Vice-Chairman of the Birmingham County FA led the presentation with a speech praising Dennis for his big contribution to Non-League football in the local area and presented him with a special service medal.

(Here is Dennis in the centre with a signed Pilkington XXX shirt, with the club's Committee in attendance and Steve Poole, next to last on the right.Well done Dennis!)

Everyone who attended were well looked after with plenty of refreshments.

         (Here, Dennis blows out candles on his 50th Anniversary cake)

So now to Pilkington's final pre-season friendly. There was a final downpour of 10 minutes duration which thankfully ended 10 minutes before the game and then both teams came on to the pitch in their new kits. Pilkington in their red shirts with dark blue shorts and socks and Solihull in a blue and yellow striped kit. I could see that Pilkington had a lot of new faces in their side and mainly younger ones at that. Prior to this game they had won 5 of their 6 previous friendlies too!

The match starts off at a brisk pace with both sides eager to impress and sharpen themselves up for the new season with Pilkington having the lion's share of possession but can't make the most of their early dominance.

Solihull take the lead after 20 minutes and a bit later should have scored a second but one of their forwards makes the mistake of making sure the ball goes over the line and is flagged up for off-side.

In first-half injury time, the Pilkington keeper comes racing out to help clear the ball but only succeeds in clattering in to one of his own defenders. 

After a delay of five minutes he manages to get up on his feet. Although walking with a limp he carries on in goal for the rest of the game on one good leg.

So it's 0-1 to Solihull at half-time and still everything to play for.

The attendance today looks to be about 50 and I chat to 2 Solihull supporters. One says that there is not much between the teams but Solihull have the greater threat up-front, which is about right from what I have seen so far. Pilkington's defence thankfully do seem to have improved from last season when they had the worst goal difference in the division.

Again the second-half is played at a good pace and although there are not many chances on goal it's a good competitive game. The No.7 for Pilkington shows a lot of pace and troubles the Solihull defence on several occasions. (Seen below with 2 markers in attendance)

Of course both sides make several substitutions during this half and Solihull score another goal, which I miss while checking over some shots on my camera screen.

          ( One of the Pilkington substitutes runs at the Solhull defence)

So the game ends with a 2-0 win for the visitors and it's been a worthwhile workout for both sides. On the evidence of this match I think Pilkington should have a better season this time and look forward to seeing them again soon.