Wednesday, 21 May 2014
Today I am heading to Birmingham to take in a game at the Birmingham County FA's headquarters at Ray Hall Lane. This will be the first time that I have seen a game there and am leaving Worcester in brilliant sunshine and the prospect of continued good weather throughout the day.
I make it ok to New Street station and then decide to take the Walsall train and get off at Hamstead. 20 minutes later I'm at Hamstead and walk up Hamstead Road as quickly as possible but arrive late at the ground at 11:10am. Fortunately for me though the teams are just kicking off when I get in to the ground after paying the £3 entrance fee which includes a programme. Don't know the reason for the late kick-off but I'm not complaining.
Continental Star are in an all yellow strip while the cup holders Monica Star are in red and black stripes. I have seen Continental Star before, not their veterans side but their 1st team, 2 years ago when they were winning the Midland Combination but I know nothing about Monica Star. Also this is the first Veterans (35 years old and over) match I have seen.
Monica Star take the lead with their very first attack of the game! They win a free kick on the right, the kick comes over and Monica's No.8 heads past the keeper and in to the net. Later on when I get home and see my photos, I realise that the goal scorer is the ex-Birmingham City player, Lee Carsley, no less.
Monica Star also have the ex-Villa star, Lee Hendrie playing today too. They are certainly bossing the game and after 8 minutes, find themselves 2-0 up. In trying to clear a cross coming in from the left, Continental's captain can only steer it in to his own net. Wow, I wasn't expecting so many goals so quickly!
I chat to one of the County FA officials and he tells me that Monica Star started off in the Small Heath area of Birmingham (now play in Yardley) and years ago had their first team doing well in the Midland Combination.
Continental Star are really struggling to get in to the game and the holders ,who are the more composed side are on the attack most of the time.
Continental Star however get a foothold in the game after 17 minutes though when they get a goal back through another own goal. Well I think it was an own goal because I had been talking to another spectator at the time and quickly looked round when the ball went in.
So now we have more of a game, although Monica Star are probably the better team still. I am particularly impressed by their 2 central defenders, who although looking the wrong side of 40 are showing great positional sense against Continental's speedy attackers.
Half time has arrived with no more score. I think back to yesterday's FA Cup final when Hull took an early 2 goal lead and eventually lost 2-3. Maybe this game will go the same way.
I must say that I'm impressed with the County FA ground. The playing surface is of good quality and it's quite picturesque with plenty of trees lining the pitch. At one end is the FA Head quarter building itself, at the other is another spectator entrance with the main car park behind it. At one side is where the main stand is while on the other are 2 smaller stands with seats. It's the ideal venue for a match of this stature. There is a good sized crowd too, at a guess about 80.
So back to the action and when play resumes, Continental Star have equalised within 2 minutes! Maybe it will be a replay of the Wembley final?
So now it's a level playing field again and Continental Star have done very well to come back against the favourites.
However the game takes another turn when after about 10 minutes near the Continental penalty area, a free kick is awarded against them. The only reason I can think of is that the Continental keeper had strayed out of the area when taking a goal kick. I had noticed that he may have done so in the first half but went unnoticed by the officials. Their is a big confrontation between some irate Continental players and a few of the Monica Star players. It takes about 10 minutes for things to calm down and for the referee to consider what action to take, which ends with Continental Star's No.5 being sent off. Some of Continental's coaching staff too are upset with the situation and one guy in particular is very vocal.
So with one player short, Continental Star also seem to lose composure too. They soon concede 2 goals and with it the match.
( These Monica Star players celebrate their sides 4th goal )
Monica Star score a fifth when the opposition keeper is left stranded by his defence.
So a game where Continental Star had promisingly fought back so well have been well beaten in the end, mainly due in my view to their indiscipline.
When the 2 teams assemble after the game for the presentation of the medals and trophy, the atmosphere is thankfully convivial again.
Continental Star's founder, Lincoln Moses, hands out the losers medals to his own side and after the Monica Star players have received their medals, the Veterans Cup is handed to a handicapped son of one of the Monica Star players or coaching staff, who is clearly thrilled and does not want to hand it anyone else, (as seen below).
It's a nice touch that is popular with both of the teams and their sets of supporters.
So Monica Star have deservedly won today while Continental Star will have to try again next season and will continue their good work in the community with young disadvantaged people for which they are famous for.
I thought the standard of football was pretty good today and I'm sure I will see some more veterans football in the future.
Thursday, 8 May 2014
So I am on my way on the bus from Walsall to Sutton Coldfield and my second match today. The weather is still idyllic and I'm looking forward to seeing Paget Rangers in action for the first time. They were reformed in 2011 and are looking for promotion from the Midland Combination Div 2 this time round. My late father attended the Paget Road Infants School during his childhood and used to tell me about the Paget Rangers team, so it's a name I know well. He may at one point have played for the club itself (possibly their reserve team).
I get off the bus at the junction of Chester Road North and Jockey Road and walk the rest of the way to the ground in Church Road, where Paget are the tenants of owners, Boldmere St.Michaels.
I make it in to the stadium at 2:40pm and pay the £2 admission and £1 for the neat professional looking programme. I ask the guy at the gate if Paget will be here next season and he affirms that they will. The reason I ask this question is that I got it into my head that Paget Rangers might have tried to get back to their old home at Castle Vale, now that the Castle Vale JKS club folded some weeks ago.
There are a lot of Aston Villa fans in the crowd today and the man on the gate is tuning in to their home match v Hull City, as it's vital that they secure a win.
Paget have an outside chance of gaining promotion but this is dependent on Kenilworth and/or Coventry United slipping up. Inkberrow on the other hand are firmly entrenched in last position in the league table and their mission is surely a damage limitation exercise.
Paget take to the field in their usual gold and black kit while Inkberrow don their away colours of red and white.
Paget look threatening with almost every attack and Inkberrow are having to work hard to stop them scoring.
The Rangers are their own worst enemies though by wasting several chances but do take the lead in the 25th minute. It's taken by their No.10, Marcus White.
They hit the woodwork twice before the break and I am wondering if they are going to rue these missed chances later on in the game.
At half time I hear from one of the Paget fans that Villa are leading 3-1, so at least one of the local teams are taking their chances today!`Also I must say that the burger I buy is good quality and I soon polish it off.
Paget Rangers are again carrying on well on top in the 2nd half and after 20 minutes have scored another 4 goals. Inkberrow do show some fight though when one of their players hits the bar with a long range effort.
(Paget's captain, Dan Zouch on the left is celebrating another goal)
A bit later on a sixth goal is duly scored and Inkberrow in their desperation bring on their ageing but experienced coaching staff as substitutes. This move pays off somewhat when one of them supplies a good ball for one of their players to score a consolation goal.
Their joy is short lived however as, Matt Coates scores his third and his sides seventh goal of the day, (as shown below).
Well it's been a certainly one sided game but good for Paget's goal difference!
I later find out from the League website that today's attendance was 62, very good for this division.
Also when I get back home, I find an email message from 'Adji the Groundhopper' whose Blog I regularly read, who is asking me if I have attended today's game. We have never met before but have corresponded fairly regularly over the last few months. He must have seen me prowling around the touchline with my camera and guessed it was probably me.
So a very good result for Paget Rangers but Kenilworth have also won by 2-1 over Northfield to become Champions for this season. Coventry United, to clinch second spot will only have to beat lowly Burntwood Town at home on May 17th.
Monday, 5 May 2014
Well, it's an early start for me today, as I'm making my way to the Red Lion ground in Bloxwich (home of Rostance Edwards FC) for a 10:30 am kick-off. The game in question is the Midland Combination's Challenge Bowl Final, between the Under 21 teams of Romulus and Worcester College of Technology. It's basically the Under 21 League Cup.
So I leave on the train from my local station at Shrub Hill at 7:35 am. Just have enough time to buy a newspaper, a cappuccino and biscuits before boarding the waiting train with a minute to spare. Damned uncivilised these early starts!
It's a gloriously sunny morning though and after a few sips of my coffee, I am feeling a bit more alive.
The journey goes well until we are just outside New Street station. Then we have to wait until a platform becomes free for our train. Instead of cursing London Midland train company, I strike up a conversation with a woman passenger sitting on the other side of the carriage. She turns out to be Spanish (who speaks excellent English) and is a football fan who supports Atletico Madrid. She is going to Birmingham to try out a roller skating club. Brave girl! The train gets in to the station a few minutes later and we say goodbye to each other. Maybe I will bump in to her again soon in Worcester or on the train? Well....probably not I suppose, knowing my luck.
So, I get the next train to Walsall and when I get there I have plenty of time to get some cooked breakfast at 'Dino's Diner' near the bus station.
Suitably refreshed I am soon boarding the No. 301 bus and 5 minutes later I arrive in Bloxwich and make the short walk to the ground in Somerfield Road. When I walk in to the club house, I pay the £5 admission and receive a free programme.
Although Romulus, who have already won the Under 21 league are the favourites I am hopeful that Worcester can provide an upset today. When I saw Worcester play at Heath Hayes a few weeks ago, I was very impressed by them that day.
So the teams are soon walking on to the pitch, with Romulus in their usual red & white stripes and Worcester in light blue shirts and dark blue shorts.
The first half is turning out to be a very even affair. Not many chances but still pretty entertaining. I am hoping that Worcester's No.11, Joao Sousa, is going to shine today as he scored the best goal I have seen this season when I saw them last.
Both teams are working hard but the final ball is a bit lacking.
However Worcester take the lead after 32 minutes when the Romulus keeper is adjudged to have impeded a Worcester College player just inside the box. The Romulus players are incensed and it takes a while for them to calm down. I'm not sure if it did deserve to be a penalty as I didn't see it very well.
(James Lemon,sends the Romulus keeper the wrong way)
Worcester score from the penalty and Romulus respond straight from the kick-off in style. They pass the ball all the way up the pitch and go very close to scoring the equaliser. Phew!
There is an unfortunate clash of heads at a Worcester corner as shown above. Both players get immediate treatment and the Worcester player has to go off to have his head bandaged up.
Worcester reach the interval still in the lead and it looks as if the game is going to be a very close affair.
It's a good crowd today, probably a 100+. There seems to be quite a few Romulus supporters here, which makes sense as we are quite close to Sutton Coldfield. Also there are a lot of WAGS here too,....well make that just girlfriends, as the players are probably a bit young to be married just yet.
I can see there are 2 guys videoing the game and 2 photographers who both seem to be concentrating on the Romulus team. Maybe I'm the only spectator from Worcester today?
The second half starts and it's Romulus who are starting the better team.
In fact they are outplaying Worcester now and after 55 minutes are awarded a penalty of their own when a Worcester player is adjudged to have handled the ball.
( Romulus score from the spot in the 55th minute)
So Romulus are right back in the game but Worcester are still working hard. Their attacks are more sporadic but they aren't giving in to their more experienced opponents.
Although Romulus continue to be on top, 90 minutes comes up with the scores still level. I am hoping that Worcester can find some inspiration in extra time and pull off the win.
Romulus have other ideas though and with the advantage of the slope again in the first period of extra time score 2 further goals to seal the game.
Firstly, a Romulus forward makes a run to the left of the Worcester goal, puts in a hard low cross and an onrushing covering defender puts the ball in to his own net.
Then 5 minutes later, Romulus's top scorer, Danico Johnson fires in a terrific shot from the right, in to the opposite top corner. Their players are jubilant as they know the have the game in the bag now.
So it's been a gallant effort by the Worcester lads but Romulus have been the better team from the second half onwards today.
I leave a few minutes before the end as I intend to get to another game this afternoon and I'm already late starting off.