It's an early start on my travels this Saturday, as I am on my way for a 10:30am kick-off for the Under-21 clash at Sutton Coldfield who are taking on Bromsgrove Sporting in the Midland Football League's, Under-21 Challenge Bowl competition.
As I am not able to go to a match this afternoon, I have decided to go for an early kick-off and check out the form of Sutton Coldfield, who are doing very well at Under 21 level this season.
The weather forecast is for cloud for most of the day with the chance of a spot of rain. I catch the 7:35 am train from Worcester Shrub Hill station and I am surprised at the the number of passengers, possibly Christmas shoppers?
After changing trains at Birmingham New Street, I get the connecting train to Sutton Coldfield and get there quite early. I have time to get some breakfast and have a good look around the shops before walking to Coles Lane to the Central Ground, home of Sutton Coldfield Town, who also share with Romulus FC.
I had thought of going to see Paget Rangers Under 21's who play in Erdington but was worried their game might be called off due to the large amount of rain we had had yesterday, so I have gone for the safer option of Sutton's all weather pitch.
The ground has the main stand and changing rooms on the right as you enter the ground, where there is seating for 200 spectators. The club house (including tea bar) is situated in the far left hand corner and also on the far side is cover for standing spectators.
After buying a cup of tea just before kick-off I stand by the goal at the club house end. This match is in the Challenge Bowl competition.
The teams have come out on the pitch with Sutton in their all blue strip and Bromsgrove in their all green away colours. I saw Bromsgrove play at Sporting Khalsa a few weeks ago and were a bit unlucky not to get a draw while eventually losing 1-3. Sutton Coldfield are going to be a different proposition though as they have been winning all their games so far.
Right from the kick-off, Bromsgrove are pinned back in their own half for long periods due to Sutton's pressing game, not giving their opponents not much time to settle on the ball.
After 16 minutes, Sutton Coldfield have the ball in the Bromsgrove net but is ruled out for offside.
The Bromsgrove goal is leading a charmed life, with a combination of good goal keeping and desperate last ditch defending. This is personified in the 26th minute when 3 shots by the hosts are either charged down or saved by the keeper in quick succession. In the very next minute a Sutton forward races through, taking the ball round the keeper, shooting at goal and the ball being cleared off the line by a covering Bromsgrove defender and then from the rebound another shot is saved by the keeper who has rushed back to his goal, (as shown below).
Phew! I am wondering if Bromsgrove might survive with a clean sheet until half-time. This scenario does not come to pass as after 33 minutes, when the Sutton No.9, Ryan Boothe, takes the ball round the valiant Bromsgrove keeper and scores the first goal. The same player goes close again at the end of the half by hitting a post with another shot.
So it's 1-0 to the home side and they know that it should have been more. Bromsgrove Sporting have put up some very spirited resistance though and look determined not to have a repeat performance of their earlier 1-7 home defeat against the same opponents at their own Victoria Ground.
One of the Sutton Coldfield officials told me earlier on that their synthetic pitch had cost £300,000 and was funded by their wealthy Chairman. It's been money well spent as over the last few years it must have saved them and their tenants, Romulus, from many postponed games. Also the pitch does not suffer much from continued use, as the Sutton first team are playing here this afternoon.
When play resumes for the second period, it's Sutton who are still calling the shots. Indeed they should have scored after just 3 minutes when a cross from the right is headed just wide of the far post when it looks to have been easier to score.
The Sutton substitute, No.14 is the next to go close when he sees his shot saved after just coming on to the pitch.
It's 2-0 soon after though when it's Ryan Boothe again shooting from the right in to the opposite top corner of the goal.
Bromsgrove Sporting though now have their best spell of the match.
First the Bromsgrove captain,Dennis Pickett, who looks like the smallest player on the pitch, flicks a header over the Sutton bar from a free kick. Then they pull a goal back after 79 minutes, when from another free kick, the ball bounces over a Sutton defender and a Bromsgrove forward runs round to hit the ball in to the top right hand corner.
Then Bromsgrove score again when a shot rockets straight over the top of the Sutton keeper in to the top of the net. A most unexpected turn of events and I'm wondering if we are going to see an upset?
Sutton Coldfield score in the very next minute though with their No.12 (another substitute) cleverly lobbing the keeper.
Just a few minutes later and Sutton Coldfield's No.7 scores from the penalty spot after their No.10, Troy Herbert, is brought down.
They have enough time to score a fifth through Troy Herbert who slides the ball in with the Bromsgrove keeper helpless to prevent it (shown below).
The final whistle sounds soon after and Sutton Coldfield have a well earned win for their attacking efforts despite stubborn resistance from their opponents.
I will be very surprised if there are any better teams in the Under-21 divisions this season than Sutton and it will be interesting to see if they win both the Challenge Bowl and their division in the Midland Football League.
They top their group in the Challenge Bowl competition and are guaranteed a quarter-final place after 5 wins out of 5, while Bromsgrove Sporting are rooted to bottom place with just one point from 5 games.
Entertainment value: 7/10
Match attendance: 25?
Entrance fee: none
Match programme: none available