Monday, 23 May 2016
After looking at the weather forecast for Saturday, the previous evening, I have been wondering whether it's going to be worthwhile to just go out of the house? I look out of the window at about 8 am on Saturday though and can see the expected overnight rain did not materialise and make the decision to go to my chosen match, whatever happens.
I have decided to go to another Cup Final from the West Midlands Regional League, this time involving the Division 2 teams, Bilbrook and Newport Town. This means a second trip for this season to the Garden Walk Stadium of Gornal Athletic. This is a good venue as I know there will be plenty of shelter there.
I go to Stourbridge by train and am greeted on my arrival in the town centre by drizzly conditions and a display of Morris dancing near the High Street! Then it's a sausage and egg sandwich, egg custard tart, washed down by an ample cup of coffee at a local eatery. Cheap and cheerful, just the job!
I have a mooch around a few shops before embarking on the Dudley bound 257 bus for Lower Gornal. It's a 1:00 pm kick-off today, which suits me fine as the weather has cleared up again and rain is more likely to come later this afternoon.
The bus takes about 25 minutes to get us to the small bus station at Gornal Wood and I make the 5 minute walk to the ground and arrive at 12:50 pm. There seems to be a sizeable crowd today and I make my way down the steep terrace on this side of the ground to make my way to the end that has a steep bank of grass behind it.
Bilbrook FC represent the village of that name which is situated in South Staffordshire, close to Wolverhampton. This club was founded in 1978. Newport Town represent the town from Shropshire and have had a very successful league campaign, winning the title with just 2 defeats and by a margin of 20 points between them and the 2nd placed team, Old Wulfrunians. So on paper, Newport are strong favourites today.
Soon the 2 teams come on to the pitch. Newport in an all blue strip while Bilbrook are in white shirts (with diagonal black & red stripes), black shorts and red socks.
From the start it's the underdogs of Bilbrook who are the livelier team.
Indeed it takes 15 minutes before Newport seem to get much of a foothold in this game. Although they are attacking more it's still Bilbrook who look the more dangerous side.
After 29 minutes, Bilbrook's No.7 goes on good run down the right, crosses the ball across the goal for their No.11 to bundle the ball home at the far post, despite the close attentions of a defender.
Just before half time, Newport's No.11 goes down the right to slide the ball in but the Bilbrook keeper does well to block the ball from close range from an oncoming Newport attacker.
The whistle is blown soon after and so it's Bilbrook who lead 1-0 and Newport Town look to have a real fight on their hands today.
During the interval I meet Mark McIntyre,an official from Darlaston Town and he says he is a regular viewer of this Blog. Fame at last! Also a ground hopper who has made the journey all the way from Bedford and who I had talked to earlier likes the look of my Blog when he finds it on his mobile phone.
( The teams make their way down the steps for the second half )
When play resumes, it's more of the same as Bilbrook go close again in the 48th minute when their No.9 turns his marker on the left side of the goal and slots the ball just wide of the far post.
Bilbrook go close twice more before increasing their lead after 66 minutes. A substitute of their's their No.16 goes down the right before managing to put in a good cross from the by line to the far post and their No.10 is on hand to head in from close range.
( Bilbrook's second goal hits the back of the net! )
Three minutes and it could be game over when the underdogs score their third goal. Their No.10 is on the left of the goal, with his back to it and manages to go on a run, first going out and then cutting back before managing to get in a shot that manages to elude the Newport keeper, who it looks to me as if if he should have done better. Easy for me to say though.
Soon after this, most of the crowd are diving for cover as the rain starts to bucket down. Thankfully though it only lasts for 5-10 minutes.
In the 75th minute a Newport player is adjudged to have been pushed in the back in the Bilbrook penalty area and the resulting penalty is duly despatched. Soon after this in another Newport attack, their No.8 goes down like a sack of spuds in the area. Quite pathetic! He could have had a second booking for that piece of play acting.
Close to full time a Newport free kick from the right comes over for their No.7 to bury a header in to the net. They go close again in injury time but Bilbrook hold on for a deserved win.
A few minutes later and the Bilbrook team collect the trophy and display it for their fans on the terraces behind. Well done Bilbrook!
Newport Town have been second best today but have the satisfaction of a very successful League campaign, ending as Champions and promotion to the 1st Division. Bilbrook can use this cup win as a launch pad for a better League campaign next season, after finishing in 7th place this time round.
Match entrance fee: £3
Match programme: free
Match attendance: Approx 100
PS. I was informed later on by the League Secretary, Wendy Juggins, that Bilbrook FC were found to have played the final with an ineligible player and the result was declared null and void.
Match entertainment 7.5/10
Wednesday, 18 May 2016
With a good weather forecast and a Cup Final to watch today, I am also looking to travel to a new ground too. It's Long Lane Park, which lies in between Cannock and Walsall, in South Staffordshire but with a Wolverhampton postcode? Also the ground is listed as being located in the village of Essington but in reality it lies 2-3 miles to the east of it and is in fact between the settlements of Newtown and Springfield.
The 2 teams taking part are Smethwick Rangers who defeated AFC Bridgnorth 3-0 in their semi-final while Wolverhampton Sporting had an epic 4-3 extra-time win over Cup holders Cradley Town.
I set off in sunshine, albeit with a cool breeze in attendance when I walk down to the rail station. I arrive in Walsall without incident and have a quick look round the town centre and the canal before having a cheap but unremarkable sausage & egg baguette at a local takeaway. Then it's off to the bus station and hopping aboard the No.2 bus where I ask the driver to let me know when we reach Long Lane. On the bus a local old guy engages me in conversation and he points out that the area where the football ground lies, used to be an old coal mining area where there are old mine shafts. This gets me wondering if we are going to see any players disappearing from view during today's match? Hope they are all insured!
20 minutes later I am told by the driver that we have arrived at Long Lane. After a 10 minute walk, I find myself outside the ground where officials are opening the gates to let a car inside. I then walk at the back of the club house to the far side, where the spectators are shelling out for the entry fee of £5. As I had let the League Secretary, Wendy Juggins, know that I was coming to take photos and she happened to be collecting the money, I get in for a reduced fee, with also a free programme and League badge! Thanks Wendy! I think this is due to the fact that I have supplied several lots of photos to the new WMRL website this season.
I find out from a League official that the current users of this ground are FC Stafford, as their own pitch in Stafford is not deemed suitable as because of the encroaching athletics track there, it is too small.
There is a decent sized crowd today even though this venue is in a fairly remote location.
The 2 teams come on to the pitch in their usual first team colours of dark blue & yellow for the Rangers and gold & black for the Sporting. When the game kicks off it's the favourites Wolves Sporting who are mainly on the offensive for the first 10 minutes.
During this period, the best chance is created by their No.10 who goes on a good run down the right, squares the ball across the goal area only for the ball to just evade 2 of his team mates.
After 12 minutes though, Smethwick take the lead when their No.8, Babucak Sauane, pushes through a great ball to the oncoming No.7,Nehemia Zazi, who slots the ball past the advancing Sporting keeper.
I take note that the Smethwick No.3 has a passing resemblance to the Real Madrid Brazilian left back, Marcelo, as they have similar afro hairstyles. His colleague at No.2,Abou Ceesay is also noted to have been putting in some great tackles.
For the next 20 minutes it's Smethwick Rangers who are mainly on top without creating many clear cut chances.
They are nearly made to pay for this in the 43rd minute when the Wolves Sporting's livewire No.7 crosses from the left and this is headed down in to the path of a Sporting attacker who fires over the bar.
The first half is completed with the favourites a goal in arrears.Maybe their exertions against Cradley Town a few nights ago are taking their toll? Smethwick with their young team look to be full of running and I think it will take a big effort from Wolves Sporting to take the trophy today.
Straight from the start of the second period, Wolves Sporting are on the attack and their No.7 sees his shot hit in to the side netting.
Smethwick are still dangerous and in the 61st minute a free kick is headed back to their No.6 and captain to shoot just past the post.
5 minutes later and Sporting's No.8 hits a rising shot over the bar from the left and in the 75th minute another Wolves Sporting attack sees a hooked shot by their No.11 from the right go the wrong side of the far post.
Smethwick's hopes are dealt a blow when 'Marcelo' is sent off in the 81st minute for a second booking after tripping the Wolves No 7 (as shown below)
Smethwick Rangers are forced back more and more by their increasingly desperate opponents and in the last minute of normal time, their ever dangerous No.7 goes down the right to dink over to their No.11 who wastes the chance by seeming to lose his footing in front of goal.
Also the Smethwick keeper has had problems in making decent goal kicks and has struggled to get them over the half way line most of the time, which has at times put more pressure on their defence.
( A late Smethwick Rangers free kick is watched by the Wolves keeper)
There is still time in stoppage time to see a Wolves Sporting substitute back head the ball over the bar and then their No.4 is sent off after receiving a second yellow.
The ref blows for time soon after and the Smethwick Rangers team receive the trophy after they, the match officials and the losing team have received their respective medals.
I later find out that the Smethwick Rangers team is largely composed of players under 21 years of age and they have put in a very encouragingly mature performance today which bodes well for their future. They have a club policy of giving equal opportunities to young players of all ethnic minority groups in their local community. Wolverhampton Sporting CFC have been disappointed today but have had a good season, finishing in a very creditable 4th place in the League. They will be playing Lichfield City this coming Wednesday evening in the JW Hunt Cup Semi-Final at the Castlecroft Stadium and the winners will be playing either Alvechurch or Sporting Khalsa in the Final at Molyneux the following Wednesday.
Match attendance: Approx 80
Match entrance fee: £5
Match programme: £1
Match entertainment: 7/10