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Having beaten Cirencester in the Regional Final of the WFA National Cup, Birmingham Over 65’s made the short journey to Worcester University on Sunday to compete in the Final stage of this competition for the first time in their history.
Eight regional finalists were drawn in two groups of four, with Birmingham drawn in what appeared to be the most difficult group from which to proceed.
Eastleigh 2 Birmingham 1
Birmingham really struggled to get into their stride in this match. Eastleigh took the lead after 5 minutes play when they took advantage of a misplaced pass in midfield and moved the ball swiftly through the B’ham defence to score a simple goal. Birmingham managed an equaliser in the second half from Decka Thorp when, after some neat footwork, he found himself one on one with the Eastleigh goalkeeper and he finished with aplomb. Birmingham looked at this point to have steadied the ship, but a weak back pass let in the Eastleigh striker to score his second goal to settle the outcome of the match.
Birmingham 1 Nottingham Bramcote 0
The result against Eastleigh left Birmingham badly needing a win against Nottingham to keep their qualification hopes alive. They approached this match in a far more positive manner and their pass and move game began to show almost immediately against a less skilful Nottingham side. Try as they may the Nottingham midfielders and forwards could not get the better of the Birmingham defence and the result was put beyond doubt when a fine breakaway by Birmingham resulted in Steve Evans finishing high into the net.
Birmingham 2 Abbeymead Rovers 0
Buoyed by the nature of their success in the previous game, Birmingham continued where they left off. Abbeymead were a better side than Nottingham but this only served to spur Birmingham on to greater things.
Knowing that a win would put them in the semi-final, they outplayed the opposition and created more chances than in previous games and two well taken goals by Dave Whatmore settled the match in Birmingham’s favour.
SEMI FINAL: Barnet 0 Birmingham 2
Barnet came into this match with nine points having remained unbeaten to top Group A, so Birmingham were expecting a difficult game to qualify for a place in the Final. As it turned out they played their best football of the afternoon. They competed for every ball, covered and worked hard for each other in and out of possession, and the midfield and forwards were always ready to shoot on sight. They were all hungry for that final spot. However, they did not have it all their own way. Barnet were dangerous opponents and Birmingham keeper Keith Phipps had to get down smartly on 3 occasions to keep them out.
Spurred on by Keith’s saves Birmingham put the game to bed when Decka scored a fine individual goal and then completed a double after being put through one on one with the keeper.
FINAL: Birmingham 0 Wigan Walkers 0 Birmingham Win 3 - 1 on Penalties!!!
As a spectacle the final did not turn out to be the game we were all hoping for. A very officious referee spoilt it somewhat by not allowing it to flow, blowing his whistle and stopping play at every opportunity.
Consequently, neither side got into any rhythm which was disappointing after the superb display in the semi-final against Barnet.
However, it was not a total bore. In the opening minutes the Wigan central midfield player, unleashed what appeared to be an unstoppable shot towards the Birmingham goal, but in true heroic fashion, goalkeeper Keith” The Cat” took off to his left and turned the ball aside for a corner.
As Birmingham eventually got into their stride the Wigan goalkeeper also had to earn his corn as shots rained in on this goal from all the Birmingham outfield players. Full Time: 0 - 0
Golden Goal extra time came next with neither side managing to force a win and the match was to be decided by penalties.
PENALTIES: BIRMINGHAM 3 WIGAN 1
Scorers: Barry Huntington - Steve Evans - Decka Thorp.
Player Manager John Limbourne commented,
“After the disappointment of losing in the early stages of this competition against Hartshill last year, reaching the Final this year was a great achievement in itself, but to go on and win it makes me so proud to be associated with Birmingham WFC and all of the players involved in this great win. Thanks to everyone for your support.”