22nd September 2019.
Birmingham Over 60s travelled to Worcester University for their first experience of National Finals Day. Birmingham had beaten Coleshill 2-0, Ellesmere 6-0 and Hartshill 2-0 to reach the finals without conceding a goal.
Birmingham were in a group of four with the top two progressing to semi-finals. A random draw was held prior to the start of the games and Birmingham played their first match against Wakering from Essex and in a tight game, characteristic of the tournament, the final score was 0-0.
The second game was against Norwich who have a good record in tournaments and was again a tight cagey affair with clear cut chances at a minimum and some good saves from both keepers. This game again ended 0-0 and there was all to play for in the final group game.
Merthyr had drawn with Norwich but beaten Wakering so this was in effect a knock out quarter final with Birmingham having to win to progress but Merthyr only needing a draw.
Birmingham created a number of chances but were thwarted by the post or an acrobatic keeper who made some excellent saves. Birmingham in a last throw of the dice replaced defenders with attackers and were rewarded with 5 minutes to go when Mark Evans coolly slotted the ball past the opposition keeper. The defenders went back on and with Birmingham hampered by a Blue Card to Dave Whatmore they were able to hold on to secure a semi- final place.
The semi- final was against Wakefield who had beaten top teams Leggy Mambos and Sheffield on their way to the finals and had topped the other group. For once Birmingham had luck on their side and after a few minutes Wakefield were awarded a penalty when Les marginally stepped out of his area. Les saved the penalty to thwart a strong Wakefield team. Wakefield pressed and were rewarded when a fine strike from the left beat Les to concede Birmingham’s first goal in seven matches in the tournament.
Birmingham began to string some promising moves together and in the second period were rewarded with a well struck equalizer from Steve Dixon. Both sides pressed hard for the winner and the game went into an extra time period with both teams after a “golden goal”. Les performed miracles with some excellent saves to keep Birmingham in the game and take the tie to penalties.
Birmingham did not start well with Dave W hitting the post but then goals were scored by Mark Evans and Steve Dixon. Roy Williams had his penalty saved but a retake was ordered as the keeper had moved off his line. Roy showing cool in a pressurised situation slotted home the retake. A couple of Wakefield players had their penalties saved and the fifth penalty was taken by John McGinnell and was struck home past a despairing Wakefield goalkeeper to send Birmingham into the National Final.
The final was against a strong Blackburn team who had despatched Norwich in the other semi-final. The game started in cagey fashion with chances at a premium until John McGinnell broke free but was frustrated as his shot hit the post and rebounded out. Birmingham just shaded the first half but the decisive moment came when Blackburn brought their free scoring forward on for the second half. He managed to take two chances to put Blackburn 2-0 up and despite some desperate Birmingham attacking, Blackburn stood firm to win the National Final.
An excellent performance from Birmingham with Les Dawson making some top notch saves throughout the tournament. Martin Barber, Roger Purchase and Peter Giddings were solid in defence and the midfield quartet of Roy Williams, Steve Dixon, Mark Evans and captain John McGinnell all performed well and were the equals of their opponents. Dave Whatmore and Clive Macey battled well up front against some tough and mean defences. An excellent squad performance with mention also to Paul Feeney and manager Steve White who also contributed in earlier rounds of the competition.