Sutton Coldfield Town 0-2 The Mikes
By The Mikes
Mikes win Cup with superb team performance
A healthy crowd of 710 (including two bus loads of our junior players) turned out to watch this local derby at Walsall’s Banks’s Stadium, organised by the Staffordshire F.A. Originally set up by the now defunct Walsall F.A., one wonders how it is that we and the Royals are eligible to take part: presumably, historical reasons determine this. The rules of the competition state that players who haven’t taken part in earlier rounds can’t participate in the Final: hence, Cameron Gayle couldn’t be chosen, and Harry Buttery wasn’t able to act as substitute keeper. Our opponents had two former Mikes in their ranks - mid fielder Steve Palmer and striker Ryan Nesbitt. Both teams had had an encouraging season, finishing fifth in their respective divisions; but would a Level’s difference render this occasion an unequal contest?
One ironic feature was that, visiting the domicile of a “superior “ Club, both teams, having a 3G surface as their home, found the pitch, which seemed well watered (and consequently cut up easily) one of the most challenging surfaces they’d played on all season! You wondered whether loss of balance at a crucial moment would decide the tie: fortunately, this was not the case.
The game started off tentatively, though the Royals showed more early promise: a spectacular bicycle kick from Sutton’s most consistently dangerous forward, Jonathan Letford, went wide with only two minutes on the clock, and five minutes later it needed a fine reflex save from Lewis Fenney to deny a James Beresford header from a corner. Alex Moore, on the opposition’s left wing, left Alister Brauns for dead ten minutes later, and lobbed over the bar when well positioned. Even so, the Mikes were coming into the game, and good work by both Luke Shearer and Ben Usher-Shipway set up Rikardo Reid, who brought out a scrambling save from Gwilliams with nineteen minutes gone. Ryan Shaw was working hard (but finding the skiddy surface hard work) and was spoken to by our referee after his third foul, which saw right winger Niall Flint hobbling out of proceedings with a quarter of the match played. From here on, Boldmere were having the better of the contest, and were exerting sustained pressure. Even so, an anxious moment ensued on the half hour, as Nesbitt, tirelessly chasing loose balls at the back, nearly had a chance to profit from an underpowered back pass. The Royals soon had the ball in the net from close range; but the linesman’s flag ruled the effort out. Three minutes later, an Owen Parry effort from distance could only be parried away by Royals’ custodian Lewis Gwilliams. The half continued with the Mikes on the front foot, with the Royals looking dangerous on the break. Most Boldmerians thought we’d had the better of the first period; but with no chances turned into goals, could we eventually turn territorial advantage into victory?
The men from Coles Lane had evidently had something strong in their half time tea, and began the second half in determined style, giving Boldmere a torrid ten minutes as they looked for an opening goal, James Beresford and Alex Moore going close before Ryan Nesbitt scooped over when well placed. Boldmere got going again, and the game’s only outbreak of handbags arose when full back Alexander Curtis, trying to shadow out a ball for a goal kick, found out what we already know: Ben Usher-Shipway is a determined tackler! With the hour approaching, it needed a point blank Fenney block to keep the game scoreless. No sooner had the hour gone, than a diving Fenney effort pushed a Letford shot away for a corner, after a dazzling run in the box had seen three Boldmere defenders left in his wake. Craig Milligan (possibly playing his last game in Boldmere’s colours) now left the field to warm applause, and was replaced by Jack Skinner. The first goal arrived a minute later. We’ve seen Usher-Shipway send in rocket-like crosses all season, with no one able to get on to them: this time, Ryan Shaw was on hand to fire home, on 64 minutes. The Sutton Ultras Band, who had started the evening in fine musical form, now became progressively more silent as Boldmere grew manifestly more confident. A high boot from Usher-Shipway on his marker earned the game’s first yellow card; though the alacrity with which Curtis recovered from his post challenge histrionics didn’t impress the Boldmere faithful. Two minutes later, similar treatment by James Mutton on Owen Parry made it one yellow each. As the three quarter mark approached, Usher-Shipway made a chance for Shearer to finish the contest: but the opportunity was fired over the woodwork. As is now standard practice, Steve Simpson came on for Shearer with ten minutes of regular time to go. On the other wing, meanwhile, Curtis (to whom Usher-Shipway had given an interesting evening) was given the match’s third yellow card as he tried to contain the winger. With seven minutes of regular time left, a moment of brilliance by Parry decided the Cup’s destination. Dribbling round three defenders in their own penalty area, he fired home to make the score 2-0. The Royals had no option but to throw players forward now, and this nearly led to a third Boldmere goal. Simpson raced away with a clearance from defence, and crossed to Reid. He generously returned the pass, and you feel Simpson had time to bury it - but he didn’t. Would the Mikes be able to play out time; or would we witness one of their famous late game capitulations? A judicious mixture of time occupancy and tactical attacking saw them through to the final whistle.
Another game had been going on at a place called Anfield, and doubtless champagne was flowing in the wake of the defeat of some Catalan team; here, the energy drink was fizzed over the victors as they celebrated their first trophy win in eleven years. More significantly, they thoroughly deserved it. With more consistency against “lesser” opposition, can they push on to greater things next term?
Team: Lewis Fenney; Alister Brauns; Reece Mitchell; Craig Milligan (Jack Skinner, 64 minutes); Harry Craven; Joe Lyng; Ben Usher-Shipway; Ryan Shaw; Rikardo Reid (Jason Holmes, 89 minutes); Owen Parry; Luke Shearer (Steve Simpson, 80 minutes). Subs. not used: J’Cee Abraham; Luke McGinnell.