The Group stages of Euro 2016 are complete, so our writers have had a go at predicting the Round of 16 matches.Written by Nicola Kenton, Dan Steeden, Alex Davis, Harry Wilkinson & Nancy Frostick on 24th June 2016
Brilliant Brum Confirm Top Spot After Defeat of Oxford
Sports writer, Alex Davis, reports on the match that saw the Men's 1sts Football team clinch top spot and the title.
University of Birmingham’s Men’s Football First XI secured the Midlands 1A league title on Wednesday after a commanding 3-1 home victory over the University of Oxford. After last week’s victory over title rivals Worcester, Birmingham knew that they only needed three points from their remaining two games to be crowned champions by virtue of their superior head-to-head record. In the end only one game was needed as Brum cruised to victory to provoke jubilant celebrations on the Metchley 3G.
Having tasted victory against this week’s opponents once already this season, Birmingham knew they possessed the quality to gain the much needed three points. The game would be won and lost in the dressing room, the pervading question being whether or not the occasion would get the better of them as opposed to any doubts over quality. Despite the knowledge that Worcester had won earlier in the day to rank up the pressure, the atmosphere at fortress Metchley was rather calm and Brum entered the field looking like a team full of confidence.
Indeed they had every right to be confident and after a combative opening period, Brum settled down and began to pick holes in Oxford’s defence. With better finishing and a willingness to gamble inside the six-yard box, Brum could have found themselves two up inside 20 minutes. First, classy captain Seb Bowerman couldn’t quite lift the ball over the onrushing keeper while two minutes later a great first time ball from Nitin Mishra was headed narrowly wide of the left hand post by Jack Davies.
Brum were beginning to find their mojo and soon after the 20 minute mark they opened the scoring. Long reaching cross-field balls from defence had proved successful in the early exchanges and it was from a similar position that the home side broke the deadlock. Dan Summerfield spotted the run of Bowerman and carved the Oxford defence open with a delightful cross-field ball. In behind the defence, Bowerman only had the keeper to beat and did so with consummate ease, striking the ball on the half volley into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal.
From here the home side began to dictate play with Matty Jones pulling the strings in midfield and on the brink of half time Brum had a strong penalty shout turned down. Oxford’s centre half appeared to handle in the box but the referee saw otherwise and Birmingham entered half time looking comfortable at 1-0.
Entering one of their biggest 45 minutes of the season, Birmingham started the second half shakily; the enormity of the occasion beginning to show. However fortune was on their side and after a clever header from Mishra, the Oxford keeper could only parry onto the body of Ollie Stitch and into the goal. The celebrations which ensued were perhaps more befitting of last week’s wonder strike, however it doesn’t matter how the ball goes in, as long as it does, and Brum now had a comfortable two goal advantage.
To their credit, Oxford didn’t let their heads drop and continued to battle for a foot-hold in the game. They got their reward on the hour mark after the otherwise faultless Wojtek Opalinski conceded a foul on the right hand side of the Brum 18-yard box. The ball was whipped in with pace and nodded home past the helpless Booker. With half an hour to go and only one goal separating the teams, Brum’s nerve was to be tested.
Spotting the danger, coach Rob Williams replaced the tiring Jones with the fresh legs of Joe Cattermole. With added bite in midfield, Birmingham re-took their grip of the game and it wasn’t long before their two goal advantage was restored. On the 75 minute mark, Cattermole robbed the ball in the centre of the pitch and drove forward past two Oxford players. He played a perfectly weighted through ball to the advancing Stitch who slotted home comfortably for his second brace in as many weeks.
Oxford heads dropped and Birmingham played the closing exchanges conservatively, intelligently retaining possession and seeing the game out. The final whistle went to the delight of the players and coaching staff to seal all three points and the Midlands 1A title. Birmingham displayed the class, physicality and mental strength which had seen them rise to the top of the division in what was a confident display.
Brum now enter a round robin tournament with the winners of the Northern 1A division and the losers of the Premier North division to find out who will play in the top league next season. While the outcome of this remains to be seen, Birmingham can enjoy their success and proudly call themselves league champions.
Line-up: M.Booker, D. Summerfield, D.Morphew, W.Opalinski, A.Adelekan, N.Mishra, O.Stitch, J.Davies, M.Jones, S.Bowerman, L.Barrow
Subs: S.Reynolds, M.Rudolph, R.Murphy, J.Cattermole, J.Isles
Man of the Match: Dan Morphew