Nancy Frostick and Bradley West bring you coverage from the Munrow Sports Hall where the Birmingham Lions take on Loughborough Lightning in the NBLWritten by Nancy Frostick & Bradley West on 6th December 2016
Top of the Table Clash Sees Birmingham Victorious
Nathan Jacobs reports on a fantastic performance from the Brum Men's football team as they beat Worcester to ensure their place at the top of the table.
The University of Birmingham first XI defeated Worcester’s firsts to secure top spot in the league, moving three points clear of Wednesday’s opponents. The build up to this match was intense with both sides locked at the top of the table with 16 points apiece. The reverse fixture in October saw Worcester win 2-1 so Birmingham knew they’d have to be on top form to get the three points.
The game started quite scrappily despite the decent playing conditions as both sides were cautiously trying to work the other one out. Birmingham’s midfielders Davies and Jones started to assert their influence on proceedings after 10 minutes with some clever through balls, alerting the Worcester back line and goalkeeper.
The improvement was telling though, and after 12 minutes, a slightly generous free kick was awarded to Birmingham on the right hand side. Jones curled in a sweet ball and Birmingham’s number 7, Ollie Sitch, beat the keeper to the ball and guided the ball into the bottom corner with his head. From that moment on, Birmingham seized control of the affair and 10 minutes later, a similar free kick on the left hand side taken by Bowerman was met by Sitch again, only for it to go narrowly wide this time.
After 30 minutes, Worcester were still to pepper the Birmingham goal. They tried to conjure up a few attacks but the Birmingham rearguard remained resolute, stopping any potential advances. Morphew and Wojtek particularly shining with some robust challenges and domineering headers. As a result of their control, the Birmingham frontmen were allowed freedom to create and after 36 minutes, Barrow found a pocket of space between the Worcester defenders and midfielders and dinked a hopeful ball over the top of the defenders’ heads which Sitch latched on to, delightfully volleying into the bottom right corner from the edge of the box, leaving the Worcester keeper totally helpless. This first real moment of magic gave Birmingham the crucial bit of breathing space a game of this magnitude required.
“'As the rest of the first half ticked by, a few more threatening set piece opportunities came and went for the Lions but they saw out the commandeering 2-0 lead into the second half...'
The second half started in similar fashion as Birmingham kept control, squeezing tight upon any potential attacks from Worcester. Between the 50th and 60th minute, Birmingham twice hit the post as they attempted to put the game to bed. First, Barrow outmuscled two defenders to set up an opportunity with his left foot which almost squirmed in and then the professional defensive midfielder Nitin Mishra also saw his attempt crash against the post from 20 yards.
Despite these chances, at 2-0, Worcester were still in the game and on 62 minutes they were granted their best opportunity as a long punt forward found its way through the Birmingham defence and Worcester’s striker stretched to get a foot to the ball, diverting it from its path.
It could easily have deceived, yet Birmingham’s no.1 Jamie Weller stood tall and made the save. On the counter-attack, Birmingham moved swiftly forward. Jones switched the ball to the left and Bowerman took on his man and crossed in a ball that the Worcester centre back couldn’t get a strong enough head too. The ball fell to the very impressive no.8 Davies who nodded in unopposed at the back post.
“'A richly deserved goal for the playmaker...'
After 70 minutes, seemingly comfortable, Birmingham were looking to find a few more goals and 3 quick-fire chances fell to Sitch and Davies but the Worcester keeper and defence were determined not to concede more. To their credit, Worcester didn’t give up the ghost and after 74 minutes, another superb set piece was met by a back post header nodded towards the 6 yard box which the Worcester CM knocked in to rattle a few Birmingham nerves and give themselves a very slim lifeline. As the game was nearing its close, Worcester’s number 19 was the man still trying to make Worcester tick but all of their advances were quelled with poor final balls and decision-making.
As darkness began to fall on the 3G pitches at Metchley, the final whistle blew and Birmingham held on for a crucial 3-1 win against their main rivals. Importantly, the scoreline means that Birmingham have a better head to head record against their rivals which takes precedence over goal difference in this league. With performances like this and each player working hard for the other, whisper it quietly but this team appear in prime position to achieve something great this season.
Man of the Match – Jack Davies