Birmingham firsts hold off underdog seconds in 1-0 victory
In a gritty game of football Birmingham firsts did just enough to keep their opponents at bay
The Birmingham men’s firsts came out on top in a tense season opener against the seconds, but not without a good helping of drama.
Despite losing a man in the late stages, the favourites managed to hold their nerve by shutting out their opponents until the final whistle.
The seconds, in Blue, were lucky to end the game with a full compliment of players themselves, as the referee had a big influence on proceedings at Pershore Road.
The eagerly anticipated grudge match was the first BUCS league game for both sides, with the newly promoted seconds looking to compete at the top end of the Midlands 1A league.
However coming up against the Reds was always going to be a challenge for the Blues, and when 2pm came, friendships turned into rivalries as the new season got under-way.
The opening exchanges between the two teams were relatively even, with no obvious difference in ability, and all looked set for a closely fought match.
Although even the beginnings of the game were tense, tight and cagey.
Both sides looked to keep it solid at the back, fearing one goal conceded could prove decisive.
This led to some fierce tackles flying in on the first team midfielders as the Blues looked to try and break up the game where possible, and prevent first team midfielders Declan Kirby and Ben Sunderland from dominating midfield proceedings.
Despite the flurry of robust challenges on the Blues part, the Reds fell foul of the first yellow card of the match, when Ben Sunderland was ticked off for a heavy tackle from behind.
Undeterred by their opponents dogged defence, the firsts began to increasingly assert pressure on the opposition defence as the half wore on.
This upsurge in tempo was nearly rewarded, when a dart into the box, followed by a well taken finish was ruled to be offside for the Reds.
But the ruling only spurred the firsts on, and another attempt on goal from right-midfielder, Jake Brown was only just denied by a great save from Blues keeper Mike Brooker.
As quality began to tell, the seconds increasingly grew frustrated with lack of possession, with both Pashley and central midfielder Adam Smith receiving yellows for bad tackles.
Although frustrated by his team’s inactivity, Blue striker Adam Rosenbaum nearly offered his team glimpse of hope when he was faced with a one-on-one with the keeper, just skewing his shot wide of the left-hand post.
The end of the first half was the most lively part of the game, with the firsts hitting the post from a free-kick that caught their opponents off-guard.
But arguably the talking point of the half came just after, when the referee held judgement on a poor tackle from seconds captain Pashley, who had already received a yellow card for a similar offence.
It was a clear bookable offence as he hauled down Will Richards breaking away down the right, but the ref showed him an uncharacteristic leniency.
The score at half-time was 0-0, with the seconds lucky to still have 11 men.
The commencement of the second half signalled no change from the first- with both teams keeping things scrappy.
But early on the Reds were reward with the all-important breakthrough.
Showing his pace, Opalinski-New got in behind the 2nds back four and squared it for Richards who duly obliged with a simple finish, taking his team into a 1-0 lead.
From thereon in, the firsts were a cut above their seconds counterparts, constantly looking to keep the ball down and dominate the possession.
And as the substitutions started to freshen up the game, the tackles kept coming in thick and fast.
Unsurprisingly the renewed hostile exchanges between the teams resulted in a nasty challenge, made by already booked seconds player Adam Smith.
It seemed as if Smith was walking, but due to a refereeing error, Eric Torelli was wrongly given the yellow.
With Smith already booked earlier in the game, once again the seconds got off extremely lightly due to refereeing errors.
And as the game reached its last legs, increasingly the spirit of the match worsened as both teams began to feel the pressure.
This hostility culminated in a second yellow for firsts midfielder Sunderland for another rash challenge right in front of the dug-outs, which incensed coaches and players alike.
But even with an invitation back into the match, the Blues were unable to create any chances, as the firsts opted to shut up shop.
Despite down to a 10-man contingent, the firsts were well-drilled and organised right up until the final whistle, and nearly extended their lead in the dying minutes, only to be denied by a goal line block from Jabbie.
The whistle signalled a priceless victory for the 1’s over their follow squad members, in what was a tense, but important opening game of the season.
Full-time score: Firsts 1 – 0 Seconds.
UoB firsts: (4-4-1-1) GK – Jonathan Pigott, RB – Alex Austin, CB – Jack Westbrook, CB – Callum White, LB – AJ Adelekan, RM – Jake Brown (Matt Jones), CM – (c) Declan Kirby (Dan Mophew), CM – Ben Sunderland, LM – Seb Bowerman (Joe Othen-Price), CAM – Wojtek Opalinski New (Jack Davies), ST – Will Richards (Luke Barrow)
UoB seconds: (4-5-1) GK – Mike Booker, RB – Josh Murray, CB – (c) Max Pashley, CB – Ibrahim Jabbie, LB – Eric Torelli (Ollie Wildman), RM – Jarred Isles (Ben Kaguamba), CM – Charlie Hearl (Joe Airey), CM – Kristian Jenkins, CM – Adam Smith (Samuel Yamuah), LM – Benji Weinberger (Sam Crompton), ST – Adam Rosenbaum
Photos by Rob Davis