Birmingham had to settle for a point at the end of a thrilling contest with league leaders Nottingham Trent on a chilly Wednesday evening at Metchley. Scarves, hats and an extra pair of socks were the order of the day for those brave enough to be there to support the Birmingham Men’s Firsts Football and they were rewarded with some high quality football from the home team matched up against a physical, well-drilled opponent in our visitors in pink.
From the start, this had the feel of a crucial encounter. Birmingham knew a defeat would mathematically end their title chances, Nottingham knew a slip up would leave the league wide open. No surprise that it was cagey to start with as the two teams toyed with each other for the first ten minutes. From there, Nottingham started to show us why they led the Premier North Division. After forcing a couple of corners, they managed to make one count by recycling quickly when it was cleared. Birmingham were left slightly unorganised as a cross came in which looped up off a defender to the back post where Nottingham’s centre half was to gleefully head home. A slice of fortune maybe but Birmingham were now facing a monumental task to save their season.
They responded brilliantly though, first forcing the Nottingham keeper into a good save and then striking themselves off a set piece. A great ball in and a bullet header. Simple as that, it was 1-1. Remarkably, just two minutes later, Birmingham had the lead. A free kick this time did the damage as a great looping header from the edge of the area had the keeper scrambling. Fortunately for him it hit the bar but unfortunately, it landed at the feet of a Birmingham attacker who tucked it away to see Birmingham in front and the league looked as open as ever.
Having ended the first half well with some lovely possession football, Birmingham will be extremely disappointed with their start to the second half. With obvious instruction to press Birmingham higher, Nottingham forced a mistake. Birmingham’s keeper, so excellent with his distribution for 89 minutes, made one mistake with a poor clearance leaving Notts with a three on three. They worked it well, with their right-winger squaring for the substitute to tap in much to the visitors delight. The remainder of the game was an absolute joy. There were chances at both ends with Birmingham’s forwards perhaps guilty of not gambling enough while Notts midfielders too often made the wrong decision when they had an overload of numbers. There was also an added competitiveness with neither team fully happy with a draw and there was an extra bite in some of the challenges adding to the drama. When the final whistle came, it was greeted with an element of disappointment from both teams although Notts will be happier as they remain 3 points clear of Durham in second and three clear of Birmingham in third.
There were plenty of positives for Birmingham to take away. They dealt with the aerial threat of Notts really well barring the first goal seeing off long throw after long throw in the second half whilst they played some really nice football at the other end. They certainly matched Notts all the way but I guess that will be where the disappointment lies. With only two games left of their season, it would require two wins and results in their favour to pull off the title but it was a cracking match and both teams contributed equally towards it.