A damp afternoon on Metchley 3G saw Birmingham host Chichester in what would prove to be a surprisingly protracted and hard-fought affair. This high-stakes BUCS Championship cup tie would see the winner progress to a favourable quarter final against Hartpury.
From the first whistle, Chichester’s game plan was clear. Although Birmingham created a couple of half-chances early on, Chichester’s aggression and disciplined pressure off the ball prevented the Lions from establishing sustained possession in the attacking third of the field.
A theme in these early stages, and indeed throughout most of the game, was that Chichester’s pressure and discipline, combined with the narrow 3G pitch, seriously inhibited Birmingham from asserting their evidently superior quality.
As Birmingham became increasingly frustrated, Chichester broke the deadlock on the 40-minute mark with an opportunistic counterattack, smartly dispatched by the striker with the outside his right boot. Birmingham came out in the second half looking to convert their greater quality into clear-cut chances on the opposition goal which had largely alluded them thus far.
Though the early stages looked more promising for Birmingham, a congested midfield still plagued the Lions who were once again the victims of an effective counter when the Chichester no. 9 showed good strength and skill to hold off both centre halves and send a looping shot over the keeper.
With only 30 minutes remaining and Birmingham, still having failed to score, looked dead and buried. However, the Lions showed brilliant character and class to first score from a set piece and then, with their tails up, seal an equaliser to level the scoring at 2 – 2.
With the momentum now very much in Birmingham’s favour, the Lions narrowly missed the opportunity to clinch a late winning goal, despite creating multiple attacking opportunities, and the game went to extra time.
With both sides making attacking substitutions extra time saw opportunities on both goals. However, it was Birmingham who finally managed to edge in front during the second half of extra time. As it looked as though Birmingham had finally got the better of their opponents, Chichester, as they had so often done in the game, broke away and scored against the run of play to level the scoring at 3-3.
With the momentum with the opposition, Birmingham’s best attempts failed to seriously affect the Chichester defence. Much to Birmingham’s dismay, and with only minutes remaining, a seemingly beleaguered Chichester once again broke with pace and purpose to snatch a late winner.
On the day, Birmingham’s superior quality was simply not enough to overcome a tenacious and well-drilled Chichester side who proved lethal on the break. Birmingham showed excellent character to level the scoring from 2-0 down and will feel unlucky not to have won a game which was finely poised throughout.