The scene was like something off a B-movie – three teams on 17 points at the top of the league, the other three out of it, whichever of these two teams – Birmingham or Nottingham – took the win, would win the league and promotion. The University of Birmingham men’s football 2nd XI were behind on goal difference, as were the Nottingham 2s – and it was set to be an exciting one. As we asked the Birmingham coach for a team sheet, like the professional commentators we are, we learnt that the league’s top side, Northampton, had drawn in their fixture – meaning the positon of league champions was there for the taking. Strangely, Nottingham decided to arrive only 5 minutes before the game was scheduled to start, allowing Brum more time for a proper warm-up. It was clear that this was going to be a big one from the get go.
The first half was a cagey affair. Birmingham dominated the early stages with some very strong forward play from the likes of Murphy, Lunnon and Corder yet no chances came to anything serious for the attacking midfielders. Birmingham were in a 4-2-3-1 formation for the fixture, and they utilised the wingers to good effect, outpacing the Nottingham full backs on several occasions to put pressure on the keeper and dominated the play. They were skilful too, my co-commentator quipping that it could be ‘the University of Rio’ that we were watching. Nottingham had a few sparse chances – including one that involved the Nottingham number 9 surging forward and clashing with Brum captain Pashley, and temporarily injuring the centre back, yet he battled on – this meant too much to him. The half ended 0-0.
The second half is when it kicked off (for the second literal time, but metaphorically too). The team talk clearly had a potent effect on Nottingham more than the Birmingham Lions as they were an entirely different team. They now posed a threat to what had thus far been a consistent performance effort from the Lions. Birmingham weathered the storm however, and a key opportunity arose, and it was a chance Birmingham seized readily. Corder shrugged off one defender and calmly tapped the ball over the keeper. It’s no understatement to say that the crowd went wild; they all knew how important this was and, in a crowd made up primarily of the men’s football first XI, a pitch invasion ensued. Corder was mobbed, but they had to be careful not to get complacent. Unfortunately, the Lions took their foot off the gas after the goal, and Nottingham had the best chance they had all day as a result. The Nottingham striker was by far their best player on the pitch, and he managed to get through on goal and would have levelled the score if it weren’t for a save with the keeper’s tips of his toes – Mike Booker made a key save his only real action of the day. The second Birmingham goal came soon after. It was a screamer. It truly was. Corder again for this one, about 25 yards out, teed it up, and let fly. In all fairness the keeper should’ve done better, just about mustering up a thumb to try and stop it, but the ball was travelling fast and high, and a great goal to end the season with. The game ended 2-0.
And with that, Birmingham 2s won the league. They put in a solid performance when they needed it most. Corder would be my man of the match – he was relentless up the right wing and scored the goals which gave the Lions the title. They deserved the win over Nottingham, and apart from a couple of lapses in concentration, they were consistently on top of Nottingham who didn’t get a look in. 2-0 was a fair score on the day. Congratulations to the team.
Feature image credited to @rwilliams72