COMEBACKS, SHOOT OUTS AND INTER CLUB RIVALRIES – PEOPLES CUP
Birmingham Over 50’s had two representative in the semi final of this year’s peoples Cup semi final, but with only one team allowed to progress to the final, something had to give. Birmingham Blues started their fixtures against the Port Vale, a dream start with goals from Kev Reid and Simon Dyer, meant they were able to relax and ran out comfortable winners 3-1 with another goal from Reid. Unfortunately it proved a false dawn, as the side then narrowly lost their remaining fixtures to Pele’s Pearls 1-0, their counterparts from Beechcroft Avenue 2-1 and Heanor Strollers 3-1 with goal contributions from Richard Dawson and Rod Thompson. Manager Ian Gough commented later “ I thought we did really well , we competed in every game, I though Rod Thompson was superb and Andy Monk made some great saves, we really missed Kev Mann upfront and Simon Dyer has played with a nasty injury, I really think the lads can be proud of their performance”
A bizarre start for Birmingham Walking FC, against Heanor Strollers from Derby saw them 3-0 down within 2 minutes of the start of their first game, the usually reliable Birmingham keeper Les Dawson, by his own admission being nervous as normally he would have saved all 3 of the reasonably tame shots. Birmingham knew the chips were down and their long unbeaten record in danger of being broken. An Andy Struthers pass saw Dave Norton claw one back on the stroke of half time and shortly after the break, Mike Milligan made it 2-3. Half time substitute Dave Wright then cut inside and sent a left foot drive into the corner to restore parity. A fine save from Dawson in the last minute meant Birmingham’s “get out of jail free card” had been played. Knowing that only 3 further victories would guarantee to put the Brummies into the final they tightened up at the back and were comfortable in beating Port Vale 2-0 (Norton 2) Birmingham Blues 2-1 (Norton , Wright) and Pele’s Pearls 2-0 (Norton , Milligan) to top the group and set up a final against Pele’s Pearls.
Birmingham had got their passing game going really well, but an unlucky ricochet from a Mike Milligan shot left a Pearl’s forward alone to slot pass Dawson in the Birmingham goal, Birmingham pressed throughout and were rewarded when Norton turned sharply and placed a shot passed the keepers left to take the final to penalties.
Cool heads and strong will were needed as supporters and players alike were on the edge of their seats as both teams scored 8 penalties on the trot. Dawson then got a touch to send Pearl’s ninth penalty over the bar. It was left to the hugely experienced Darren Bradley to step up and cooly slot home the decider and send Birmingham through to their third consecutive People Cup Final.
Afterwards Manager Paul Murtagh commented “I just couldn’t believe the start we had to be 3-0 down so soon was just ridiculous, I cannot remember the last time we let in 3 goals in a game. The lads showed so much character, it’s days like this when you don’t play particularly well but just grind out results, we know we won’t play that badly again. I was really pleased for Les at the end, keepers are either Hero’s or Villians, his save for the penalty effectively won it for us.”
Birmingham now go to the equivalent of the FA Cup Final in their attempt to win the illustrious and elusive treble of Peoples Cup, National Championships and Home Internationals. Captain Dave Castle commented “I believe we all know what we are capable of, we need to keep our feet firmly on the ground, Saturday was a reminder to us of how football can go, we showed incredible resolve to comeback against Heanor, after winning 8 consecutive tournaments everyone tries so hard against us which is understandable, we just need to keep doing the simple things really well”