NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS CENTRAL FINAL – 22/10/17 OVER 50’s WINNERS
Birmingham’s Over 50 ’s confirmed their place in the Prestigious WFA National Final for the second consecutive year, by overcoming Sheffield United, Norwich City and Hereford, they became the only team to qualify for all four majors in 2017 (Peoples Cup, EFL Trophy and Champion of Champions)
Their first fixture played at Solihull Walking Football Centre against Sheffield proved a tight affair, the ever impressive Ian Ward giving the Brummies the lead in the first minute as his shot slid under the advancing keeper. Birmingham looked solid and compact at the back with Darren Bradley, David Castle and Shane Ward rotating successfully to deny any threat from the Yorkshire men. On the stroke of half time, Bradley was adjudged to have encroached into the area and the resulting penalty was despatched with confidence to draw the scores level. The second half was much the same as the first as Birmingham seemed in control with their passing game working to great effect. From a free kick Sheff Utd were found napping and a brilliant short pass from Darren Bradley found Shane Ward in space and he cooly slotted home. Despite losing a player in the last two minutes Birmingham saw out the game with some resolute and effective defending. Derek Hughes in goal showing both confidence and great distribution.
The 2-1 victory against their perceived most difficult opponent had left Birmingham in great spirit , but realising they needed to be thoroughly professional they kept their shape and concentration during their next game against Norwich City who had lost their first fixture to Hereford, Manager Paul Murtagh continually using rotating substitutes to great effect , once again the perfect start was achieved as Dave Norton turned from a Andy Struthers pass to smash home the opener, then Dave Wright, used as an impact substitute, rolled his defender continually to score two sublime goals to give Birmingham a 3-0 half time lead. Struthers, Ward and the in-form Wright went close in the second half, but to no avail, the only blemish for Birmingham being a sloppy last minute consolation for Norwich. The 3-1 victory meant that only a draw was needed to secure their place in the National Final.
Hereford had proved to be a tough opponent but lacked a cutting edge, so Birmingham knew that a goal would probably be enough for them to confirm qualification, Norton, Castle and Ian Ward had all had chances but a goalless first half meant it was still in the balance. Dave Wright then produced some sublime skill as another inch perfect Norton pass was latched onto and he cooly dinked the keeper to give Birmingham the lead, this was soon doubled as Norton beat the keeper on the near post with a superb turn and shot a 2-0 victory confirming their advancement.
After the game Manager Paul Murtagh commented, “This was a very satisfying victory for us, having 7 outfield players of the quality we have gives me so many options with rotating the guys, giving them breaks and enabling them to stay fresh. At times our football was a joy to watch, Dave, Brads and Shane are developing such a good understanding at the back and in Norts, Andy, Dave and Wardy we have goals and skill in abundance. We know we need to stay focussed and we will have a chance in the final next week, the WFA Final has always been our focus, as we were not happy with our performance at last year’s event, this gives us a great opportunity to put it right ”