FA Vase (Third Round Proper)
Biggleswade United 2-2 Whitchurch Alport (Whitchurch win on penalties 4-3)
Whitchurch caused an upset in the FA Vase and got an excellent away win against Biggleswade United at the Verdant Stadium on Saturday afternoon. An impressive crowd of 103 supporters watched Whitchurch progress to the fourth round.
With the visitors struggling in the premier division, it was an even match against a team pushing for the play offs in the Spartans South Midlands League (Premier) which speaks volumes to how well Alport played.
Biggleswade opened the scoring on the half hour mark through Joe Babbage who found space in the box before heading past Jack Sheward to make it 1-1. Whitchurch showed character and responded with an equaliser in the 38th minute through Chris Aziamale. The visitors were reduced to ten men near the end of the first half with Adam Hailes receiving a red card for a high tackle.
Whitchurch remarkably took the lead with ten men late on in the second half. Ben Guest played an excellent through ball that found Chris Aziamale who finished well to make it 2-1. Biggleswade got a penalty late on in the 86th minute which was taken by Jake Stronge. He showed composure from the spot to make it 2-2.
The penalty shootout was an excellent watch for the neutral. Whitchurch missed a penalty early on to hand Biggleswade the advantage. The Bedfordshire side had two chances to win it, but Jack Sheward did excellently to save them.
It went to sudden death and Lyndon Campbell scored for Whitchurch from the spot. Jack Sheward saved the Biggleswade penalty to see Whitchurch reach the fourth round in a thriller.
The amount of resiliency shown by Alport to win this match was incredible. It’s also a statement win for manager Adam Shillcock who joined the club mid-season following a difficult start to the league campaign. Their now in the fourth round and have a home tie on the 13th of January against either Fakenham Town or Great Wakering Rovers in the last 32.
Lincoln United 2-1 Congleton Town
Congleton lost to United Counties League side Lincoln United at Ashby Avenue over the weekend. An excellent crowd of 216 supporters watched Lincoln progress to the fourth round where they will play either Ashville or South Liverpool away.
The Whites have been excellent at home in the league with seven straight wins and continued it here against one of the top sides from the MFL Premier division.
Lincoln took an early 2-0 lead in the opening 20 minutes which helped them get through to the fourth round. Matt Cotton scored in the 11th minute and Tobias Liversidge scored in the 15th minute to give the hosts a 2-0 lead.
Congleton responded in the second half through a goal by Max McCarthy in the 66th minute and were searching for an equaliser late on. However, it was not to be for the Bears.
The visitors can now focus on the league and getting promoted to step four. Despite the FA Vase exit, there’s still a lot to play for in the MFL and their challenging for the league title.
Castle Vale Town 0-1 Continental Star
Continental Star got an excellent away win at Castle Vale Town on Saturday. It’s their first win of the season and came against one of the standout teams in the division this season.
Castle Vale Town are having a good season and competing in the top half of the table. Their main weakness has been their home form at CV stadium but given the league positions this result is something of an upset. The win moves the visitors up to 15th with six points from 15 matches.
This feels like a big result for Continental Star as it should give them confidence going into their four league matches for the rest of December.
They face a huge match at home to Birmingham Tigers on Saturday which is a good opportunity to get a result and build some momentum.
It was an off day for Castle Vale on Saturday. Throughout the season teams will have the odd match where it’s not quite clicking. None the less, their in a good position in the division and are in 6th with 26 points from 16 matches.
The Spitfires have four league games for the rest of December starting with Balsall away on Saturday which is a good chance to get back on track.
Gornal 5-5 BNJS
Gornal and BNJS played out a thrilling match at the Wombourne Leisure Centre that finished 5-5. Both teams were new additions to the MFL and joined division three over the summer. Out of the two, Gornal have been better at picking up results, but BNJS have competed well with some tough teams and caused the odd upset.
The result adds to Gornal’s eye catching home record with three wins and one draw from seven matches. Goal scoring had been an issue for the club going into this one so to score five is encouraging and should give the team confidence in front of goal.
The hosts have a busy festive period and are away to Silhill, Boldmere Falcons and Wake Green between the 23rd to the 30th of December.
Despite BNJS struggling in the league this result should give the squad some confidence for the matches ahead. Goalscoring on the road had been an issue going into this match so to score five should help.
There’s quality in the squad and they have four matches for the rest of December to cause an upset starting with Boldmere Falcons at home on Saturday.
Solihull Sporting 3-2 Leamington Hibernian
Solihull Sporting got a brilliant home win against Leamington Hibernian to move up the table. Their now in 10th with 17 points from 14 matches. Their record at the Tudor Grange Academy Kingshurst has been a strength with five wins from eleven matches and has propelled the club up the table.
A brace from Fiifi Kwofie and a solo effort from Gabriel Harding gave Sporting the three points against Leamington Hibernian. Despite the loss, Leamington Hibernian have been playing well of late with 9 points from their last six league matches.
Solihull Sporting have three away matches for the rest of December and are on the road to Meadow Park this Saturday. They are also at Balsall and Berkswell and Boldmere Falcons on the 23rd and 30th December.
Leamington Hibernian have a challenging month in the league. Their up against quality teams competing at the top of the division. They start at home to AFC Solihull on Saturday and have matches against AFC Birmingham, Silhill (Away) and Feckenham between the 23rd December to the 30th December.
Round up feature written by Rhys Beardmore for the Midland Football League
Northfield were looking to get a result yesterday afternoon to continue their excellent home form at Shenley Lane this season. They had won five of their six home league matches coming into this one and were 2nd in the table with 34 points.
The top two in the division get promoted come the end of the season and with Feckenham a point off them in 3rd, Northfield entered a crucial period of the season with four league matches in December.
AFC Birmingham had gone a bit under the radar but were having a solid season competing in the top half of the table. The visitors were in 5th with 27 points coming into this match and were in contention for a top two finish come the end of the season. Their away form had been a key strength so far with six wins from nine matches on the road.
The atmosphere around Shenley Lane prior to kick off was friendly and relaxed with both sets of supporters looking forward to the match. With a few postponements around the MFL due to the weather it was also a good chance for local groundhoppers to turn up and watch the match.
There was a commendable number of supporters for both teams yesterday which added to the occasion.
Starting Line Ups
Northfield’s starting line up included Matt Horton starting in goal and Josh Westwood captaining the team for midfield. The formation looked like a 4-3-3 with Josh McGinley leading the line up front and being supported by Stanford Stewart and Ermand Kaloti on the wings.
There were three changes from the team that started against Punjab United last weekend in the Birmingham Saturday Vase with Ash Tullett coming into the team and playing in central defence alongside Ethan Green.
AFC Birmingham’s starting line up featured Gabriel Bajrami starting in goal and Drew Ricketts captaining the team from central defence. The starting formation appeared to be a 4-4-2 with a front two of Harley Baker and Rahiem Faulder.
There were three changes from the team that started against DSC United a fortnight ago with Nev Erane coming into the team and playing in defence.
The opening twenty minutes of the match were cagey with both teams working each other out and settling into it.
Northfield started the stronger of the two and got into an early rhythm. They were linking up well in the midfield and final third and putting pressure on the AFC Birmingham goal throughout the opening half an hour. None the less, the chances were fairly limited in front of goal and the visitors did well to limit the opportunities to build some confidence and grow into the match.
The host’s best chance came in the 21st minute when Kai Brookes did brilliantly to win the ball back high up the pitch from the left-hand side. He made an excellent run towards goal and threaded the ball to Ermand Kaloti who shot marginally wide of the goal with just Gabriel Bajrami to beat.
This was a crucial moment as it allowed AFC Birmingham a chance to make a tactical change and take the game to Northfield. Ryan Faulkner made a brilliant tactical adjustment in the middle of the first half which involved changing the formation to a 5-3-2 with Harley Baker and Rahiem Faulder being supported by Igli Bohushi from attacking midfield.
This change made the visitors more defensively solid off the ball and allowed them to link up the play better when building attacks on the break. Nev Erane slotted into central defence as part of a back three. This benefitted AFC Birmingham and broke up the Northfield momentum in front of goal.
AFC Birmingham were growing in confidence as the first half went on and had some notable chances to take the lead near the half hour mark. Rahiem Faulder had a good chance from a header in the box that went wide in the 31st minute. Igli Bohushi also had an excellent chance in the box but had a shot go narrowly wide of the post in the 35th minute.
The match was finely in the balance going into half time. Northfield looked good going forward but just lacked that final ball in the box to open the scoring.
AFC Birmingham started the second half the stronger of the two teams and took the initiative in the opening ten minutes. Matt Horton made a good save from a direct corner by Kyle Field and Rahiem Faulder got into a good position before having a shot well saved.
The visitors made the pressure count from a set piece to take the lead. A corner was put into the box which tested the Northfield defence and beat the first man. Drew Ricketts had an effort on goal on the edge of the box that was deflected to Rahiem Faulder who finished well to make it 1-0.
The goal was a bit of a statement from AFC Birmingham who scored against one of the best defences in the division going into yesterday’s match.
The visitors had chances to extend their lead in the middle of the second half. Substitute Ashley Brown had a header at the back post from a corner in the 70th minute. There was also a brilliant counterattack that involved substitute Mikkel Boone playing a good ball to Harley Baker who shot wide in the 73rd minute.
Northfield did have some big chances to get an equaliser late on. Ash Tullett had a shot that was well blocked in the box and Ethan Green had an excellent chance minutes before full time, but his header went wide of the post.
Northfield showed plenty of effort and endeavour yesterday, but it was just one of those days. It was not quite clicking in the final third and the result was more testament to how well AFC Birmingham played rather than anything Northfield did wrong.
Despite the defeat, there was plenty of quality by the hosts and a few players stood out. Ash Tullett looked good at the back and was reading the game well in central defence. He was heading dangerous balls out of the box and blocking shots from the visitors. Kai Brookes also looked good from left back and was dangerous with the ball going forward.
Ashley Prince had an underrated game from defensive midfield. He was breaking up the play for Northfield and helping them get on the ball more throughout the afternoon. He does a lot of the work off the ball that can go unnoticed. Josh McGinley also looked good as the main striker and was linking up well and spreading the play out to the wings.
AFC Birmingham were excellent in this match, and it was a classic away performance. They kept it tight and took their chance well when it mattered to take home the three points. Their now on 30 points and only four off Northfield in 2nd. They could be a dark horse for the promotion places if they can stay consistent.
The defence was a key strength of the team and the back three were brilliant. Nathan Rowe was reading the game well and making some crucial tackles and blocks to stop promising Northfield attacks. Drew Ricketts was blocking shots in the box and organising the backline well as skipper. Nev Erane was also getting into some excellent positions to clear the ball away from danger.
Kyle Field had an underrated game from left back. He looked solid defensively and also linked up well when building attacks from the left wing. Mikkel Boone also played well when he came on and offered a threat on the counterattack in the second half for the visitors.
Overall, it was a brilliant performance from the visitors which leaves the promotion race wide open in division three
FT score: Northfield Town 0-1 AFC Birmingham
Man of the Match: Nathan Rowe (AFC Birmingham)
Match report written by Rhys Beardmore for the Midland Football League
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