It's that time of year, The league games have, for the most part already dried up, but there are still various cups finals to settle. This Tuesday it was the turn of the Birmingham Midweek Floodlit Challenge Cup which will be contested by Coventry Copsewood and Nuneaton Griff, both of the Midland League Division One. Griff were making their third appearance in the final of this competition and have yet to be successful, losing 2-1 to Romulus in 2004 and 1-0 to Lye Town in 2011. Copsewood were making their début in the final.
This year's final was at the DCS Stadium, home of Stratford Town. As this is not the first visit to their ground, we won't spend much time on a stadium description. However, it is fair to say that there have been a few additions since our last visit. Covered standing behind the far goal and a new covered seating area between the dugouts, opposite the main stand.
Let's take a look at the history of the competition which has been around since the 2002/03 season when Tipton Town were the inaugural winners, beating Rugby Town 3-1 in the final. Since that time, Lye Town have proven to be the most successful team, winning both of their finals. Gornal Athletic and Southam United have both appeared in three finals but have only got a 33% win ratio. Southam also hold the dubious record for the heaviest final defeat, going down 9-2 to Bolehall Swifts in 2013/14.
- 2002/03 Tipton Town 3 Rugby Town 1
- 2003/04 Nuneaton Griff 1 Romulus 2
- 2004/05 Castle Vale 3 Boldmere St Michaels 1 (aet)
- 2005/06 Atherstone Town 4 Pilkington XXX 1
- 2006/07 Coventry Sphinx 4 Dudley Town 2
- 2007/08 AFC Wulfrunians 4 Bartley Green 0
- 2008/09 Darlaston Town 1 Southam United 3
- 2009/10 Bartley Green 1 Gornal Athletic 0
- 2010/11 Nuneaton Griff 0 Lye Town 1
- 2011/12 Gornal Athletic 3 Black Country Rangers 0
- 2012/13 Lye Town 2 Southam United 1
- 2013/14 Bolehall Swifts 9 Southam United 2
- 2014/15 Gornal Athletic 0 Willenhall Town 0 (3-4 on pens)
Copsewood and Griff have met twice in the league this season. A 2-2 draw in Coventry was followed by a 4-0 win for Griff back the The Pingle Stadium.
After 10 minutes, however, Copsewood had an amazing escape when Griff broke into the penalty area only for the Copsewood keeper to make a brave block. There ensued an almighty scramble, pretty much on the Copsewood goal-line, in which several last ditch blocks were made before the ball was eventually hacked away. The charmed life of the Coventry goal was not to last though. With just under 20 minutes on the clock and clearance from the Copses keeper was powerfully headed back over their advancing back-line. Griff top-scorer Luke Shorthouse was onto it in a flash and produced a clever lobbed finish over the stranded keeper to give Griff the lead.
Copsewood tried to hit back and a well hit volley from the edge of the box on the half-hour mark was probably their best effort. It was, however, parried well by the Griff keeper and the danger cleared.
A few minutes later Shorthouse was sent clear again but this time out wide on the left. His cross-shot beat the keeper but also beat the far post. The same player than had another opportunity to increase the Griff lead but was, again, slightly off target.
At half-time, Griff held a slender 1-0 lead and were good value for the score-line. They should, in all honesty, have been a couple of goals ahead.
Griff tried to regain their first-half dominance. The lively Shorthouse was always a threat and Griff were finding some success down their right-flank, all without seriously threatening the Coventry goal. The Copsewood defence, marshalled by Birmingham FA Man of the Match George Whitelaw, had got to
grips with the Nuneaton ball up to Shorthouse and were keeping a much tighter rein on the Griff forwards in the second half. Sitting just in front of the defence my man of the match, Craig Civzelis, was driving the Coventry side on with a real battling captain's performance.
Just eight minutes after equalising, Copsewood could have gone in front. A long ball through the centre of the Griff defence caused some confusion between goalkeeper and defence allowing a Coventry player to nip in and get a shot away. The keeper saved well and the rebound was headed wide.
If Griff had been the dominant force in the first half, it was Copsewood who were holding sway in the second. With just over 15 minutes remaining another overlapping run from the Copsewood left-back produced a great cross which was unfortunately headed into his own net by Griff captain Mark Williams.
Great to see the Nuneaton Griff twitter account keeping their sense of humour the following morning, re-tweeting the video of the own-goal and congratulating their captain on a top class finish. I then find out that, in a season where the team scored over 100 league goals, he had not managed to notch one himself and, wait for it, it was his birthday. You really couldn't make it up.
Best of luck to both sides for next season. It was an entertaining final and a credit to the Birmingham County FA.
Coventry Copsewood - @ccfcyouthfc
Nuneaton Griff - @nuneatongriff
Bimingham County FA - @birminghamfa