Inkberrow play at Sands Road just on the Northern perimeter of the village. The football pitches are part of a larger sports complex providing tennis, bowls, football, a running club and, I believe, cricket in the summer months. The thing that strikes you most about Sands Road is the sheer scale of facilities provided for a relatively small village, especially for football. There is a thriving youth set-up and, as well as the two main pitches, the complex provides the full range of small-sided pitches including a kid's pitch next to the pavilion that has its own wooden dugouts. As someone who has spent a lot of time involved in grassroots football from Wildcats upwards, it's so heartening to see a community facility like this. The two main pitches are side by side in front of the clubhouse and changing areas, which incidentally has a nice covered decking area that gives a good view of both pitches. The reason there are two full size pitches is because Inkberrow also supports two adult men's teams. Inkberrow, who I was here to watch, playing in the Midland League and Sporting Club Inkberrow, currently plying their trade in the Herefordshire Premier League. The pitch furthest away from the car park is the home of Inkberrow FC. There's not too much to describe. There are dugouts positioned to the left of the clubhouse backed by a grass bank which supporters can stand on to get an elevated view of the pitch. There are no covered spectator areas pitch side although it is possible to stand under the roof of the pavilion and still see the game from behind the goal.
When I go to a match I also try to find some kind of back-story, be it about the game itself (a derby, previous encounters etc) or about one or both of the teams. In this case there are tie-ins to Inkberrow. Firstly, as mentioned before, I had previously been in contact with their goalkeeper Max Court (thanks for the team sheet by the way) with regards to his videos (look out for the one from this game soon). However, I also have a tenuous link to the club from my past. Back in the distant past I played for a Sunday League team, coincidentally based in Lye, and then a little later a veterans team made up mainly of former team-mates who kept in touch through frequent visits to West Brom games. One of these former team-mates also played for Inkberrow, as did his son. I did a little digging and found that, around ten years ago, there was even a time when Andy and George Crotty were both in the squad at the same time.
On to today's game however. Division Two Inkberrow faced a tough task as they were pitted against Premier League high-flyers Lye Town in a Smedley-Crooke cup match. Lye currently sat third in the table at the start of play and have been on a good run recently, winning their last three games without conceding a goal. To make matters worse Inkberrow, sitting below halfway in their table, had not won a game in 2023 and had lost their last two league ganmes 4-1 and 3-0 to Coventry Alvis and Bolehall Swifts respectively. With those stats in mind, it looked as if Max's in-goal camera may be seeing plenty of action today.
Unfortunately I didn't get the Lye team shete, so I haven't been able to match all players to numbers.
The teams took to the field in front of a reasonable sized crowd, including a faitr few who had made the trip down from the West Midlands, Inberrow in their all blue kit ith yellow socks and Lye in their change kit of all red. You caould see early on that the home side were fird up for this match, not wanting to let their higher league opposition get into their stride. However, it was the visitors who got off the first meaningful strike towards goal when Joe Cooper fired a shot wide of the target on ten minutes. This was somethign of a turning point in the game which, until that point had been fairly even as the sides tested each other out. However, Lye did start to assert themselves with former Glassboy Ben Billingah, playing much deeper these days, acting as the pivot point for every Lye attack.
Having said that, it took until the 28th minute for the visitors to muster their next clear chance. A billingham cross toards the far post was met by the head of their Number 7 who could only direct his effort straight into the hands of Max Court in the home goal. Just past the half hour Billjn gham was again the provider as his free-kick was delivered into the area only for Number 6 to glance just wide.
It was all Lye at this point. Inkberrow were struggling to shut down Billingham, who was bossing the midfield area from deep. However, Lye could not rest on their laurels. the home side were diging in and making life =veyr diffiuclt for The Flyers. When Berrow did attack, they certainly posed a threat.
The home defence held out until the 40th minute when Billingham got into their penalty area, danced around a couple of challenges before being caught by another. Penalty, and no real complaint form Inkberrow. JoeCooper stepped up to send Court the wrong way. 0-1
HT Inkberrow 0 Lye Town 1. The home side are not making life easy for Lye. Billingahm, sitting deep, is pulling all of the strings. With just one goal in it, there is plenty to play for in the second half.
Before the hour mark Chris Dyson cut in from the left before firing in a low drive that whistled narrowly wide of the post. Inkberrow were now the ones calling the shots in midfield and the Lye rhythm from the first half had all but disappeared. Having said that, Lye had introduced Zidan Sutherland as a substitute and his pace was to prove to be a problem for Inkberrow. With Lye being pushed on the defensive and Berrow looking for the equaliser, the home side were vulnerable to a break. This happened in the 75th minute when Sutherland burst down the right hand side before cutting in and unleashing a low drive towards the near post that Court did well to get a strong hand to. Berrow were straight back at Lye though and two minutes later came as close as they could to getting an equalizer. George Robbins overlapped on the left, drove towards the by-line and delivered a low cross into the 6 yard box. Unfortunately for Berrow the cross was just that few inches behind the run of the unmarked Brad Hands who couldn't quite get enough on the ball. A few inches in front of him and he would have had a simple tap-in. Three minutes later, with Lye now clearly rattled and arguing amongst themselves, George Thomas was put through but fired high and wide under pressure from a last gasp piece of defending.
That first half Lye goal was looking as if it may just be enough, but there was little sign of them making the game safe. in fact, if anything, you would have had money on an equaliser. However, the Premier League side held out and, as we entered added time, caught the home side cold with a second goal. Zidan Sutherland adding the killer blow. 0-2
It was already game over now but deeper still into added time, a cross from the right looked as if it was dipping into the far post with Court beaten. Joe Cooper was also arriving late and just about got a head to the ball to assist it over the line. 0-3.
FT Inkberrow 0 Lye Town 3. A harsh final score for Inkberrow who gave it everything, especially in the second half. Lye deserved the win, no doubt, but at 1-0 you would say it was fair. The two late goals make it look on paper like a standard, comfortable win for the premier League team. In reality, it was far from that.
If you want to catch either of these teams in action this coming week. Inkberrow make the trip Malthouse Lane to face Earlswood Town. With only five points between the sides, this could be a close encounter. Lye travel to Studley on Tuesday night for a League Cup clash. Then, on Saturday, they welcome second-placed Racing Club Warwick to Stourbridge Road for a massive six-pointer.
Inkberrow: Court, Bowen, Robbins, Cook, Davies(c), Daly, Vaux, Dyson, Beech, G.Thomas, Hands. Subs: M.Thomas, B.Thomas, C.Thomas, Davis,
Ground Number: 352