The fall of Rovers, from second in the Conference (National League) to winding up, was a rapid descent and, seeing the impending disaster, a group of former Rovers Directors and supporters quickly created a new club in order to keep non-league football in the town. As things transpired, the new club was offered the lease of Rovers' ground the year after their formation just before Rovers were expelled from the Southern League. The new club began life in the old Midland Combination Division 2, Step 8, but following two promotions in their first two seasons, now play in the newly-formed Midland League at Step 6 level.
The Victoria Ground is, I would say, one of the best examples of a non-league stadium in the country. The ground is dominated by two features, the large main stand on the far side from the entrance and the words Bromsgrove Sporting FC in 3ft high red lettering behind the uncovered terracing at the town end which, for me at least, gives that end of the stadium an Eastern European feel to it. There is also a large covered standing area behind the opposite goal and covered standing areas on the clubhouse side of the pitch. It is, by Step 6 standards, a very large ground but, with over 300 in, doesn't feel empty by any means.
So to the game. A local derby with some extra significance. A Sporting win would see them leapfrog Coventry United and go a point clear at the top of the league, albeit having played 2 more games than their rivals. This all in anticipation of the game on Saturday when Coventry are the visitors to the Victoria Ground.
When the game kicked off, for the first few minutes, it was hard to see which team was pushing for promotion and which was marooned in mid-table. In fact, in the opening salvoes it was The Chocolate Men who had the best opportunity when a speculative effort sailed narrowly over. However, that was to be their best chance of the half and, once they had got warmed up, Sporting began to take over the game. Their initial tactic of hitting diagonal balls to their speedy right-winger, failed when pretty much every attempt was cut out. They adapted their approach and put together one or two lovely moves that cut through the Athletic defence with ease. In fact, after twenty minutes, Bromsgrove should really have been three up, spurning a series of good chances.
Then, just before the half-hour mark, they made the breakthrough. An attack looked as if it had broken down when Athletic cleared again but the ball fell to Nathan Walker 30 yards out. He took a few strides and hammered an unstoppable 25 yarder past the keeper and into the top corner. This brought great joy from the massed ranks behind the goal and a little more mickey taking out of the, shall we say big-boned, Cadbury keeper.
At this point it was pretty much all Bromsgrove, but try as they might, they couldn't get a second goal.
The aforementioned away keeper then produced a superb fingertip touch to divert another shot onto the post, temporarily hushing the taunting home supporters. Unfortunately for him, it was very temporary. Just a few seconds later Athletic conceded a free-kick 30 yards out on the right flank. The kick was swung in by Walker and, as a group of players threw themselves at it, the ball bounced past everyone and into the far corner. As far as I could see, no-one got a touch on it. However, I have since seen on the Sporting website that the goal was credited to centre-forward Jozsef Jakab, so maybe he did get a slight touch?
With the home side dominating possession, I decided to take up a position on the opposite side of the pitch towards the goal that Cadbury were defending for the second half. I immediately got chatting to a gentleman who, it transpired grew up and still lived in the area that I grew up in, knew a lot of my Dad's friends and frequently could be found at the War Memorial watching Stourbridge (frequent readers will know about my allegiance to The Glassboys). We actually spent a fair bit of the second half chatting about The Black Country and it's football heritage such as Brierley Hill Alliance and Dudley Town. He was a really nice bloke who had a pretty in-depth knowledge of football, especially non-league football in the Midlands.
I digress. Within a few minutes of the restart the game was effectively over as a contest when visiting number 10 Dean Lea collected a second yellow and was ordered off. I'll be honest, I didn't have the best view of the incident but I think it is fair to say that Lea was not best pleased with the decision.
Despite being down to 10 men and being under heavy pressure most of the time, Cadbury did actually fashion more second-half chances than they did in the first. All to no avail though.
Bromsgrove, taking full advantage of their extra man, swarmed forward at every opportunity but just couldn't find a finish. Chance after chance went begging or was blocked by the visiting keeper who, I have to say, had a very good second half in my opinion. It wasn't until 3 minutes from time that captain Craig Jones met a deep corner at the far post and headed the third goal. Then, a minute later, Umit Eminoglu gave us his entry to goal of the game by smashing in an unstoppable shot from well outside the box.
4-0 gave the scoreline a much more realistic look on the balance of play. Don't get me wrong, Cadbury put the effort in but on the day they were second best for 99% of the game and once they were down to 10, there was no way back for them.
Sporting played some lovely football at times without giving their moves the finishes that they deserved.
Nevertheless they go top of the league, at least until Saturday when Coventry United come to town. What a match that promises to be.
Bromsgrove Sporting - @sportingfc
Cadbury Athletic - @cadburyathfc