Often Partisan

Birmingham Senior Cup Semi Final: Blues v Sutton Coldfield Town

Sutton Coldfield Town will face Nuneaton in the final of the Birmingham Senior Cup after a hard fought game at Damson Lane. Blues youngsters might feel aggrieved to be out after Jake Jervis was sent off just prior to half time for an innocuous foot-up challenge on Ross Miller, but they should also look at their defence as the culprits for their defeat.

However, there were bright spots for Blues in young Dutch forward Akwasi Asante, who scored a blistering 25 yard effort early on, and was unlucky not to add to his tally; Nathan Redmond was a box of tricks popping up on either flank, showing the skills (and the crossing ability) which have propelled him to the fringes of the first team, and young Mitchell Hancox who had a good game at left back, showing some real grit getting forwards and who was probably unlucky not to score himself.

Unfortunately for Blues, young England keeper Butland didn’t have the best of nights, and Sutton Coldfield Town were able to cancel out Asante’s opener with an incredibly soft goal after a flick on from a throw in. Mark Bellingham should have not been able to beat Butland as easily as he did at the near post, and he seemed almost suprised as he ran to celebrate his goal.

Jervis hadn’t had the best of games before he got his marching orders, and was guilty of squandering a few chances getting the ball caught in his feet before Belgian u19 international Brice Ntambwe put Blues into the lead again after a strong bustling run into the area before unleashing an unstoppable shot into the bottom left corner of the Sutton goal.

However Sutton managed to equalise again on forty minutes, with that man Bellingham again finishing from close ranged after good work down the right from Sutton; again it was a case of the defence not dealing with a cross properly, and despite having the best of the first half, Blues found themselves level once more. Their problems were compounded with Jervis being shown a straight red card after lunging into a challenge with the Sutton winger Miller; the ref may have been influenced by the loud crack of the shin pad breaking and the sight of the Pennant-lookalike writhing on the floor. Having spoken to the Blues cameraman, on replay Jervis did have his foot in the air, but it was a 50/50 ball, and there was no malice intended; it probably deserved no more than a yellow but Mr Perry didn’t take long to pull out the red and Jervis was in for an early bath just before half time.

With Blues down to ten men, the second half was much scrappier, but Asante continued to show his skill, muscling opponents out of the way and playing some great balls. Redmond too showed his class; midway through the second half a thirty yard ball played out wide to Hancox just split the Sutton defence in two; Hancox did his best but Lewis in the Sutton goal was equal to his shot. Asante chased everything as hard as he could, and he too was unlucky not to do better with an audacious lob, which just went wide.

Sutton made Blues pay in the 83rd minute; again from a corner Butland didn’t deal with a cross and Ed Booth was on hand to nod the ball in to send the Sutton bench into delerium. Blues shoved people forwards, and Asante looked to be trying to win it on his own, beating four men tightly marking him before going down in the box whilst having his shirt tugged. The ref blew up, but for a free kick some five yards outside the box (much to the protestations of the Blues players). In fairness, the original challenge was outside the box, but the ref had given the advantage, and surely he should have given the foul that caused Asante to tumble in the 18 yard area. Redmond did his best with the free kick, but Lewis was equal to it, and he palmed it aside for a corner.

Asante had one more chance to nick an equaliser right before the end, after Redmond had played in another classy ball, but the young Dutchman’s volley went just wide of the left hand post with the keeper beaten. Sutton managed to hold on to the ball long enough to stop Blues attacking again, and as the ref blew up for full time the players and coaching staff celebrated a hard fought victory.

Often Partisan caught up with Akwasi Asante after the game, to commiserate him on the defeat but also to congratulate him on his personal performance. The young Dutchman was very happy to have come through the game unscathed, as he is still recovering from injury, and was justifiably happy with his own performance. He said that he felt the red card was harsh on Jake Jervis, and that it had obviously affected the Blues gameplan as he was so tightly marked in the second half. Asante was also diplomatic about the penalty, saying that the initial tug happened outside the box so he could understand why the ref gave the free kick.

Often Partisan MOTM – Akwasi Asante. The kid has definite potential, and I look forwards to seeing him play more for Blues next season.

(All pics (c) smallheathalliance.com)

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