Saturday saw the fourth meeting of the season between Barton United and Smithswood Firs. They still have one more match to play later in the season in the league, but this game was in the last 32 in the Birmingham County Challenge Vase. As fate had amazingly drawn the two teams in three cups this season, this would be the third game between the two teams in four weeks. Smithswood Firs were currently winning the battle having won 2-1 in the league, 5-2 in the Les James Cup and 4-1 in the League Vase.
Saturdays game was always likely to be the toughest game so far for a number of reasons. Barton would be up for it more as they would want to get revenge and the Smithswood players would need to guard against complacency having won all three previous encounters. Each game has been a battle with Barton United having good possession in parts of the game so this would be a tough encounter for Smithswood.
The Lions travelled to Barton without Tyrone Borland, Carl Thompson, Daniel Wall and Liam Williams while Nathan Leek also missed out as his one match suspension moved to this game following last weeks’ postponement at Coventrians. Leek had been excellent in the last two games covering at left back so Smithswood had a defensive headache without any recognised full backs in the team. Anthony Short hasbeen excellent covering at right back so the left side was the problem. The manager asked Jack Duffy to do a job on the leftgiving Scott Clarke his chance to partner Adam Rooke in the centre. The away side didn’t have ideal preparations on the morning of the match as they had players late and a severe lack of cars to get everyone there. As a result, they arrived thirty minutes before kick-off and only had a quick fifteen minute warm up.
Smithswood took a strong fourteen-man squad for the match and lined up with the following;
Anthony Short, Scott Clarke, Adam Rooke, Jack Duffy
Lee Sayer, Curtis Thomas (Capt.), Ash Weeks, Aaron Anderson
Danny Charlton, Sam Hulme
Subs: Lewis Cottrill, Dan Russell, Craig Thomas
Despite the poor pre match preparations, Smithswood started the game really well and dominated possession early on creating some great chances. Danny Charlton looked lively early on and tested the keeper from long range with a few efforts as both he and Sam Hulme worked hard against the Barton defence. It was Charlton who put the away side into the lead a quarter of an hour in. Smithswood broke down a Barton attack and the clearance fell for Aaron Anderson. Anderson picked out Charlton who was 30 yards out, he hit a bullet shot that dipped over the keeper and nestled in the net giving him no chance. With the away side pressing really high, Danny Charlton, Sam Hulme, Aaron Anderson and Lee Sayer had to do a lot of running and worked really hard for the team in the first half as they tried to get control of the game and force Barton into long balls.
The teams went in at the half with Smithswood leading 1-0 but they had chances and could easily have scored four or five with Danny Charlton, Lee Sayer, Sam Hulme and Aaron Anderson all going close and they hoped the misses wouldn’t come back to haunt them in the second half. Barton danger man Peter Martin had been kept quiet in the fist half as both Adam Rooke and Scott Clarke had been excellent at the back. Harry Gardiner looked solid again in goal with some great handling in wet conditions while Curtis Thomas and Ash Weeks were winning the battle in the middle of the pitch but if past games were anything to go by, Barton United would be strong in the second half and would have a lot of possession.
Barton started to pin the away side back in the second half and controlled the ball and created some decent chances. Both Anthony Short and Jack Duffy had to be more defensive with Lee Sayer and Aaron Anderson having to track back more to help. The home side got the goal that their second half dominance deserved eighteen minutes from the end to level it up and it was their danger man Peter Martin hitting his 20th goal of the season. Barton broke through the middle and Martin hit a shot from a similar position to Danny Charlton’s first half goal and it crashed in off the post.
Smithswood could easily have collapsed as Barton were encouraged by the goal and the way they had been playing but the way they reacted was typical of their season and they proved why they are title and cup contenders. Craig Thomas had just been bought on before the goal and started to take control of the midfield with Ash Weeks which freed Curtis Thomas up to attack and support Danny Charlton. Within three minutes of conceding Smithswood had regained the lead. Craig Thomas won the ball back in the middle with a great tackle and passed the ball to Curtis Thomas. Thomas drove forward and slipped the ball in behind the full back for substitute Dan Russell who sped forward with his great pace and slotted the ball under the keeper to crush Barton’s hopes of taking the game to extra time or winning it in normal time.
Two minutes after the game was put beyond any doubt as Curtis Thomas whipped in a corner for Adam Rooke to pass into the back of the net on the half volley, the day after him and girlfriend Danielle announced they were expecting their second child. Danny Charlton pulled up just after with an injury so Lewis Cottrill came on up front for the last fifteen minutes to try and hold the ball up as Smithswood looked to keep the ball and secure the win.
Smithswood had done enough to win the game but Barton had their fair share of it and on a wet heavy pitch, Paul Ryder and everyone at the club are happy to keep this run going of being unbeaten in all cups this season and glad to be in the draw for the last 16. All the lads were out after the game on their Christmas party at Popworld on Broad Street so it was a great day for the club all round.
Everyone at our club would like to wish Barton United all the best for the rest of the season. Over all four games this season they have been entertaining tough games. They were played in the right way without any bad tackles or issues and both members of staff had some great banter and discussions on the sideline and Adam Wall and his team are a credit to the league and we are sure they will be in the promotion shake up come the end of the season.
We now have the chance to make up some ground in the league as with all the cup games we are now 2nd in the league four points behind Leamington Hibernian with two games in hand. We now have six league games to concentrate on and hopefully try and get back to the top before we have to start playing the semi final of the League Vase, Quarter-Final of the Les James Cup and the last 16 in the County Vase.
First up will be the visit of Burntwood Town to the Mackadown on Bank Holiday Monday 28th December 2015. Kick-off will be at 2pm so come along and watch some great entertaining football while you are off work over the festive period. These will be followed up with Inkberrow (away), FC Stratford (Home), Perrywood (Away), Badsey Rangers (Home) and Boldmere (Home).