Smithswood Firs hosted Coventrians in the Challenge Vase on Saturday looking to get some revenge for earlier in the season where they left the Mackadown with a 2-1 win. Since that loss The Lions have won six straight games and have looked unstoppable on the way. The team's goal this season is to win the title and gain promotion and play the type of football that we think can match the teams in Division 2. We have already beaten one of their teams in Coton Green in the cup and are making great strides with our creative play and the chances we are creating. It is an exciting time at the club and everyone associated with Smithswood Firs are proud to volunteer their time and be part of this great club.
In order to make it seven straight wins in all competitions, Paul Ryder’s small squad was going to be tested to the maximum. We may have lots of players registered but a lot of them have either left or never turned up so we are working with a 19-man squad at the moment. One of them is a second goalkeeper and Captain Craig Thomas is still out with a long term injury. Ryder was without Ash Weeks, Carl Thompson, Harry Gardiner, Dan Russell and Scott Clarke and with Lee Sayer and Tyrone Borland both running late it was going to be a tough ask. Paul Ryder had to name himself in the starting line up due to a lack of defensive options until Tyrone Borland arrived so he had to play the first half at right back.
The manager gave Nathan Leek the free role in behind Sam Hulme and Danny Charlton with a flat three in the middle as the returning Anthony Short partnered Aaron Anderson and Curtis Thomas. Jack Duffy moved to the heart of defence to partner Adam Rooke with Adam Reece coming in on the left side and Ryder on the right. Keeper Lewis Cottrill was carrying a knock from last week but started in goal.
Before the team went out Ryder made everyone aware of their positions but also who would go where if we felt the need to switch to a 4-4-2 if we were getting hit from the wide positions with our narrow three.
Despite the change in personnel and the need to tweak the formation his team started well passing the ball around and dictating the pace of the game. They did switch early on to a 4-4-2 to combat their wide players and took control of the game from that point on. Having watched non league football for some time I don’t think I have ever witnessed a game where a side scored so many great goals of absolute quality.
Anthony Short gave them the lead following some great work from Aaron Anderson and the lively Danny Charlton down the right. Anderson picked Charlton out who put a pin point cross towards the edge of the area for the oncoming Short to meet on the half volley hammering a bullet shot into the top corner giving the keeper no chance.
Smithswood’s next goal was pretty similar to the first with Danny Charlton again the provider from the left this time being played in by Adam Reece. Charlton put his cross in the same place but this time it was Nathan Leek coming on to the ball to hit a venomous strike past the keeper.
Despite two great goals the goal of the season competition on the day was effectively over two minutes before half time. Curtis Thomas has been unplayable at times for the opposition this season and when he picked the ball up just inside his own half everyone expected another one of his slide rule passes into the front men. What happened next was nothing short of genius and probably only he would have tried it. Everyone watched in awe as Curtis swung his wand of a left foot and in true David Beckham style beat the keeper from his own half making everyone on the side line go mad with excitement and even the away team applauding what they had just witnessed as his team mates mobbed him in celebration on the half way line.
There was a worrying incident just before the half when Coventrians got through but Lewis Cottrill was out quickly to try and clear and was on the end of a tough challenge from the striker who was entitled to go for the ball but had his studs showing slightly. Luckily the ref was blowing for half time so we managed to get Cottrill off and get him ready for the second half although he had to play through the pain to get to the end of the game with Harry Gardiner not there as cover and The Lions went in three goals up.
Tyrone Borland replaced Paul Ryder at half time and it was more of the same in the second half with free scoring centre half Adam Rooke getting on the score sheet three minutes after the break. Once again as so many times this season Curtis Thomas was the provider for him. Nathan Leek done well to win the free kick for his team and Thomas picked out Rooke who once again rose above the defence to head home his fifth of the season.
Liam Williams was back in contention today and replaced the hard working Sam Hulme with twenty minutes to go as Ryder protected his recent signing following a tough challenge in the first half which had left Hulme limping when he got up and he had battled on up until then.
Williams made an impact with his tough style of play never giving the defence time to settle on the ball and making them work to get it off him. He constantly wanted the ball and one thing that impressed when he came on which hasn’t always been the case this season was his distribution. He is always great at holding it up but several times he turned out and whipped a great ball over the full back for Curtis Thomas to run on to and attack and he really deserved his goal before the final whistle. He picked it up on the edge of the area and held the defender off, he shifted the ball quickly and fired his shot into the top corner giving Smithswood Firs a 5-0 win on the day and a place in the Quarter Finals against Barton United.
Great credit has to go to Coventrians who kept battling to the end despite having to play with ten men for the last fifteen minutes after one of their players left the field of his own choice. Their keeper James Connolly was excellent and so quick off his line and can’t really be blamed for any of the goals as Smithswood were just on fire again.
Next week sees us get back to league action. We have had two weeks off with recent cup games and still find ourselves top of the league so it will be good to take our fantastic form into the important fixtures as the league is our priority. A win next week will make it eight on the bounce and a clean sweep for the month of October. We make the long journey to Enville Athletic for a 2pm kick off.
Remember it is also our Halloween Party next Saturday at Kingshurst Labour Club, Clopton Crescent, Chelmsley Wood, Birmingham, B37 6QU so get along for a night of amazing entertainment and costumes as there will be stilt walkers, fire eaters, Halloween show and fantastic raffle.