It was a day to forget for the home side as Northfield Town turned them over with some fantastic attacking football. They pressed Smithswood all over the pitch and played the type of football that Smithswood have been playing this season.
Confidence was high before the game with everyone buzzing at the prospect of the Semi-Final. It was clear that Northfield had made some changes since they were easily beaten in September 5-1 by Smithswood as they have been in excellent form recently and have climbed the table and got into the promotion chase. There were only five players in their team sheet who survived from that 5-1 loss so it was a totally different prospect for the home side.
Due to the rules for Semi-Finals, Smithswood were without Harry Donaghey as he was cup tied under the ruling of having played in a higher league this season for Boldmere St Michaels. Danny Charlton served his one match suspension for his sending off at Barton United while Ash Weeks was stricken with the flu and unable to play. Jake Woodward was also cup tied having not played enough league games since his signing a few weeks ago and Aaron Pinnock
The line up manager Paul Ryder went with was still excellent and capable of winning the match as they went with;
Duffy, Clarke, Rooke, Anderson
Thomas (Capt), Short, Leek, Sayer
Subs: Wall, Reece, Powers
Scott Clarke returned to partner Adam Rooke after missing last weeks match at Burntwood Town allowing Nathan Leek to move back into midfield alongside last weeks man of the match Anthony Short. With Harry Donaghey being cup tied and no recognised left back in the squad it was Aaron Anderson who tried to fill in for him.
From the first whistle Northfield were excellent. They didn't give the home side any time on the ball and were pressing them really high up the pitch from front to back. Harry Gardiner kept them out three minutes in as they broke through the back line making a great save but Northfield kept getting in early on and had some great chances. They had two brothers who were causing Smithswood massive problems in their number 7 and 10 and it was the latter who put his side in front. The big number 10 slotted home his shot on the back post from a cross a quarter of an hour into the game from a breakaway.
With five minutes to go in the half Smithswood were still in the game at one down and if they could have got to half time and re-organised things could have been different but a calamitous three minutes of football saw them concede twice as Northfield took advantage of Smithswood not being on their game to go in at the half 3-0 up.
Paul Ryder made three changes at half time introducing Daniel Wall, Adam Reece and Craig Powers and the away team were better in the second half and created a few chances but Northfield held strong defensively and continued to break with the big number 10 being the focal point and causing problems with his strength and movement. As they pushed on their defence was exposed at times as Adam Rooke and Scott Clarke made some last ditch tackles but with fifteen minutes to go Northfield ensured the victory was in no doubt with the fourth following a smart step over on the right and a powerfully shot that couldn't be kept out by Harry Gardiner as his save went into the back of the net.
At the final whistle there was no doubt that the better team had won as Smithswood put in their worst display of the season and simply didn't turn up. They have the chance to put it right on Tuesday with a trip to Redditch Borough under the floodlights. Redditch lie in second with Smithswood third ten points behind them but with five games in hand to catch them and get into the promotion places again following all their early postponed matches which is now catching up with them with lots of games to play in a short period of time. Midweek games could very well make or break the teams at the top this season with lots of teams players working shifts and not being able to make some of the games. Smithswood are no different and have had to sign players as cover so there may be some enforced changes Tuesday as Paul Ryder expects a reaction from his players to put Saturday's disappointing performance right.
Despite the cup loss the league has always been the priority and is still very much in their own hands although Saturday's Cup match means that Leamington Hibernian and have now played seven games more than them with only four left to play. The gap is seventeen points so they can still be caught as Smithswood start a run of games which will see them play eleven more league games in just over a month.