Nechells Sports Centre – Saturday 29 November
Rolling up at around 4:30pm with my youngest for company again, I realised that I’d handed my last £20 to the missus. So, not prepared to face the embarrassment of getting in with an with an IOU again, I called her. She wasn’t impressed at having to drive back to Nechells to return my money, but did it nonetheless, and then went back home to get the dinner on – where would I be without her?
On the bright side, it did mean that my moody, indecisive, almost teenaged son decided that, actually, he might come with her and accompany us for the match. I made my entrance and offered my hard gained cash – to be told that entrance was free today. Typical.
There was a noticeably more jovial atmosphere, boosted by the DJ’s new repertoire of tunes – very cool, I thought (although only official confirmation of coolness from the teenagers would confirm that).
The away team were announced (with a definite lack of ceremony, such that I’d not noticed that part before – mind games you see… cunning). This was followed by the CoB squad, hoping to get their season back on track after the derby defeat to West Bromwich last Sunday.
Lying in wait were Shropshire Warriors, an interesting bunch, in their Lakers yellow strip. Bottom of the league and without a win to their name, their website tagline starts with: “The success of the Warriors is not measured in points, wins or trophies…”. However they did take Nottingham Hoods II to within two points, and last season finished just one place away from reaching the last eight of the National League play-offs for division four.
We had also played this club before, it appears, in a friendly over three years ago (see picture below).
However the Warriors do appear to have been affected by a number of departures. So as long as they didn’t threaten to beat us, I decided not to berate them too much in the match report, especially seeing that their coach (or one of them) was a friendly looking old chap, with a rather fetching partisan yellow neck tie.
And once tip-off arrived, City of Birmingham went straight to work. After captain Williams scored with an early free-throw, he along with Trout did combine to miss CoB’s next five in the opening period. But Dawes hit six points in around one minute, Malcolm, Dawson and Wright successfully shot some cheeky early 3-pointers, and notably, some superb defensive work was seen from Eke, with CoB accumulating a more than respectable 24 points for the quarter with Shropshire still on single digits.
The Warriors’ number 14 cut an enthusiastic but frustrated figure, lying spread-eagled on the court after not receiving a foul decision after tripping over. Mopping the floor with his distinctive barnet may have saved the sports hall staff some work later on, but that was as close as the away team came to cleaning up all evening.
At the start of quarter two, Shropshire’s number 10 moved them on to 10, but any flicker of a comeback was doused after CoB’s Chogugudla collected a defensive rebound and drove the length of the court to score, and ignite both the crowd and a 26-point second session. A couple of 3-pointers amongst an even spread of points and assists throughout the team saw them lead by 29 points by half time. The home team forced the Warriors into a number of errors, with Trout starring defensively, and despite the visitors putting in an improved attacking performance, they went into the interval 50-21 down.
After the half-time show, an impressive display of keepy-uppy by a couple of footballers invited for the evening, the players came back on for the third quarter. Those two words will strike fear into the hearts of any CoB regular, with the penultimate period regularly going against the flow of the other three.
A lovely pass over the shoulder from Shropshire’s Liutkus helped the Warriors put away 6 points before Birmingham could move on from 2, before CoB’s Dawes drew a foul but missed the free throws.
But no matter.
Jarrett was putting in a great shift this period, but even that was topped by Chogugudla setting up Williams for a magnificent alley-oop that had the squad on it’s feet in roaring appreciation. Whilst CoB followed the 3rd quarter protocol defensively, the good work was continued in attack, Malcolm’s ice-cool free throws and rebounds from Franklin meaning they edged Shropshire by a point for the session and maintained a healthy 71-43 lead going into the final spell.
As is often the case with a big lead going into the last period, the losing team managed to lift themselves for a final push, maybe taking advantage of some complacency. Dawson kept the scoreboard ticking over for CoB, however whilst Birmingham were making screens and scoring opportunites, they were guilty first of some misses, and later on of holding onto possession for too long, causing some minor frustration.
Maybe the confusion of CoB’s Sheridan appearing in a Warriors vest had thrown the home team, before they realised it was just a lookalike from Shropshire. However a regular flow of points ensured that the result was never in danger, with Malcolm, and then Trout having the final say with his fourth free-throw, after his under-18’s coach reminded him from the sidelines of his 0 from 3 record up until then. The match finished with a convincing 90-62 scoreline, Dawson, Malcolm and Williams top scoring with 17,16 and 10.
This was an important if expected victory for CoB in their push for a play-off place. The proceeding four matches see the team face each of their other top 5 rivals, but coach Wilson will be looking no further than the next game, the last before the festive break in three weeks time. City of Birmingham will be hoping for revenge at Birmingham Mets, to whom they suffered a galling 1 point defeat in their first league fixture.
Hopefully, I will make it to the Metropolitan College sports hall on 21st December myself, and might see if I can drag my boy there – as long as it’s not too uncool to be seen so close to a college so near to Christmas.