Beighton Welfare 2 - 1 Birley FC (Chris Cooper Memorial Cup 1st Round), Sunday 1st November 2020
Beighton Welfare's match initially felt like a sideshow to the kids match taking place on an adjacent pitch. Beighton Magpies were taking on Charnock Ridgeway, and as I arrived, there was a controversial incident when the ball looked like it was looping in from a header, only to be pushed off the line by the keeper. Did it cross the line? No-one could tell, despite the protestations of the home support. It was a pretty decent match, and drew the attention of many of the Beighton/Birley coaches and players before kick-off.
Today's encounter was a 1st Round cup match, and pitted Beighton (in the 1st Division, which is confusing the 3rd tier in the Sheffield Imperial) against Birley (in the top division). There used to be a Beighton Albion who played at the nearby Robin Lane pitches, so I'm not sure if Welfare are connected to this club in any way. Beighton were in bright orange, and Birley in lime green, so, with the leaves on the grass and the trees in the background, this was a very colourful match.
The lime greens had the best of much of the 1st half, and were more incisive in the attack and better organised overall. There were a smattering of half-chances for both sides, including a couple of brief goal-mouth scrambles. The opening goal came on about 40 minutes, when a flick from a Birley player hit the crossbar and an alert forward was there to rifle it home. They probably deserved their advantage. Then came a crazy couple of minutes, when Birley made it 2-0 with a header, and then their left back flew forward to make it 3-0. Given the relative positions of the sides, and the match so far, this felt like it could be game over.
In the second period, the pendulum swung towards Beighton, who really took the fight to Birley. Birley were nonetheless still creating chances and hit the crossbar with a header, before number 7 forced a great save from the bearded home keeper. At the other end, at about the the 60 minute mark, Beighton equalised when number 12 followed up on an excellent save from number 15. This seemed to galvanise the side, who continued to match Birley in the middle.
They were kept out by some excellent goalkeeping, but then the keeper brought down a player for a clear penalty. Number 7 calmly slotted away and it was 3-2. Game most definitely on. This was a fast and bold encounter and Birley very nearly made it 4-2 when a drive from number 8 was superbly tipped over (even the away keeper applauded this moment!). Just as Beighton had a final corner (and their keeper ran forward) the final whistle went. This had been a solid encounter and the teams were fairly decently matched overall, making for a good cup tie.
This may be the last match I see before the latest lockdown, and I was pleased to finally make it to the 'Welfare Ground'. Let's hope this level of football can continue after the lockdown - it has survived an awful lot so far, and brings so much happiness and hope to players, fans and coaches alike. Whatever craziness is going on the wider world - pandemics, wars - football always tends to 'find a way'.