Birmingham Senior Cup Semi Final
Phillips 66 Community Stadium
Tuesday 21st March 2017
Brakes surpassed their late show against Stratford Town in the previous round, stunning a strong Walsall side with two goals in the last three minutes to reach the final of the Birmingham Senior Cup for the first time since 1979.
The Saddlers squad contained half a dozen first team squad members, one of which, Amadou Bakayoko, gave them a first half lead, but Leamington more than matched them and their persistence paid off in the final moments, Ahmed Obeng levelling things up before substitute Jack Edwards struck a dramatic stoppage time winner.
Paul Holleran had some difficult decisions to make with important games at Hitchin and Cinderford Town on the horizon, and had somewhat limited options with Richard Gregory and Jordan Goddard being cup tied and Joe Magunda and Ben George also unavailable due to injury. Despite this the Brakes boss was able to make changes, James Mace returning from injury, while Tom James stepped up along with Kurtis Revan, who was making his full debut. Ryan Quinn was also brought back into the squad having spent time at Rugby Town recently.
Brakes more than matched the endeavour of their opponents throughout, and enjoyed a bright opening to proceedings, seeing plenty of the ball, but it was the young visiting side who were first to threaten, striker Cameron Peters tearing onto a ball down the right in space, only to blaze his shot first time high over the bar. The same player only just outpaced Jamie Hood to reach the ball inside the Leamington penalty area on the left, his shot clipping the top of the bar on its way over.
Walsall moved ahead on 24 minutes, Maziar Kouhyar threading a pass through for Amadou Bakayoko to run on to after Brakes had lost possession in midfield, the striker calmly taking the ball round Tony Breeden and slotting into the empty net.
Courtney Baker-Richardson nodded the ball into the six yard box from Richard Taundry’s long throw, but no-one in Gold and Black was close enough to take advantage. This was followed by some good play on the right wing from Revan, whose dangerous ball in whistled across goal without a touch.
Rob Thompson-Brown sent a low drive just past the upright for Leamington’s best effort of the first half, while Breeden got down well to deny Bakayoko a second goal.
The rain came sheeting down as the second half commenced, and Ahmed Obeng began to wake up the quiet home crowd with some good work down the right as he caused problems for the Walsall defence.
Shots were driven wide from both sides but Leamington began to step up their pressure in the last twenty minutes. Paul Holleran made changes, bringing off key players with Saturday in mind, and this allowed him to switch things around, helping his side to gain a priceless late advantage.
Thompson-Brown was desperately unlucky not to bag the leveller as his shot struck the inside of the post following some intelligent hold up play from Obeng on the edge of the box, while substitute Jack Edwards crashed in a decent first time drive from 30 yards which Saddlers keeper Craig MacGillivray had time to spill and collect.
It looked as though it would be another semi final hard luck story in this competition for Leamington when Taundry’s cross just evaded Callum Gittings and struck the inside of the same post, but just when all looked lost Revan was fed by Taundry down the right and delivered a superb ball into the six yard box which was emphatically finished off by Obeng for the equaliser on 87 minutes.
There was to be a glorious conclusion, something which has largely eluded Brakes in knockout football over the last few years, when another fine ball in from the right by Revan ricocheted into the path of Edwards, who hooked his shot into the net to the raucous delight of the Brakes support.
It was a thoroughly deserved success for the sheer persistence shown by the whole side to grind out the victory, and the bandwagon can now roll on to Hitchin on Saturday, continuing to gain momentum all the time.
Leamington: Tony Breeden ©, Richard Taundry, Tom James, Darren Pond (15 Jack Edwards, 60), Jamie Hood (16 Connor Gudger, 64), James Mace, Courtney Baker-Richardson (12 Ryan Quinn, 82), Callum Gittings, Kurtis Revan, Rob Thompson-Brown, Ahmed Obeng.
Subs not used: 14 Charlie Fitzmaurice, 17 Charlie Hornby.
Walsall: Craig MacGillivray, Ben Kendrick, Callum Cockerill-Mollett, Jordan Sangha, Dan Vann, Kory Roberts, Maziar Kouhyar (12 Cody Fisher, 82), Milan Butterfield, Amadou Bakayoko, Cameron Peters (15 Tobias Hayles-Docherty, 77), William Shorrock.
Subs not used: 13 Brendan Ganley, 14 Ashley Maddocks, 16 Lezion Cela.
Referee: Mr Mark Howes
Assistant Referees: Mr Scott Tallis & Mr Thomas Kidd
Brakes Man of the Match: Richard Taundry.