Romulus 2 Mickleover Sports 2

Monday 11th March 2013
Romulus increased the gap between themselves and bottom side Hucknall Town to seven points following a 2-2 draw against Mickleover Sports. On a bitterly cold night, reportedly one of the coldest in March for 25 years, Kevin Grocott gave Sports a slender half-time lead with a goal in the 27th minute. After the break, Romulus fought back by first equalising and then taking the lead after the hour mark thanks to two goals in the space of eight minutes from Daniel O’Callaghan and then Ibrahim Diarby. However, Sports, who lost 2-1 against Sutton two days ago, avoided another defeat at Coles Lane with Ben Spargo’s 75th-minute equaliser.

Romulus 2 Mickleover Sports 2
Evo-Stik League Northern Premier Division One South
At: Coles Lane, Sutton Coldfield
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £8; Programme: £1 (20 pages + car sticker)
Weather: very cold, dry

I can’t remember when I last travelled to and from a midweek evening game by train, perhaps as long ago as the 2001 game between Fisher Athletic and Dorchester Town. Recent perusing of rail timetables showed late night trains departing Birmingham New Street for home at 22:30 and 22:55. Trains from Sutton Coldfield after the full-time whistle to New Street left at 21:51 and 22:21 meant that, for once, I could leave the car at home especially with snow forecast – and enjoy a beer!

The connection on the way to Sutton gave me around 45 minutes in Birmingham so there was time to first head up Bennetts Hill to the Briar Rose (half of Wibbler’s Hoppy Helper) and then the Shakespeare on Lower Temple Road (half of Sharp’s Doom Bar). Once at Sutton Coldfield station, the walk to the ground took around 15 minutes.

On my 17th visit to Coles Lane (moving the ground into joint fourth on my most visits list), I don’t need to describe the ground other than continue to rave about the wonderful old stand. Soon I was joined by good friend ‘Albion Steve’, white-bearded Dave Cox and the irrepressible ‘Groundhopper Dave’. No curry sauce on tonight, so a nice change to have mushy peas with my usual Coles Lane chips.

As I mentioned, Romulus (21st with 22 points from 32 games) and Mickleover Sports (26 points from 32 games) occupied second-and third-bottom positions in the table. I believe that only one side will be relegated to step 5 and Hucknall Town were six points adrift at the bottom with just nine games left to play.

Teamsheets were handed out in the clubhouse and lineups announced on the PA before kick-off.

Romulus (in red and white) got the game underway defending the clubhouse end in the first half. Mickleover created the first of three chances during the opening 20 minutes with Sam Kellog firing low straight at goalkeeper Lewis Exall from the edge of the area.

With Romulus struggling to make an impact in attack, the deadlock was broken in the 27th minute when the visitors took the lead. A diagonal forward ball from the right to the far post was knocked back by Matt Harris for Kevin Grocott (playing in midfield) to head home. Mickleover took the lead against Sutton Coldfield two days ago but ended up losing 2-1.

It took Romulus 36 minutes to create their first serious chance. Ashley Jackson ran at the Mickleover defence down the right into the area and hit a rising right-foot shot which goalkeeper Joe McCormack pushed over the bar.

Before the break, Liam Francis, who had stayed up after a corner, fired over the Sports bar and just before the half-time whistle, McCormack saved a low shot from Daniel O’Callaghan.

While some of my fellow travellers left the stand for the warmth of the clubhouse and a second-half vantage point on the other side, I decided to stay put, perhaps frozen to the spot!

Mickleover created a couple of chances early in the second half. Martin Smythe sent a well-struck 30-yard shot flashing past the left-hand post past the diving Exall. Alex Steadman then fired a low drive across the face of goal from the left.

With two substitutes on by the 53rd minute, Romulus certainly pushed for an equaliser in what must have been difficult windy conditions. Cameron Lee crossed from the left to Ibrahim Diarby who saw a resulting shot hit McCormack.

Romulus had only scored two goals in their last five league games so were delighted to find an equaliser in the 62nd minute. Dexter Ravenhill delivered a deep cross from the left to Diarby who played the ball back into the six-yard box for O’Callaghan to volley home.

It was substitute Diarby who put Romulus ahead eight minutes after the equaliser. McCormack left his line to attempt to clear a perfectly-weighted throughball into the area. The goalkeeper failed to make contact, allowing Diarby to get in a shot which the backtracking Smythe attempted to clear without success.

Could Romulus hold on to their lead to end a run of five straight defeats with a win?

Mickleover, themselves without a win in the league since mid-December, wanted to take home at least a point and got back on level terms in the 75th minute. John Guy delivered a free-kick from the right near to the corner flag to the far post where substitute Ben Spargo headed home.

Both sides could have won in stoppage time. Exall held on to a deflected long-range shot from Spargo and, just before the final whistle, Romulus won a corner which was hooked clear by a defender.

Full-time after five minutes of stoppage time and a brisk run back to the station to catch that 22:51 train with seconds to spare.

Romulus (red and white stripes / red / red): 1. Lewis Exall, 2. Robert Evans, 3. Cameron Lee, 4. Sean Robinson, 5. Liam Francis (capt), 6. Graham Parkin, 7. Ashley Jackson, 8. Luke Keen, 9. Daniel O’Callaghan, 10. Ethan Mannion, 11. Dexter Ravenhill. Subs: 12. Richard Munday (not used), 14. Thomas Turton (for Robinson, ht), 15. Jermaine Clarke (for Keen, 87), 16. Joe Price (not used), 17. Ibrahim Diarby (for Mannion, 53).

Mickleover Sports (blue/blue/blue): 21. Joe McCormack, 2. Kevin Grocott, 3. Joe Congleton, 4. Sam Kellog, 5. Joe Pheasant, 6. Nick Wood (capt), 7. Martin Smythe, 8. Anthony Tansley, 9. Nathan Benger, 10. Matt Harris, 11. Alex Steadman. Subs: 12. Robbie Ritchie-Smith (not used), 14. John Guy (for Congleton, 68), 15. Mark Farthing, 16. Ben Spargo (for Harris, ht), 17. Tom Kellog (for Sam Kellog, 75).

Referee: Declan Bourne.
Assistants: Colin Hunter and Reece Tyler.

Attendance: 42

Duration (45): first-half: 45:51; second-half: 50:00

0-1 Kevin Grocott (27)
1-1 Daniel O’Callaghan (62)
2-1 Ibrahim Diarby (70)
2-2 Ben Spargo (75)

Romulus: none
Mickleover: Kevin Grocott (YC, 35), Nick Wood (YC, 57)