Birmingham Uni 2 vs. Leicester City 2 (Toto)

Another weekend, another EMKA showdown. This Sunday saw Toto travel to Birmingham’s Bourneville College to lock horns with one of our closest rivals, Birmingham Uni 2. Following a win at home by just one goal, this really was anybody’s game and with 3 of Toto’s girls unavailable the outcome was even less certain. Thanks to some intra-club borrowing, taking to the court for Leicester were:

Matt Cox
Ant Ryan
Elle Worthy
Aisling Mullins

Pete Wallett
Rob Parnham
Emma Spargo
Jenny Freeman

and myself (Tom) as captain and sub.

The action started quickly with Leicester’s Aisling winning a penalty in the second minute. Ant stepped up to take it but it wasn’t to be as the ball sailed just long and was missed on the follow-up. 2 minutes later and Birmingham this time pushed at the score line with one of their girls scoring a mid shot against our Emma Spargo. Another 2 minutes and another Birmingham goal as their number 45 scored another mid. A change of ends and a change of dynamic, building on some animal-themed training from Wednesday’s mid-week training session, Pete channelled his inner tiger to bring Leicester a long shot. Less than 60 seconds later and Jenny won a free-pass again giving Pete a chance to score – which he all-too-easily put away. 8 minutes in and it’s 2 a piece.

A couple of minutes of stale-mate are broken by Matt as he scores a textbook drop off following a long shot over the korf but Birmingham quickly hit back with a mid of their own and it’s level pegging again. The tête-à-tête continues as Rob wins and scores a penalty which is sadly disallowed due to a foul foot placement from LCKC. Pete recovers the blow with a long shot from the top of court. Birmingham reply with a mid shot but Ant follows the change of ends with a long shot. Birmingham add a runner and again things are all even at 5:5. Rob scores a runner. Birmingham score one too. Birmingham win (and score) a free pass so Aisling scores one for Leicester – 7:7. This is agonisingly close. 2 mids from Birmingham and now Leicester are down by 2. Time for a time-out.

The word from the benches is to look more threatening when receiving the ball in attack. Looking ready to shoot to draw the defenders out and away from the post. In defence, concentration is key. No taking our eyes off the game and letting silly mistakes cost us such a close-fought game. The last 3 minutes of the half will be pivotal.

The advice seems to go down well with Spargo, Pete, Rob & Jenny defending out of their skins. Meanwhile, Matt’s newly encouraged shooting from long gives Ant a drop-off. The half closes out at 9:8 and Leicester are back to being down by just one.

Team talk is a reiteration of what we looked at in the time out. Rehydrating and breathing deep, Leicester talk through the half between them before a loud hands in and heading back on to court.

2 minutes in and Coxy scores a drop off bringing us back level. Brum score a drop off too and we enter a painstaking stalemate as the score stays static at 10:9 for an agonising 15 minutes. Shots go up on both sides but sustained pressure from each defending division forces them long, short or into the hands of the defenders. The play improves and improves to try and find holes in the opposing attacks but the defence improves to match it. Finally, the wait is over as Jenny scores a drop off at 48 minutes.

The change of ends brings an opportunity to bring off Matt who has been defending at high intensity for 15+ minutes and bring on a fresh pair of legs in the form of myself. Birmingham score a mid to take the lead again but, a newly invigorated Toto aren’t taking it lying down. Aisling scores a shot right under the post after turning her defender around. The ends change and Elle, Ant, Aisling & I keep Birmingham under lock and key allowing Pete to force a mid shot down the other end. Jenny takes contact while a player is free to shoot and earns a penalty for Pete which he dutifully sinks. Another change of ends and another goal for Leicester as contact against Aisling gives LCKC another free pass. Ant steps up and pops the ball to me under the post. Having no idea that I’m free to shoot (I know, I’m sorry), I pass back to a surprised Ant who pops a shot up. All’s well that ends well as Leicester sail into the biggest lead of the game at 11:14.

With just 3-4 minutes on the clock Birmingham have work to do. One of their girls takes the ball at the back and leans back to score a mid past Elle’s fingertips. 1/2 an inch closer and she’s defended. Another change and another goal for Birmingham as they score a drop off. 13:14 and it’s nail biting for the last two minutes. Birmingham attack with everything they’ve got but Leicester’s defence is like a brick wall. As the whistle sounds, there’s a sigh of relief and we head off court.

The mood is sombre on the side lines until Elle and I realise that the 15:14 that we thought we’d read actually reads 13:14! Out come the celebratory Malteasers and M&Ms and Emma appoints the MVP – which goes to Elle! A great game all round and a hard fought win. As always, there’s things to address and things to praise as we look forward to facing off against current table runners-up Nottingham City 1 this Sunday at home.

Special thanks for Dan too for coming along to ref for Birmingham. The score sheet for Leicester looks like this:

Ant: 3 (inc. 1 free pass)
Pete: 5 (inc. 1 free pass and 1 penalty)
Matt: 2
Aisling: 2
Rob: 1
Jenny: 1

Well done Toto!