By Shaun Webbley
The sun is pouring onto the beautiful clean artificial turf, the weather can’t decide whether it’s hot or cold much to the fans’ dismay and indeed the inflatable dinosaurs, no this is not a metaphor. The dinosaur seemed to cause laughter for some and worry for others (mainly Milo the dog) at its sheer presence, on an emotional day but for all the right reasons for this beautiful club.
The referee blows the full-time whistle, the collective cheer and applause almost like a party has started, the time to celebrate a fantastic season is approaching but the all-important JW Hunt semi-final remains. The excitement is infectious.
The 248 adoring fans inside the ground, were keen to give the players a great reception and they more than deserved it. The club’s first season as a step 5 side could have gone terribly wrong and as club captain Kyle Patterson put it: “We were tipped to be the whipping boys of this league.”
The win against Romulus means the club guaranteed themselves a third-place finish and with the semi-final on the horizon, it still could get better for Lichfield City. A comfortable 3-0 win really typifies just what this Lichfield side is about, with the club scoring on average 3 goals per home game, this win has Lichfield’s name all over it.
The free-flowing attacking football, going from back to front, the opening goal was a true testament to this extraordinary team. 23 seconds, 8 players and 9 passes were just how fast and slick Lichfield went from James Beeson’s gloves to Luke Childs fantastic header at the back post hitting the back of the net. It really was a sumptuous goal, the movement, the one-touch passing and the sheer elegance of a tricky winger rising highest from a target man’s cross to head home, really is a roles reversal, but to a gratifying extent.
For Luke Childs, a local lad to rise highest and meet the cross was superb, a confident man who still has room to develop, not shy of playing at left-back as he did when Leighton McMenemy was wrongly dismissed. He has the tenacity, the skill, the speed, the intelligence and the end product that other teams in the league dream of having at their disposal.
The celebrations said it all, a beautifully worked team goal from a side nobody expected would come this far, a team who has grown together, suffered together and laughed together, it symbolises the ethos of this thriving football club.
The second goal was again a brilliant goal, Lewi Burnside, the 18-year-old who was drafted in due to injuries within the team, again just typifies this squad’s mentality, and that’s before mentioning he was played out of position at right-back. A beautifully threaded through ball in behind Romulus’ defence who really were faltering as the second half progressed. The finish from top goalscorer Jack Edwards looked simple, but you had to be in the right place at the right time to score and he was, emphatically.
Edwards who himself has broken through almost every glass ceiling of expectation this season continues to show just how good he is at this level. A shoo-in for any team in this division, Edwards who came from Heath Hayes, has 28 goals and 20 assists to his name, which is down to his hard work and the manager’s confidence that this signing would work. To say the signing has worked would be a harsh understatement on not just the quality of the player, but the foresight of the management team to sign him.
The third goal was created and dispatched by 21-year-old midfielder Sam Fitzgerald, who really was the star of the show. On the ball, he coasts around with the touch, the technicality and the poise of a player arguably too good for this level. Off the ball he scurries around hunting the ball as if his life depends on it, it’s the perfect match for a midfielder.
“He was outstanding,” manager Ivor Green says with adulation in his voice. “If you’ve got a quality footballer like that, you let them go and play. The shackles are off, he was everywhere, at right-back, left-back and upfront picking up the ball and linking play, when we went down to 10 men he was unplayable.”
The biggest footballing match is Green and assistant Wayne Chapman, arguably the biggest driving forces behind this club’s ascent up the table. A 22-game unbeaten start to the season was mesmeric, an FA Cup game on the BBC was memorable, but they don’t like the limelight and will often refuse to take credit. Two self-professed family men who love their football, whilst Chapman was busy soaking it all in, I managed to grab Green for another quick chat.
“I’m chuffed to bits,” Green says with a smile protruding on his face when asked to sum up his thoughts on the win. “Going down to ten men, we controlled the game which really shows the character and the discipline of the players. It could have been very easy when we went down to ten men for the players’ heads to drop but they didn’t they were fantastic.”
The fans were clapping, and the players were joking. This club is on the up, more and more people are being seduced by the allure of a brilliantly run, fantastically coached football team. The crowds throughout the season have been growing week by week and the excitement and positivity can only be a positive going into next season.
“It was the performance we were focusing on more than anything,” Green says. “That was the only discussion we had before today, we needed a performance for these fans, the crowds have gone from 20-30 people to now near 250, it’s fantastic. We wanted to put in a good shift, we wanted to get the ball down and play which we did superbly.”
The football played was immaculate, the manner of the victory was richly deserved, the post-match banter was something I now come to expect and the Strongbow’s tasted that little bit sweeter.
The semi-final is on the horizon, a momentous game, a chance for these players to prove they can win the trophies and defy the odds one more time. A chance for the naysayers to once again eat their humble pie. Whatever Thursday brings, the town is so proud of their achievements and it’s clear to see why the sky is the limit for these Brummie boys.