Birmingham City 1 – Solihull Moors 2
Birmingham Senior Cup Final
FOR Marcus Bignot, there was no better stage to end the best season in Solihull Moors’ history with another record-breaking win .
He readily admits St Andrew’s holds a special place in his heart, having been a Bluenose growing up, watching his boyhood heroes from the terraces, then playing for and also against Blues.
But the Moors manager described Thursday night’s victory over Blues youngsters to complete a league and Birmingham Senior Cup double as the ‘icing on the cake’.
Darryl Knights was the hero as Moors lifted the county cup for the first time, striking twice from close-range after Blues had failed to defend long throw-ins from Connor Franklin.
Knights smashed the first on 34 minutes and though Reece Brown had showcased his undoubted talent with a cracking long-range leveller just before the hour Knights grabbed the winner three minutes from time just when it seemed the contest was heading for penalties.
“Since we won the league, the last three games, losing two and drawing one, wasn’t the ideal way to finish the season but winning this cup is the icing on the cake,” said Bignot. “It was a fitting stage for us to perform and I’m delighted with the result.
“For myself, it’s that little bit more special because Birmingham City is a club close to my heart. I enjoyed playing here, coming here as a manager with Moors and Blues Ladies and coming here as fan. It’s lucky ground for me.”
Moors did need some good fortune in the final, notably when the frame of the goal twice came to their rescue, but they matched Blues, the cup holders, in terms of conjuring dangerous opportunities. Three times, keeper Jake Weaver excelled to deny the National League North champions.
Blues certainly provided the early excitement, with Alex Jones twice twisting and shooting without testing keeper Danny Lewis before the Moors No 1 scooped a stinging Mitch Hancox round the post.
Koby Arthur was even closer on 23 minutes with a dipping 25-yard striker which clipped the top of the bar.
But Solihull’s confidence and assuredness began to grow in equal measure and soon Blues were on the back-foot when James Armson’s effort was cleared following a break from Akwasi Asante. Former Blues trainee Asante’s header was blocked by Weaver from Knight’s corner and Liam Daly slammed the rebound into the side netting.
But on 34 minutes another restart resulted in Moors’ opening goal. Blues’ defence failed to get a touch on Franklin’s long throw from the left as it bounced across the six-yard box and Knights charged in to slam home.
Only a brave and well-timed block from Luke Maxwell prevented an Asante shot arrowing on target and then Weaver stood up bravely to keep out a Stefan Moore shot following an Asante flick just before half-time.
A Daly header from another Knights corner was deflected just wide early in the second period and Weaver was forced into a sprawling save from Asante but Richard Beale’s Blues were regaining the initiative.
Lewis dived to parry Charlie Cooper’s shot from Brown’s pull-back but the keeper was helpless on 59 minutes when Brown shimmied one way and the other to create a sight of goal and whip a curling effort from 25 yards into the corner.
Blues sensed another quickfire goal. Cooper was crowded out as he looked to convert a Brown break and Jones dragged his effort wide before another superbly-struck 20-yard effort from Brown rattled the bar and bounced to safety.
But Franklin’s throw-in delivery was proving to be Moors’ not-so-secret weapon.
Weaver managed to push away the ball when Blues midfielder Luke Maxwell’s inadvertent back header from one throw was flashing towards the top corner but there was to be no reprieve on 87 minutes.
Moors sub Andy Brown flicked on another laser-guided throw from the right and again Blues were watching shadows as Knights bundled home from four yards, despite Hancox’s last-ditch intervention.
All that was left was for Moors to see out time and then Daly to lift aloft the cup in front of the ecstatic Moors fans.
BIRMINGHAM: Weaver; Bernard, Mbende, Harding, Hancox; Baba, Maxwell, Cooper (McDonald 64); Arthur, R Brown; Jones (Popa 87). Subs not used: Cogley, Trueman, O’Keeffe.
SOLIHULL: Lewis; P Bignot, Daly, Kelly; Armson (Hayden, 90+1), Beswick, Byrne, Franklin; Knights; Asante (Leslie 81), Moore (A Brown 77). Subs not used. Martinez, Walker.
Referee: Lisa Rashid.