For the Under Eighteen year old teams in the West Midlands, the Joel Richards Memorial Cup is an important competition, not only because of the tragic loss of life that is commemorated in its title, but also because of the quality of the teams who enter.
On their way to this Semi Final against Nuneaton Griff, Moors Under Eighteen squad had defeated Bedworth United, Racing Club Warwick, and Dudley Town; scoring seventeen times with only Bedworth managing to score goals (2) against them.
With rain threatening, this match began with Griff trying to crowd the Moors out in their own half. On a heavy pitch, the Moors did not really get going. Josh Parsons took the full force of the ball and dropped to the ground like a stone. One feared the worst. However, he was able to continue after the attentions of Physio Steve Hensall.
Griff are not a dirty side, but they put in a great deal of effort in the first half of this game. Their activity seemed to drag the Moors into the same frame of mind. There was no doubt that the Moors were in the ascendancy, and of the forty-five minutes until the break, spent at least thirty-five minutes camped in Griff territory. Yet for all this at the break they had just one shot on target to show. As the game proceeded the foul count against Griff mounted. It was as if the harder Moors tried, the less they achieved.
On their rare forays forward, Griff did look dangerous, but Messers Willock and Taylor were alive to them. When the players went for their refreshment at half-time, the large crowd was quiet and almost disbelieving. This was not the Semi Final we all expected.
Whatever Sam Manoochehri said to the young Moors in that Dressing Room at half-time, it had its effect. They shot out of the blocks for the second half and put Griff under immense pressure. For the rest of the game, Griff were living off scraps, and their attack was restricted to the very occasional, and tentative, expedition forward. The Moors defence coped with this with ease. At the other end, the Griff goal was being bombarded with shots, crosses and centres. Mullally, Shade, and Parsons, all had opportunities to score. Yet for one reason or another, the goal line could not be passed.
On the hour mark, there were still no goals, and we began to wonder if these missed chances would cost the Moors. Then with sixty minutes gone a ping-pong in the Griff Area. Callum Coyle’s shot was blocked and the ball fell at Shade’s feet. He made no mistake.
The cheers were those of relief. But from this point on, there was only one team in it. Indeed Coyle ran the show from mid-field. The ball went from Taylor to Coyle and then forward more times than one could count. Griff were run ragged. Further goals were scored by Skipper Liam Taylor and the tireless Kyle Mullally.
There was an unnecessary flare up with ten minutes to go. Referee Tallis booked MacNally for the Moors, and McKewan and Harrison for Griff.
At the end, the Moors were still searching for that fourth goal, and I suspect, Griff were relieved to hear that final whistle.
Manager Sam Manoochehri told me afterwards, “We were a bit nervous at first and did not do ourselves justice in the first half. But in the second half we were outstanding.” Indeed they were.
In the final Moors Under Eighteens will meet Burton Albion or Romulus. It will be a game we all will want to watch.
Moors Under 18s: Ben Nitiri; Reece MacNally; Mikkel Hirst; Marshall Willock; Liam Taylor © ; Dylon Bennett; Tyrese Shade (James Medford); Ryan Andrews; Kyle Mullally ; Callum Coyle; and Josh Parsons. Subs not used: Nathan Hansard; Blessing Nhundu; Ashanti Pryce; & Jack Forrest. Referee Scott Tallis.