Monday, 6 November 2017

04/11/17 Review: Sporting Khalsa vs Coventry United

Sporting Khalsa 3-0 Coventry United (Midland Football League Premier)
The Aspray Arena

Ever since visiting Khalsa's Aspray Arena at the start of 2016, I've been eager for an excuse to make a return to Willenhall- and I bet there's not many around who are as excited to be back in the West Midlands town. With Partizan Bristle (aka Tom) making the journey up from Bristol for this one, this day had come as a result of a vigorous planning between myself, Tom and another Pint of Football pal in Mikey and we were all rather chuffed to have nailed this date in the diary of our "Sporting Khalsa (A) Planning Committee" Facebook Messenger Page. And as if that wasn't enough, the thought of a post-match curry in the 4-4-2 Lounge was too much for even our other halves to miss out on and so Sophie and Becky decided to join the party and make our Sporting Khalsa firm a mighty set of five.

If you thought the Millwall Ultras were fierce, you should take a look at the "Khultras" (Minus the child!)
Arriving from Stoke, Bristol and Wolverhampton respectively, we made it to the ground nice and early, so needless to say we wasted no time and headed straight into the clubhouse to try out a pint whilst studying the menu for later on. Having already sampled the bargain beer and incredible curry before, the only changes to the 4-4-2 Lounge that I could note were a wall that seemed to have been constructed in the middle of the bar and another that had been taken down to allow for a patio area adjoining to the seating area we found ourselves in. So far so good and the Aspray Arena was as great as I'd remembered, with build-your-own-toilet and all, but it was time to turn our attentions to the pitch as we headed into the ground. We arrived at the turnstile and met the first issue of the day for Mikey as there appeared to be no way in for his wheelchair, but the ever-friendly Khalsa staff soon found the solution as they opened up the large gate and he was soon inside. Over to our left was the main stand still looking luscious in yellow and blue, whilst on the right was a new stand that housed the few away fans who'd travelled over for this top of the table Midlands Premier League clash. When I last visited, I'd seen Khalsa tear apart Stafford Town in a J.W Hunt Cup match here and after chatting with a couple of the owners they'd told me of their aspirations to continue to build up a National League standard venue, so I was chuffed to see that they were staying true to their word.
The new stand, very nice
True enough there was still a sense of the Aspray being a bit of a construction zone, but since buying this ground on Noose Lane from Willenhall Town in 2010 they have certainly put some great effort into making this a proper home of football for the British Asian club. As already mentioned, today's match was bound to be a big one for both sides as a 3rd vs 5th clash that could see Khalsa leap to the top of the league if results went their way. Since gaining promotion to the Midland Premier in 2015, Khalsa had finished 3rd on both occasions so far and despite a poor start to this campaign they were yet again chasing the title after going 14 games unbeaten in all competitions. For Coventry United they were also fairly new to this level and this was only their second year in the 9th tier of English football, which isn't such a bad record when you consider they only formed in 2013. Yes in their four year history it is true that United have achieved a lot, winning the Midland League Division Three in 2013, Division Two in 2014 and Division One in 2015, before finishing mid-table in the Premier last season. True enough this would be a battle between two sides with big dreams and on the way to the ground Tom, Sophie and I had made our predictions. We all went for a Khalsa victory, with a 3-2 prediction for me.

Come on you Khalsa!
With kits of yellow and blue for the hosts, red and green for the visitors as well as orange and purple shirted keepers this was a feast of colourful attire and there was an equally eye-pleasing start for the hosts in this match. Kyle Brady managed to beat the offside trap in the 4th minute and the number 9 offered a cool finish to match and set his side on their way to another victory. Khalsa 1-0 Coventry. United did start to grow into the game after the early setback and we saw a pretty even first-half, but despite some decent play from both sides there was one player that I couldn't take my eye off. Cov were playing a right-footed left-back which just wasn't working out for the visitors and as he popped up and down the field I found myself feeling annoyed at this tactical decision by Terry Anderson. I know that it is the modern way to have right-footed left-wingers and vise-versa, but this who nonsense of inverted wing-backs just doesn't work for me. At the other end Craig Bannister missed a big chance on the right and managerial maverick Ian Rowe soon found himself spitting feathers as the whistle blew for half-time. So far I'd enjoyed the game and was glad to be back, but I'm afraid that the same could not be said for the ladies who had instead taken to watching the linesman running up and down his side of the field like a toddler- and in fairness, it was pretty hilarious.

Half-time, 1-0
The night before Tom had to endure seeing his beloved Bristol Rovers lose in the FA Cup First Round to Notts County and during half-time it was my turn to see the disappointment as I looked at Sky Sports News on the big screen to see that Macc were losing 1-0 at Forest Green. Thankfully, we were both able to drown our sorrows and be grateful that we were at the Aspray Arena seeing the mighty Sporting Khalsa- my first two matches had seen the Punjabi side gain 8-0 and 3-0 victories over Stafford Town and Lichfield City.

All ready for more Khalsa goodness
As Khalsa reemerged the Assistant Manager asked the owners how rivals Bromsgrove and Coleshill Town were doing, but they refused to divulge and were more bothered about their own side getting the three points. The eventually comfortable victory could have become a bit more rocky on the hour-mark as Cov had a clear chance to equalise, but thankfully for the blue and yellow fans the United forward's header acted as a great clearance rather than a shot on target- talk about a let off. This seemed to spark the lads back into action and they then went close themselves as Liam Holt went close after a well-worked move. The game entered the final 10 minutes but this point and it still seemed possible for either side to end with victory, but Holt wasn't ready to see his side share the spoils and the number 6 set up an 82nd minute goal for Bannister, who just about squeezed the ball in past Rich Morris from a tight-angle to seemingly seal the three points. Khalsa 2-0 Coventry. In fairness to Cov they didn't take their defeat lying-down and were it not for some heroic defending from club captain and St. Kitts & Nevis international Tesfa Robinson it could have been a tense ending for Khalsa. As it was though, it would be the hosts who added a third in the last minute of regular time. Holt had been fairly assertive all game when going forward and after assisting the last goal he this time took an effort on himself, wrong-footing the keeper with a tidy finish from long-range. Khalsa 3-0 Coventry. The full-time whistle soon blew and we piled into the clubhouse ready for a stomach-warming curry. Today's victory had moved Khalsa up to 2nd after Bromsgrove Sporting fell to mid-table Highgate United, which meant for a very satisfying feel all-round despite Macc being dumped out of the Cup. The rest of the early evening was spent in the 4-4-2 Lounge with some wonderful scran, a couple more beers to wash it down and laughter amongst some great people.

Til next time, UP THE KHALSA!

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