Stud Lane played host to a pivotal afternoon’s La Liga football on Tuesday as the Erdington derbies were switched from Hollyfields and it was the Abbey who travelled back with six points in the bag, propelling them to the division’s summit in the process.
Abbey opened the afternoon’s fair with a clash with old Erdington adversaries, SS Peter & Paul and as ever, the fixture did not disappoint and lived up to the hype. With Peter & Paul missing two key players, it was always going to be a tall order for the black’n’whites against the champions who had the upper hand in both of last season’s clashes, including the play-off semi-final. With defences on top and both engine rooms running on full power to stay with each other, clear cut chances were at a premium in a tight and tense opening period; the high standard of football rarely waning. It took a rare defensive lapse in P&P’s ranks mid-way though the first half to give Abbey a slender half-time advantage. The second half followed a similar pattern to the first and though P&P had the lion’s share of possession, they just couldn’t find a way through a tightly knit Abbey rear-guard. The champions were also a threat on the break and victory was finally sealed after a swift counter-attack led to a penalty which sealed their win a matter of seconds from the end.
Abbey then faced another Erdington derby and a tricky-looking fixture against an improving Short Heath outfit. Abbey though, were quickly into their stride and raced into a three-goal lead before half-time. The Heathen’s change of goalkeeper and formation at the break, put a different complexion on the game and suddenly it was Abbey who were on the back foot. After a series of corners, Short Heath eventually pulled a goal back and didn’t hang around to score again. Only the one goal behind now, Heath sensed an equaliser and Abbey fell deeper and deeper into their own half. With only seconds remaining, Heath had their deserved leveller. Abbey’s boys were dumbstruck. There was though still time – just – for one last twist as from the resulting restart, an Abbey pot-shot from distance slipped through the Heathen’s keeper’s hands and Abbey had won a quite dramatic victory. Football: the greatest, and cruellest of games.
Meanwhile, on the opposite side of Stud Lane, St Bernadette’s were stretching their unbeaten run and firmly throwing their hat in the play-off ring. Against a battling and eager Gunter side, Bernie’s majority possession and overall superiority lead them to a 6-0 win. Gunter however, started their evening in Stechford with a 2-1 victory over Ward End in an entertaining, end-to-end tussle.
A significant change at the summit then with Abbey now five points clear of Yardley – the Youths though have a game in hand. SSP&P lie a point further back and have played a game more than Yardley. Bernie’s are now just a single point adrift of P&P having played the same amount of games and remain firmly in the hunt for a coveted play-off spot. Still all to play for as the season look set for an amazing crescendo. Gunter are up to eighth after their win over Ward End, an impressive first season for the Pype Hayes-based side. As for their part, and as result of their reverse to Gunter, drop down a place to tenth.