PREVIEW: SENIOR CHALLENGE CUP FINAL
Another enthralling season in the senior challenge cup comes to an end as Leamington FC and Nuneaton Borough meet for one of the showpiece matches in Birmingham County FA's Calendar on Thursday 2 May.
The Final is to be played at St Andrew’s, the home of Championship outfit Birmingham City, with the game itself kicking off at 7.30pm.
It is sure to be a brilliant affair with two of the most successful side’s in the competition’s history set to come together and attempt to lift yet another title.
In their current guise as Leamington FC, the Brakes have lifted the Senior Challenge Cup on six occasions, with the most recent coming in 2017 as they edged out Wolverhampton Wanderers 5-4 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in regulation time. Alongside their successes, the club have also managed to reach the Final on a further six occasions, totalling 12 appearances in all.
Meanwhile, Nuneaton possess plenty of their own glory in the competition. The club, in their various forms, have reached the Final on 15 separate occasions before this year’s instalment, with the current Nuneaton Borough accounting for four of those appearances. They have tasted victory on nine occasions, with the last time being the only win of the modern club in 2010 with a 2-1 victory over Alvechurch.
Strangely though, despite the combined 27 appearances between the two clubs in their various forms in Senior Challenge Cup Finals, they have never actually gone head-to-head for the trophy. As a matter of fact, the last time they met in the Semi-Finals was back in 1980.
The two present-day clubs have met on two past occasions in the competition. Nuneaton earned a 3-2 win in the first meeting in the Third Round back in the 2009/10 season. Their last meeting was in 2017 as the Brakes earned some revenge with a 2-1 win of their own.
Heading into this year’s Final, both sides have provided plenty of entertainment so far this season. The Boro got their campaign off to an extremely entertaining start as they ousted Burton Albion 4-3 in the First Round. Jimmy Ginelly’s men then earned 2-0 wins over Solihull Moors and Highgate United to get through to the Semi-Finals. There, they edged out Stourbridge 2-1.
Elsewhere, Leamington have produced some considerable shocks on their route to the Final. Defeating Sutton Coldfield Town on penalties, they then hit five against Lye Town to set up a tie with West Bromwich Albion. The Brakes were in inspired form and chalked up a 4-1 win against the Baggies before also eliminating Aston Villa in the Semi-Finals. Yet to fail to score and indeed to keep a clean sheet in the competition this season, Leamington could well provide plenty of thrills and spills.
One aspect that could give both bunches of players confidence are their surroundings. With the game being played at St Andrew’s, goals could be common place. The stadium has hosted the Senior Cup on 17 previous occasions with goals being scored at a rate of approximately 3.5 per game so supporters could expect to be on the edge of their seats for the match.