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Wednesday 3rd October 2012 ko 7.45pm

Birmingham Senior Cup First Round

RUSHALL OLYMPIC 0

WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 5 (Ismail 43 62 Kostrna 63 McAlinden 71 80)

Att 101

Entry £7.50

Programme £2

Badge £3

Team Sheet FREE

I first attempted to see a game here on New Year’s day around 5 years ago. I’d attended my cousin’s party the night before and slept, more than slightly worse for wear underneath his Christmas tree. I drove north with needles in my hair, and when I reached Dales Lane, they’d just postponed the game due to a frozen pitch.

Back then Rushall played in the Midland Alliance, now they’re 2 promotions further up the footballing pyramid, and are now in the Northern Premier League Premier Division, and so are now just 3 notches from the football league. That would be a huge leap for this friendly, well organised club from just south of Walsall. The town seems out of step these days with its industrial neighbour, being a quiet and leafy suburb with views over and above the M6 of the Birmingham skyline. That belies its history as a mining town, and before that a major Parliamentarian stronghold during the English Civil War.

The ground reflects the club’s rapid elevation in status. The two seated stands are nothing to write home about, but I could have happily settled down for an evening in front of the telly in the bar, and the club shop was a Mecca for programme hunters. I did wonder why it wasn’t open before the game though. There’s plenty about the place to interest the football ground geek, but more than anything else Dales Lane is worth a visit for the friendly people who make the whole operation tick.

The scoreline was highly unfortunate for the hosts, as in no way were they walloped by the Championship side’s under-18 team. Yes, the correct side won, and it was odd seeing a side in gold and black NOT be Wolves, but Rushall played a full part in an entertaining game, and the real difference between the sides was finishing. Zeli Ismail looks to be a very good prospect and on a more selfish night he would have got a hat trick, giving up an easy chance for his third to allow Liam McAlinden his first. There wasn’t much wrong with a Rushall defence featuring the likes of Wayne Daniel and Gavin Caines, formerly of Kidderminster and Cheltenham respectively, but they won’t be facing players of this calibre very often!

The game was refereed by Sarah Garrett who, coincidentally ran the line at my game the previous night at Oxford United. She was excellent in both games, and is clearly one to watch for the future. What this game taught me though, is that Rushall aren’t at the limit of their ambitions just yet.