The highlights below are courtesy of the Sandy Springs Football Club. You can find the video on their YouTube channel here as well as on their Facebook page here. It’s a great quality video and thank you for capturing the images. And for the readers of the Birmingham Backline, I encourage you to give Sandy Springs FC a follow on Facebook. Support local (Southern) soccer as much as you can.

If you want to read more about my Top 5 Highlights from this pre-season friendly, click here.

As for the commentary concerning the “controversy” surrounding this non-league friendly, let me just say the following things:

1. Yes, the unlimited substitutions rule that was agreed upon prior to the game certainly gave the Hammers an advantage. Can I offer you some cheese? If SSFC disagreed with the rules or felt the health and wellness of their players wasn’t secure, perhaps they should have refused to play. Or better yet, suggested a lower amount of substitutions. As it were, they decided to play with a limited amount of players, some of whom had knocks from their previous week’s game against GA Revolution. They played well enough to keep the game competitive until the 78th minute. Perhaps their attitude was to take out as many Hammers players as possible to even the playing field. See below.

2. If we really want to pick nits on who had an advantage in this game, why not look at the fact that the Hammers have not even had a full squad practice session prior to this game. In fact, a few of the players had driven into Birmingham the night before. Many players are still learning each others’ names. Meanwhile, SSFC already had one game under their belt. And more than likely, they brought their best XI plus a few others while the Hammer’s played players deep off their bench. Give me a break guys – the excuses go both ways.

3. According to SSFC, two of the Hammers’ 5 goals were technically own goals, specifically the two credited to King in the 78th  and 80th minute. First of all, the 78th minute strike was probably going in the net regardless of it glancing off the SSFC defender or not. The SSFC goalie was caught flat-footed and terribly out of position. Perhaps it was a bit of luck, but let’s not get too crazy by calling this strike from King a terrible own goal. On the other hand, the 80th minute cross that was put into the back of the net by a SSFC defender was certainly an own goal. Finally, let’s not take away the class strike from Norris Howze in the 90th minute. Sure, maybe the 5-2 score line is slightly inflated. Does 4-2 make you feel all that better though? What about 3-2? Either way, its a loss for the club from Sandy Springs.

At the end of the day, both Sandy Springs FC and the Birmingham Hammers played tough, if not flawed soccer. Both squads certainly have their kinks to work through prior to the season starting if they want to have successful campaigns, but that’s what these friendlies are for. This match was more about what was happening on the field in respect to team chemistry for both teams rather than what the final score board looked like. Let’s not diminish the fact that both teams played well, grew their team chemistry, and avoided major injuries. Mission accomplished for the Hammers and SSFC.

Sandy Springs FC – you guys put up a good fight and indeed have some good footballers. I wish you success in your upcoming season, and I hope to see you guys again next year. Other than the 90 minutes on the pitch, I hope your stay in Birmingham was smooth and enjoyable. Thank you again for the high quality video. Cheers!