Solihull Moors 1 Gateshead 0
By Luke Turner
Moors Edge Heed in Battling Encounter, writes John Clothier
Despite heavy rain which saw several matches postponed, the pitch at the Automated Technology Group Stadium was pronounced good following a mid-afternoon inspection and it was game on with Gateshead who had made the long trip down from Tyneside and like their hosts, have one of the best away records in the league.
The “Heed” who despite seeing their club put up for sale during the week, sat in the last of the play-off positions at the start of play, whilst Moors, still smarting from their away defeat last Saturday at Salford, were looking to bounce back and cement their spot near the top of the National League.
It was a full-strength squad named by Tim Flowers apart from Terry Hawkridge who was unwell.
It was a positive start from the home side with Danny Wright and Jamey Osborne both pressurising the Gateshead defence, although keeper Aynsley Pears was well protected by a powerful defensive line. However, with their first real attack on eight minutes, the visitors broke down the right and Greg Olley lashed a shot goal wards and with it taking a slight deflection from Liam Daly on route, Ryan Boot produced a stunning save.
Lee Vaughan put two crosses into the box as Moors harried the Heed but despite skilful work from Osborne and Jermaine Hylton, Moors found the back line impenetrable. Darren Carter put Hylton through on 19 minutes but the shot was deflected for a corner and from that Moors so nearly opened their account; Alex Gudger was well placed in the six-yard area but his shot was brilliantly thwarted by Pears on the line.
In a rare attack Captain Scott Barrow seized on a poor clearance but blasted over the bar from a difficult angle. Nathan Blissett was on the end of another Moors corner at the mid-way stage of the half but could not get a shot away as the defence pounced, whilst Pears denied Wright after a defence splitting cross from Osborne. The Moors midfielder then put in a trade mark long throw, well met by Daly but cleared before the front line could react.
Osborne was hacked to the ground by Williamson as he burst through on 39 minutes and if that was not bad enough it led to an off the ball altercation between the perpetrator and Wright who appeared to be struck by the Heed defender. Referee Oldham issued the red card and Gateshead were down to ten men.
Osborne took a curling free kick to restart play but again, although well met by Daly, Moors could not capitalise on the opportunity. Kyle Storer’s through ball just before the interval was cleared before Blissett could do any damage and with the last action of the half, Hylton blasted wide after Gudger’s long ball from defence.
Goalless at half time was a fair reflection on the opening 45 – Moors had pressurised throughout but Gateshead were well drilled and resilient in defence.
Solihull resumed on the front foot and Hylton was unlucky as he turned and shot just wide from an Osborne throw. Storer’s long ball put Jamie Reckord away down the left flank but the cross was easily cleared. The on 53 minutes Moors had another chance to take the lead and to be honest it was hard to see how they could not get the ball in the net; from another long Osborne throw the ball fell to Hylton on the far post and despite Jamma having three close range attempts through a melee of legs to convert, the ball eventually went inches wide for a corner.
Gudger almost connected with Carter’s free kick after Osborne was again clattered but then in the 62nd minute Moors opened their account as Carter curled in a corner and Blissett got between the defenders to head home. 1 – 0.
Osborne seemed to be targeted as twice he was floored, again requiring the physio.
With 20 minutes remaining, Hylton lobbed Pears and had the ball in the back of the net after a dink from Wright but the flag was immediately up for off side, whilst in a break away from the visitors, Hunter fired over the cross bar.
Manager Flowers swapped Carter for Luke Maxwell on 72 minutes and followed this up by bringing on Adi Yussuf for the tiring Wright. Daly had the ball in the net from Osborne’s free kick but the referee blew for an infringement.
As time ebbed away Maxwell volleyed powerfully from the 18-yard line but straight into a defensive wall before George Carline replaced Hylton who had run his legs off. In the four minutes of added time Carline put in a pin point cross to Yussuf bur Pears saved magnificently. Despite the usual frayed tempers as Moors held the ball by the corner post, that was the last of the action.
Not a pretty but a dogged performance by Moors against strong physical opposition and three points on a night when Wrexham were beaten 1 – 3 by Barrow. It sends us back to second in the National League, three points behind Orient, one point ahead of Wrexham, two points over Fylde and three points ahead of Salford. Eastleigh and Harrogate make up the remainder of the play off contenders at this stage.
On Saturday we welcome Braintree Town from Essex. Despite being bottom of the league they gave Sutton a decisive 0-3 beating last night and it would be foolish to think this will be anything but another tough encounter.
Solihull Chamber of Commerce Man of the Match Nathan Blissett
Boot, Reckord, Storer ©, Daly, Gudger, Osborne, Carter (Maxwell), Hylton (Carline), Blissett, Wright (Yussuf), Vaughan. Subs Not Used ; Williams, Stenson
Report from John Clothier
Photos Courtesy of Tom King