Solihull Moors made a flying start to the 2022/23 Vanarama National League season, hitting four at Aldershot Town.
Joe Sbarra, Callum Howe, Andrew Dallas, and new signing Ben Coker all found the back of the net for Neal Ardley’s men on a superb afternoon at the EBB Stadium.
It could well have been more than four on another day, as the Moors put on a show for the travelling contingent and looked a classy outfit.
There were debuts for summer signings Louie Moulden and Coker, while Fiacre Kelleher and Alex Reid were also in the starting line-up as the duo began their second stints at the club.
Elsewhere, Josh Kelly and Callum Whelan were on the substitutes bench alongside Elite Academy trio Jack Myatt, Leo Wood and Morgan Owen.
Ardley was without long-term absentees Ryan Boot, Justin Donawa and Matt Preston. In addition, Kyle Storer, Alex Gudger, Joey Jones, and Reiss McNally were also missing through injury.
In his post-match interview, the manager confirmed that Jones suffered a hip and knee injury in training on Friday that could keep him out of action for a while.
A clever move down the right saw Ryan Barnett in behind and with space to beat his man and cross – Sbarra was there to meet it in the centre but couldn’t quite get the contact as the ball also evaded Dallas.
The first attempt on target came from Barnett who cut inside and struck a low drive into the gloves of Luca Ashby-Hammond after Dallas had intercepted a pass in the Shots half.
Moors broke the deadlock with just 15 minutes on the clock and it was last season’s 18-goal man who got the opener. Barnett’s cross caused mayhem in the centre and Sbarra, at the second attempt, took a swipe with his left boot and fired underneath the body of Ashby-Hammond.
The visitors pushed for a second as both Dallas and Sbarra came close, before Aldershot equalised against the run of play. Inih Effiong headed in from a cross as Mark Molesley’s side found a leveller.
However, it took the Moors just four minutes to regain their lead and it was the towering head of Howe that met a Dallas cross at the back post to make it 2-1.
There was a huge chance for three as Barnett played a pass in behind the Shots defence to Dallas, before Ashby-Hammond was rapidly out to thwart the Scot.
At the other end, Coker was well-placed to make a heroic goal-saving clearance on the line.
Half-time: Aldershot Town 1-2 Solihull Moors
Solihull wasted no time in the second half and were 3-1 to the good just two minutes after the restart.
Following an initial chance, the ball was kept alive by Sbarra who delivered an inviting ball into the area where Dallas glanced a header into the net.
It should have been four on a number of occasions – Barnett dragged an effort from the edge just wide, before Reid saw two glorious opportunities come and go.
But when the fourth goal arrived, it was one of real class. After being awarded a free-kick just outside the area, Coker picked up the ball and placed it down on the turf. The left-back stepped up and curled a superb effort over the top of the wall and out of reach of Ashby-Hammond to claim a debut goal.
Kelly and Whelan both came on for their Moors debuts before Barnett curled a strike just high and wide of post and bar.
With three minutes left on the clock, Ardley called for young midfielder Owen as the Elite Academy captain was on for his National League debut.
A special moment for Owen, as well as Mike Fowler’s academy group. It took a matter of minutes for Owen to stamp his marker on the game, picking up a yellow card for a late tackle as the clock struck 90.
Full-time: Aldershot Town 1-4 Solihull Moors
Solihull Moors: Moulden (GK), Clarke, Coker, Howe (c), Sbarra, Maycock (Owen 87), Dallas, Osborne (Whelan 77), Barnett, Kelleher, Reid (Kelly 73).
Subs not used: Myatt, Wood.
Attendance: 1,686 (92 away)