Non-League Day saw wet and windy conditions at a packed Automated Technology Group Stadium as Solihull welcomed Ebbsfleet United for only their second visit. “Fleet” had been promoted in 2016/17 as runners up and surprised everybody with their consistently strong performances throughout the campaign – Moors, in fact, were beaten twice by their visitors so this time round there were points to be proved with the home team riding high in the National League. Moors were almost at full strength, just missing Jamey Osborne, but he had trained on Friday following his injury at Havant and was on the bench.
The home team made a bright start in the swirling conditions with Alex Gudger through but off side from Danny Wright's pass, whilst Jermaine Hylton was immediately causing problems with his pace down the left side. That said, Solihull were caught napping on just five minutes when a free kick put Luke Coulson face to face with Ryan Boot but the Moors keeper was first to the ball. Danny Kedwell had an early chance but headed straight at Boot as Daly and Gudger closed in. With a quarter hour played Jamie Record hit a clearance sky high and as the wind played havoc the ball went for a corner. From that Solihull broke quickly with Hylton away on his own but with Ashmore standing between him and an early goal, his first touch showed too much of the ball to the opposition keeper.
That said home fans did not have to wait long; Danny Wright collected a throw in and with a deft touch put the irrepressible Hylton away down the left from where he beat two defenders, cut to his right and launched a thunderbolt into the roof of the net. 1 – 0.
Moors continued to pressurise the Fleet defence but when Adi Yussuf was clattered to the ground as he moved in, Darren Carter's free kick was well over the bar. The ex-Blues man was immediately back in the action as he whipped the ball into the 18-yard area but Gudger’s follow up header caused Ashmore no problem. The chance to double the advantage came on 35 minutes when a long clearance from Boot caused his counterpart to race out of the box to head clear - it fell to the incoming Yussuf but his lob towards the empty goal was well over.
The visitor’s best chance of the half came two minutes before the half time whistle when Whitely got on the end of a long through ball but the shot was high.
One nil at the interval was a fair reflection of the game and the difficult conditions.
It was a revitalised Fleet who began the second half, very much on the front foot; With a minute played Bush’s immensely long throw landed at Whitley’s feet but the upright came to Moors rescue as his shot cannoned off the post. The visitors had a penalty shout rejected by referee Woods when Rance was blocked on route to a goal scoring opportunity. Coulson was through on 54 minutes but Tyrone Williams produced a perfectly timed tackle to deflect the danger for a corner. The momentum of the game had briefly turned and it was Moors restricted to Breaks with Hylton bundled over on a solo run whilst Maxwell’s header from a Wright cross was blocked.
It was no real surprise when Fleet’s persistence paid off and parity was restored; Just a minute before the hour mark Kedwell’s free kick was deflected by the Solihull wall but Boot did well to parry the fierce strike. Winfield followed up with Kedwell rushing in and the unfortunate Gudger had the last touch as the ball crossed the line.
Moors responded immediately to the wake-up call as Tim Flowers made a double substitution – Jamey Osborne for the injured Kyle Storer and Kwame Thomas for the tiring Adi Yussuf. On 68 minutes it looked as though Liam Daly would score at the back post as he connected with Carter’s corner but the header was inches wide. Danny Wright put in a low cross into the six-yard box but Ashmore was fractionally quicker than the marauding Hylton.
Substitute Sean Shields first touch of the game was potentially goal bound but the ever-alert Boot produced an even better save to push the ball away for a corner. Drury was booked for diving in the box.
With the game ebbing and flowing Moors restored their advantage in the 82nd minute; a patient build up saw the ball floated out to Luke Maxwell on the right and although his first shot was blocked the ball came straight back to him to squeeze a low left footed drive inside the near post. 2 – 1.
Hylton’s 20 yarder was deflected with Ashmore beaten as the game entered four added minutes which will be remembered more for off the ball aggravation that any real chances
The result cements Moors fifth position in the league with three of the four teams above them drawing - only Wrexham received maximum points.
Next week it's our first outing in the Emirates FA Cup when we travel to Northern Premier outfit Witton Albion in the final qualifying round - see web site for details.
Boot, Williams, Reckord, Storer © (Osborne), Daly, Gudger, Carter, Yussuf (Thomas),Hylton (Carline) , Maxwell, Wright Subs not used; Flowers, O’Keeffe.
Man of the Match: Tyrone Williams
Report from John Clothier - Photos courtesy of Tom King