Solihull Moors finally made it out of the relegation zone with a pivotal 1-0 victory over Hartlepool United.
The Moors, who have been in the relegation zone since defeat at Leyton Orient in our opening league fixture, have struggled to make the final step in recent weeks but Adi Yussuf’s 88th minute winner secured the three points that finally took us ahead of Barrow in the National League table.
Yates made just one change for the long trip up north with Darren Carter returning to the starting XI in place of Omari Sterling-James.
Despite our fine form defensively in recent months, putting the ball in the back of the net has been the issue in recent weeks, drawing blanks against Halifax Town then Aldershot Town, missing huge chances in both games.
With Scott Loach, who produced a fine solo performance for York City in a similar relegation six-pointer last season, in the opposition net, Moors fans would have understandably been concerned when the ex-England U21 goalkeeper produced a fine stop to deny Adi Yussuf after just two minutes.
After Liam Daly saw his effort deflected over the bar, Josh Hawkes let fly from 20 yards, the ball whipped just past Max O’Leary’s far post. Jake Cassidy then drilled a low ball across goal that Michael Woods latched onto, only to be denied by O’Leary, the on-loan Bristol City stopper in fine form once again.
The first-half was all about the goalkeeping performances and Loach stepped up to the plate again when he tipped Jermaine Hylton’s curling effort past the far post before denying Yussuf a couple of minutes later.
Jake Cassidy fired just wide of the target for the hosts who were left breathing a sigh of relief when Fiacre Kelleher’s close range shot dropped wide of Loach’s post. They were even more delighted when Loach could only parry Liam Daly’s header to Jamey Osborne whose effort was cleared off the line.
Nil-nil at half-time, it appeared to be another one of those days. Those feeling increased when another Darren Carter delivery found Liam Daly once more but his header was cleared to safety.
From that point, chances were few and far between. That was until Josh Hawkes cut in from the left-hand side and spanked an effort off the bar.
Yates had seen enough and decided to replace Jamey Osborne and Kwame Thomas with Alex Reid and Omari Sterling-James. It almost paid immediate dividends, Hylton cutting inside of his man and fired towards goal, the forward again left ruing his luck as the ball bounced off the bar. It wasn’t going to happen, was it?
Yes it was – courtesy of Adi Yussuf! Darren Carter’s corner was curled towards the front post and although Alex Reid couldn’t flick the ball on, The Moors’ burly number 9 was on hand to prod the ball home from 6 yards. Get in!!
While trying to keep hold of the 1-0 lead for the final few minutes, we were dealt a huge blow when Liam Daly was sent off. Nobody is quite sure what the giant Moors centre-half said but the referee clearly took offence and brandished a straight red card – what a time to be without Daly for three games.
Still, The Moors defended their goal in a fashion we are used to seeing these days – we have conceded just 15 goals in 22 games since Mark Yates arrived and this was our fourth consecutive clean sheet.
Our biggest victory of the season so far has taken us out of the relegation zone. Six points from Maidstone United and Guiseley would leave us all but safe.
What a story this is turning out to be!
Starting XI: O’Leary; Williams, Daly, Kelleher, Reckord; Osborne (Sterling-James), Storer, Carter; Thomas (Reid), Hylton (Carline), Yussuf. Unused: K.Green, Lait.