Date: 9th August 2017 at 11:44am
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Solihull Moors’ season opened with a defeat against National League new boys Leyton Orient.

The hosts were 2-0 up thanks to Charlie Lee and David Mooney goals either side of half-time and although Oladapo Afolayan reduced the arrears in style, George Elokobi made it three.

The score line was a fair reflection on the night, Moors looking every bit the part-time side coming up against full-time opposition. From the first whistle, The O’s were superior, quicker to every ball and playing a sharper, more enjoyable brand of football.

It was a difficult night for McDonald’s men who simply never got going. We were clumsy in possession, na├»ve without the ball and were pulled out of position at the back by intelligent forwards. The goals were painstakingly avoidable but everything we deserved.

McDonald was hit with a blow prior to the game with Kristian Green and Simeon Maye both struck by injury while Joel Kettle’s late holiday appeared to have ruled him out of the starting XI. It resulted in a somewhat surprising starting XI with the back four catching the eye, Kalern Thomas, Fiacre Kelleher, Paul Green and Rowan Cullinane-Liburd all make their Moors debuts.

Connal Trueman made his bow in goal, Jack Edwards, Darren Carter and Luke Benbow made National League appearances for the first-time leaving just three members of last season’s squad starting the new campaign – Shepherd Murombedzi, George Carline and Oladapo Afolayan.

Similarly, Leyton Orient had an entire new starting XI, with the exception of goalkeeper Charlie Grainger, but it was they who made the early running. Dave Mooney was the first to try his luck with a long-distance effort well held by Trueman before a near-post corner flew across the face of goal via Macauley Bonne’s header.

The onslaught continued, ex-Premier League winger Jobi McAnuff cutting inside and curling just wide, Mooney failing to find the target from 25 yards before a quick free-kick ended with Bonne’s left-footed strike scraping the far post.

Orient took the lead on 21 minutes, Jobi McAnuff’s corner dealt with poorly by the Moors rearguard allowing Charlie Lee to prod a loose ball home. For a side seemingly built around its size and ability to score from set-pieces, this was an awful goal to concede.

Moors’ best moment of the first half came through Carter and Afolayan, the former with a splendid cross that the latter couldn’t quite turn home on the stretch.

It was as good as it got during the first period with Trueman forced into tipped a looping free-kick off the post before McAnuff miscued horribly. Bonne could not make the most of a Paul Green mistake and McAnuff finished the half by cutting inside of Thomas and whizzing a shot narrowly passed the far post.

Having re-grouped during the half-time break, Moors got off to the worst possible start to the second half as David Mooney doubled Leyton Orient’s lead, poking home Jake Caprice’s low ball into the area.

Despite Moors gaining a better foothold on proceedings, Orient remained a danger, Kalern Thomas’ immense last-ditch challenge on Bonne denying the long-suffering home fans a third.

Benbow’s could not connect cleanly to a loose ball in the area before Trueman showed quick reflexes to deny Bonne at point blank range. Tristan Dunkley and Tom Tonks made their National League debuts in place of Luke Benbow and Kalern Thomas and it was the latter who made an immediate mark.

After a move from left to right, Murombedzi gave Afolayan the ball. The teenager drove inside, played a one-two with Tonks and lashed the ball into the near post, fooling Grainger in the process. It was Moors’ one moment of genius on the night from perhaps our most gifted talent.

Unfortunately, the goal meant little when barely two minutes later, Orient made it 3-1, James Dayton’s corner kick bundled home by George Elokobi.

Moors gave it everything they had in the final stages, Dunkley finding Afolayan whose shot was deflected wide, Jack Edwards getting under the ball at the back post and Afolayan again going close after taking possession from Coulson. The score line remained at 3-1 and Moors were left trudging off the field.

Overall there were few complaints about the result – it was the performance that was more concerning. From the off we seemed desperate to get the ball forward as quickly as possible but accuracy in the distribution was missing while only Carline seemed to regularly have the beating of his man aerially.

To make matters worse, only Carter seemed to have a decent hold of possession in the centre of the pitch while Benbow and Afolayan were cutting isolated figures in attack.

From a defensive point of view, we were opened up with relative ease and manipulated by the intelligent movement of quality player. The inability to dominate from set-pieces was also a concern, particularly given Orient won three near post headers and managed to score twice from corner-kicks. Young Trueman has plenty to learn but he was hardly helped by those in front of him.

Being more positive, Oladapo Afolayan showed his qualities now he is close to full fitness. His goal featured the kind of individualistic qualities that will win us matches this term and his work ethic was as impressive as ever.

Murombedzi had an accomplished game despite being moved all around midfield. Carline remains an aerial threat and Carter looked confident in possession, even if a little slow to move the ball at times.

With Kristian Green, Joel Kettle and Simeon Maye likely to return to the starting XI very soon, a lot of the new players will be given a chance to learn alongside those that know what the National League entails. It’s poignant to note that six of last night’s team have never played at this level and I suspect Paul Green’s National League career was mostly spent in midfield. They will need time to get used to pace of this division.

The night ended with a nice moment, McDonald’s post-match dressing down interrupted by a chorus of chants from the away support, Joel Kettle at the forefront of those that turned to applaud the raucous group.

And on a night of disappointment, following a tough week for the club, it is the togetherness of fans, players and coaching staff that should give us a real chance of survival.

Starting XI:
Trueman 6; Thomas 6 (Tonks), Kelleher 5, P. Green 5, Cullinane-Liburd 5; Murombedzi 7, Carter 6, Edwards 5, Carline 6; Afolayan 8*, Benbow 5 (Dunkley)


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