Date: 26th November 2017 at 11:15pm
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Mark Yates’ first home as Solihull Moors manager finished in a 1-1 draw against ten-man Gateshead.

The North East outfit took the lead following the award of a fortuitous penalty before Russell Penn was sent off for a second bookable offence. Wes Atkinson restored parity in the second half but The Moors could not find the winner.

Yates shuffled the pack around following two tough away fixtures, giving Max O’Leary, brought in on loan from Bristol City, and Wes Atkinson, a permanent addition from Liam McDonald’s Rushall Olympic, their full debuts while Paul Green and Jermaine Hylton returned to the starting XI.

Those changes meant a re-shuffle to a 4-3-3 system and also meant Mark Yates had the strongest bench available to Solihull Moors this season: Kristian Green, Joel Kettle, George Carline, Shepherd Murombedzi and Oladapo Afolayan.

The early exchanges saw both sides full of gusto but struggling to make chances count. Richard Peniket had the first effort of the game, taking on Paul Green but slicing wide of the far post.

On 14 minutes, Gateshead led in controversial circumstances. Scott Barrow’s pass was picked up by JJ O’Donnell who touched the ball past Darren Carter before going down. As Carter would confirm after the game, even the player admitted to diving. Nonetheless, Jordan Burrow was presented with a chance from 12 yards and made it count.

As the smell of a flair filled the air, the visitors would dominate the following minutes with Russell Penn firing wide on the volley and Peniket turning Kelleher before hitting the post via O’Leary.

A reprieve was almost received in comical circumstances when Neill Byrne attempting to head back to his goalkeeper only for Dan Hanford to have come out of his goal to collect. Unfortunately, the ball rolled just the wrong side of the post.

Slowly but surely, Yates’ side were beginning to get into the game a little more, partly in thanks to Courtney Richards pushing a bit further forward in midfield. He almost scored too, volleying wide on his weaker left-foot. At the other end, Burrow and Jordan Preston ought to have done better with efforts.

The game changed entirely in a short period. Russell Penn has previous at the Automated Technology Group Stadium having been on the end of a Jack Byrne thump last season while playing for Wrexham. He was dishing out the dirty this time, firstly booked for kicking the ball away before being given his marching orders a minute later for scything Darren Carter in the air.

Despite having 10 men, Gateshead made life difficult in the second half, narrowing the pitch and forcing Moors to play wider. For the most part, it worked.

It meant getting crosses into the area or striking from distance with natural vision and creativity not something you can associate with this Moors side.

Akwasi Asante nor Courtney Richards could make the most of half chances while Jermaine Hylton twisted Robbie Tinkler inside and out before dragging his shot wide. James Bowen tested Hanford from distance before Burrow fired over on the turn for Gateshead.

As the frustration was beginning to set in, Wes Atkinson made a solid debut into an extremely positive one. Courtney Richards and Paul Green appeared to be doing their best not to cross the ball. The latter eventually did and Atkinson was in the area to nod home.

All of a sudden this became an open affair. Liam Daly denied Burrow before Carter’s effort was deflected wide. O’Donnell came close from distance before Bowen’s vicious long-range strike hit the referee, landing just wide.

Often the case, Moors started to run out of steam a little bit coming into the final 10 minutes, struggling to open up Gateshead’s well-drilled rearguard. Afolayan cut inside but didn’t connect cleanly to the strike, Hylton curled wide of the top corner and in injury time, Afolayan cutback was just about cleared with bodies moving into the area. It wasn’t to be.

This remains a difficult situation that Mark Yates has brought himself into. Fans are clearly frustrated by the performances and results over the course of the season, Darren Carter has responded to criticism on Twitter while the decision to leave fan favourites out of the starting XI hasn’t helped his early cause.

It’s understandable but then I’m willing to give Yates time. This is manager who took Kidderminster and Cheltenham out of sticky situations and he has gone about his business in the right manner at Moors thus far.

Saturday was the first time I had personally witnessed Moors play under his stewardship and it’s clear that we look a more organised side than we have done for much of this season. It’s individual errors that have predominantly cost us defensively and I’m sure Yates, like Money, will look to add players who can avoid that as he looks to improving the team’s mindset as a whole.

The other concern was the inability to break down 10-man Gateshead. Firstly, our opposition deserve credit for making life so difficult. They have some big old units available to them and by forcing us to play wide, we were effectively playing to their defensive strengths.

We lack creativity and a real driving force in the middle of the park, something that I’m sure will be addressed by the management. Yates has a side built to break-up play and counter, relying on the individualism of the likes of Hylton and Afolayan. Having overseen three National League games, Yates will already be eyeing up players he believes can help take this club forward.

There is plenty of work ahead but for now, I’m choosing to take the positives from Saturday.

Starting XI: O’Leary; Atkinson, Daly, Kelleher, Bowen; Richards (Murombedzi), P.Green, Carter; Asante (Afolayan), Thomas, Hylton. Subs unused: K.Green, Kettle, Carline.


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