Solihull Moors’ perfect opening to the 2018/19 campaign continued with an impressive 1-0 victory over Aldershot Town.
It was Danny Wright’s early second-half finish that ultimately proved enough for The Moors to earn victory in an entertaining encounter at the Automated Technology Group Stadium.
The victory was clearly a big one for Tim Flowers and his players judging by the post-match celebrations and his joy was understandable given the fight his side continue to show in the face of adversity.
Kwame Thomas returned to the squad but Alex Gudger was joined by Jamie Reckord on the sidelines for the game, due to the left-backs midweek red card. It meant that 34-year-old Darren Carter played at left-back for the first time in his Moors career with the giant Luke Maxwell joining Kyle Storer and Jamey Osborne in the middle of the park.
Aldershot lined up in a 4-3-3 system not too dissimilar to The Moors with Birmingham City youngster Dominic Bernard at the base of the midfield and the raw pace of Luke Wanadio and Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong flanking the lively Dan Holman in attack.
The two wingers matched Adi Yussuf and Jermaine Hylton for pace and power and that was proving to be the way in for both sides early on. Wanadio forced the first save of the game after breaking in behind Darren Carter before Jermaine Hylton left Josh Lelan in a spin only to be denied by a goal-line clearance. Berkeley-Agyepong stepped up next and after driving through the centre of the pitch, he cut back onto his left-foot only to see his curling effort bounce off the outside of the post.
Moors decided enough was enough and went for the direct approach on 18 minutes, Darren Carter’s free-kick falling perfectly for Danny Wright who was put off by those jumping in front of him and Luke Maxwell tried his luck from 20 yards, whipping a free-kick narrowly over the bar.
After Aldershot captain Karleigh Osborne was replaced Chris Smith, Liam Daly headed over another Carter free-kick, a moment before Jamey Osborne touched a loose ball into the path of Wright who couldn’t find the power to trouble debutant Will Mannion at his near post.
Moors had really grown into the game and another Carter free-kick wasn’t cleared properly by the visitors who were grateful another desperate deflection stopped Adi Yussuf taking his tally to 3 in 3. They were also thankful that Jamey Osborne couldn’t quite find the target with an ambitious 40-yard strike.
Goalless on 45, it took The Moors just six minutes to break the deadlock in the second-half when Danny Wright scored his first goal in a Solihull Moors shirt. It started with Adi Yussuf who was typically forthright in a wide area before finding Wright who in turn found Hylton.
Hylton’s drop of the shoulder and subsequent effort at goal was sharp and though Mannion saved, he couldn’t hold onto the ball. Wright was on the move and from barely six-yards out, he prodded home to give Moors a deserved lead.
The Moors stepped it up after the goal and Jamey Osborne almost created a second only to see his cross-cum-shot fall just wide of the far post. Jermaine Hylton then stole the show, twice leaving Josh Lelan for dead but he firstly failed to find a way past Mannion and secondly saw his cutback cleared.
Aldershot have been nothing if not consistent in recent years and they weren’t going to go down without a fight. It started when Danny Wright almost headed Regan Booty’s free-kick past Ryan Boot and a moment latter, Luke Wanadio, who was starting to cause problems for Carter, drove inside and hit a wicked shot that just missed the top corner.
The Moors were starting to live dangerously with Wanadio the key man. He had another effort on the edge of the box that found its way to Scott Rendell. The experienced striker somehow turned the ball wide from six yards out when it was easier to score.
Moors needed to find a way to stop the Aldershot threat and Jordan Murphy was the man to provide it, completing a man-marking job on right-winger Luke Wanadio to give Carter a breather. The ex-Telford man did the role brilliantly and had the energy to support substitute Dan Sweeney in attack.
Sweeney was immediately given orders from Storer to start holding the ball in the corner but he had ideas of his own. Firstly, he slipped past his marker before teeing up Murphy whose shot was well-saved by Mannion before the young winger attempted to take on the entire Aldershot defence along the six-yard box, only denied at the last.
It was enough to see Moors record a first victory in five attempts against one of the divisional front-runners and celebrations from the likes of Liam Daly, Danny Wright and Tim Flowers suggested this was a big one.
Experience and energy told in the end. Flowers has openly talked about the leadership group of Daly, who won everything in the air all game, Darren Carter, who slotted in at left-back with nobody else available and Kyle Storer, who really does lead by example. To add to that, Danny Wright has already become a focal point in attack and his work-ethic and ability to bring others into the game is already proving a crucial part of the Moors set-up.
Credit also goes to George Carline, who looked far more comfortable playing at right-back than he did against Maidenhead United on Tuesday, and Jordan Murphy, the winger who performed a duel role of box-to-box midfielder and left-back in the latter stages. Such displays won’t go unnoticed.
There are tougher tests to come. We play Fylde on Tuesday away before hosting Sutton United on Saturday. However, this group has leadership, determination and the kind of raw power and trickery that will give teams something to think about at the other end.
What a start to the season this has been.