It’s been a while – A Vital Solihull Moors away day special!
Saturday’s venue was The Shay Stadium, the home of FC Halifax Town who had enjoyed an upturn in results since replacing Billy Heath with Jamie Fullarton.
Our journey began at 8:45, moving from Castle Bromwich to Kingshurst, a stop in Chelmsley Wood then making it just in time to board the coach from Solihull Moors. In truth, the drive there was relatively uneventful – probably a good thing!
We made it to Halifax just prior to 12 to stop off at The Last Post in Ripponden, the one place that didn’t feel as if it had been left untouched since the 1950’s – Yorkshire towns could really do with a touch of paint here and there. The pub had a nice atmosphere about it and I would like to say thank you to the hosts who made us feel so welcome. The pie was delicious and I’m gutted I missed out on second – unlike Joel!
Phone re-charged, we continued our journey onto The Shay, trawling the greenery of Soyland and Triangle before making it a ground that on the outside looked impressive for National League standards. I’ve admittedly not been to a huge amount of National League away games but with the decorated outside and fairly clean (it is a football stadium after all) facilities inside, I was coloured impressed. It’s rare to find a ground at which you can happily lean against the walls without fear of infection.
Then we moved towards the playing fields where it became evident FC Halifax Town are still a very young club finding their feet again. The first thing to hit me, aside from the size of Liam Daly who took a keen eye towards fans exiting the tunnel, was the state of the pitch, patchy all over as a result of the weather and rugby league fixtures.
To our right stood an old-school terrace that was populated only by Halifax-themed flags while the stand opposite us remained uninhabited. It helped serve as a reminder that Halifax are the only club younger than Solihull Moors in the National League but not even that fact could take away from the empty feeling around the ground.
While changes inside the ground will take time, there is something the club can certainly get on with changing and that’s the build-up to the game. The mono-voiced stadium announcer was bad enough but the five minutes of music on low-quality speakers that preceded the players’ entry was horrendous – the game actually kicked off more than a minute after 3 o’clock!
Yates had made three changes for the game, two enforced with Jamey Osborne injured and Kyle Storer unwell. Jermaine Hylton was the other casualty allowing Omari Sterling-James his first start since joining on loan from Mansfield Town during the week. Paul Green and George Carline were drafted into the midfield, making their first starts since January and December respectively.
Despite both sides having a few chances this was a poor-quality game, the pitch a huge disadvantage to both sides. Jamie Reckord had the first effort but couldn’t test Johnson sufficiently with a weak half-volley before Matty Kosylo got about causing problems, first then tripping over the leg of Paul Green resulting in a booking for the Moors man.
The first major chance of the game came the way of Halifax, Josh Wilde making his way beyond Tyrone Williams and cross for Ben Williamson who couldn’t connect cleanly from 12 yards out. Sterling-James’ corner caused a goalmouth scramble before Mike Fondop-Talem produced a moment of brilliance to find Connor Thomson whose goalbound effort was blocked brilliantly by Williams with Williamson lurking.
Thomson’s inability to strike Hanson’s cross on target preceded a Liam Daly header from a Carter set-piece that just evaded the boot of Kwame Thomas. Fiacre Kelleher then swung and completely miskicked a long ball allowing Fondop-Talem a straight run at goal yet despite composing himself, he blazed over the bar while one-on-one with Max O’Leary – an incredible miss. The young striker’s misery was compounded minutes later when he was booked for diving – rightly so.
At the other end, Paul Green got himself into action, firstly volleying Carter’s free-kick into the side-netting then striking a first-time piledriver from 30 yards that narrowly missed the target.
Unhappy with his side’s display, Yates changed to a diamond for the second half with Sterling-James sitting behind Adi Yussuf and Thomas. It almost paid dividends with two early chances, Jamie Reckord’s free-kick easily saved before Sam Johnson threw to the ball to George Carline. Carline found Thomas in the area but he couldn’t get the ball out of his feet quick enough to trouble Johnson too much.
We found in this game that Carline possesses an incredibly long throw, something that should have resulted in the opener only for Yussuf to fire over from close range. Yussuf was replaced by Hylton just after the hour but neither side was creating much.
Fondop-Talem did brilliantly to see off Kelleher but sliced wide of the near post. A minute later, Halifax thought they had taken the lead only for centre-back Matthew Brown’s header to bounce down and off the post.
Moors’ best chance of the game was from another Carline throw, this time Fiacre Kelleher rising brilliantly but heading straight at Johnson – either side of the keeper and he would have stood no chance.
Matty Kosylo spent much of the game being abused by Moors supporters following a spitting incident in the reverse fixture. He found Fondop-Talem who was again through on goal but saw Max O’Leary spread himself brilliantly to deny the striker a second league goal of the season, taking the ball flush in the face.
Both sides were clearly leggy as the game was reaching its end but George Carline still found time for one more effort at goal only to be denied by a wonderful Johnson save at his near post – it was unsurprising to see hear one of the many Halifax sponsors name him man of the match.
A bore draw but a point earned from the type of game we have had a habit of losing away from home. The only downside was the inability to score but given the run Halifax are on the at the moment, we shouldn’t be too disappointed having come away with yet another point. We remain undefeated at home and despite their lofty league position, Aldershot Town will know they’re in for a game on Friday.
Clearly we got home safe. Up the Moors
Starting XI: O’Leary; Williams, Daly, Kelleher, Reckord; Carline, P.Green, Carter; Sterling-James, Thomas (Reid), Yussuf (Hylton)