There will be quiet whispers in the Solihull area that the National League newcomers could be there to stay for quite some time under the stewardship of new boss, Liam McDonald. Saturday’s 3-0 victory over FA Cup giant killers, Sutton United, showed that McDonald is making a positive imprint on his new side, and that they are moulding into a unit that will not be rolled over easily. All three goals came from debutants Regan Charles-Cook, who bagged a brace, and Dapo Afolayan in a comprehensive victory.
I’ve been present at the last two Solihull Moors home games with the previous encounter being a narrow 1-0 defeat to table toppers, Lincoln City. The Imps arrived at The Automated Technology Group Stadium on the back of a very impressive FA Cup scalp in the form of Brighton & Hove Albion, so confidence was bound to be high. Although Solihull succumbed to a 1-0 defeat, Lincoln were made to graft from start to finish by an emergingly stubborn Moors defence, and this was even more apparent in this recent clash with Sutton United.
It took less than two minutes for the hosts to gain an early advantage as Charlton loanee, Regan Charles-Cook opened his account for the club immediately after he slotted home from a Shepherd Murombedzi ball across the six-yard box. Charles-Cook looked a threat on the ball throughout with the opposition defenders especially wary after his early impact. His close control and dribbling skill caused Sutton United players to drop back with caution on several occasions. He clearly possesses pace too which could be a useful asset towards the back end of the season.
Sutton United had a chance to level things up in the 38tb minute after Joel Kettle brought down Louis John in a crowded area. Jamie Collins stepped up to take the spot kick, but another loanee in the form of Chelsea’s Nathan Baxter guessed the right way to save the penalty.
Charles-Cook then made Sutton pay in first half stoppage time as he ran forward before he played in Murombedzi down the right hand side of the Sutton area. Ross Worner failed to hold onto Murombedzi’s initial effort, and Charles-Cook was on hand for a second time to squeeze the ball into the net from close range.
Sutton United never really recovered from that stoppage time goal with their intensity lacking somewhat as the second half wore on. Rasping efforts over the bar from Ben Jefford and Adam May were merely flashes in the pan for the visitors. McDonald appears to be rather astute in the transfer market seeing as one of his other new captures, Dapo Afolayan grabbed a debut goal of his own. The midweek signing from Loughborough University applied the finishing touch to a breakaway that left the Sutton defence all at sea. Kristian Green’s ball down the right wing found Charles-Cook in acres of time and space before he delivered a square ball to Afolayan, who dispatched through the legs of Worner. Solihull then went on to see the game out in a fairly comfortable fashion as Sutton looked to be saving their legs for their upcoming FA Cup Fifth Round tie against Arsenal.
What I was particularly impressed with was Solihull’s defensive solidity and shape. Sutton United found it incredibly difficult to break in behind Solihull’s backline, which is testiment to McDonald in particular after the squad has virtually been completely reshaped personnel wise in recent weeks since Marcus Bignot’s exit to Grimsby Town.
Much credit of course has to go to Bignot for his tenure at the club especially with Solihull’s promotion to the National League last term, but with McDonald at the helm the club so far appear to be in very safe hands. It will be fascinating to see how Solihull progress under McDonald for the rest of the campaign and into next season as another bright young manager tests himself in the National League, where success is infectious for managers of a similar mould as of late. Could we have another Marcus Bignot or Danny Cowley on our hands in the next couple of years? Whisper it quietly but I think we do.
Solihull Moors: Baxter, Flanagan, Daly, Kettle, Green, Carline (Mwanyongo 83), Maye, Nortey, Murombedzi, Charles-Cook (Sammons 73), White (Afolayan 66)
Sutton United: Worner, Jefford, Amankwaah (Gueye 51), John, Collins, Spence (Jebb 55), Bailey, Gomis (May 66), Dundas, Deacon, Fitchett
By James Hunt