SOLIHULL MOORS v COUNTY: MATCH REPORT (20/09/2014)
Once Moor Into The Breach...
Might those slightly-amended Shakespearean words of courage have been uppermost in the mind of County loanee and debutant, Lee Stevenson, when, with two minutes left on the clock and his new team trailing by the odd goal in three, he found himself in space and only the Solihull 'keeper to beat?
Possibly, yes. (And, remember, another of Shakespeare's heroes, Othello, was a Moor.)
Probably not, though. No matter, of course - given that what he really had to concentrate on was hitting the back of the net, with a view to salvaging a well-earned point for County... but, oh, I'm telling you the plot!
Just under two hours earlier, County had taken to the field at The Autotech Stadium, clad all in white and hoping to notch up a third consecutive victory - as, indeed, were their hosts, following impressive wins at North Ferriby and Harrogate. Alan Lord opted, as many had predicted, to bring Stevenson straight into the starting midfield, as part of a 4-3-3 formation. Mark Lees reverted to the right back position, while Glenn Belezika sat on the bench in place of Matthew Todd.
It is becoming customary at the moment to play 'spot the ex-County footballer' within our visitors' ranks. Today's was Aaron Brown, one of Solihull's substitutes, who was last seen by Hatters fans plying his trade as an imposing emergency striker for Worcester City. In the event, however, he wasn't to see any action this afternoon.
Leading the line for the Moors was Omar Bogle, currently on fire in front of goal with eight successful strikes - leaving him clear at the top of the Conference North scoring charts. It was not difficult to see why early on in the afternoon, as Bogle had the first two real chances of the game. Danny Hurst did well to parry away his initial strike, although was stranded when, a short while later, Bogle opted to chip towards the County goal.
Fortunately, and thankfully, the increasingly-imperious Daniel Gregson was on hand to clear the ball off the line.
Not that it was all one-way traffic in the first half, mind. Tony Breeden, in the home goal, and bravely wearing the ultimate in hi-vis orange kit, was the busier custodian of the two ahead of the break - saving, firstly, a low drive from Chris Sharp, then an exquisitely dipping shot by Chris Churchman, and, finally, two closer-range Kristian Dennis attempts.
HALF-TIME: Solihull 0, County 0.
After what was a solid, if not wildly spectacular, first forty-five minutes, the game did not take long to explode into life once the teams had emerged for the second half. Within four minutes, County had a corner - and, given that goals from corners have come the Hatters' way in each of their last three matches, the award of such things is tending to cause more of a sense of anticipation than has been the case in a long while. Sure enough, Jamie Milligan's delivery was pin-point perfect - on this occasion being met by a bullet of a header from Sharp for his first League goal.
The celebrations did not last long, as, within a minute, Solihull had drawn level - Darryl Knights latching onto the ball in the County box straight from kick-off, and rifling home past Hurst.
The game had now opened up, and the Moors were marauding in search of the lead.
Bogle, who, since the break, had concentrated more on holding the ball up for his fellow strikers than making attempts on goal himself, looked to be putting Solihull ahead with a shot that had Hurst beaten - although he reckoned without Stephen O'Halloran, and a truly amazing mid-air goal-line clearance. More reminiscent of John Terry's for England than anything the Irishman's playing role-model, Franz Beckenbauer, was known to do as West German Captain - but he won't mind that...
Ryan Beswick, for the hosts, then successively shot and headed off target - before finding himself poised to strike for a third time in the County box, with play having been waved on despite an injury to O'Halloran in the build-up. Curling the ball wide of Hurst, Beswick made no mistake, and Solihull were not only ahead for the first time in the afternoon but also within touching distance of an inaugural home victory of the season.
County had not given up by any means, but shots that were to follow from Sharp and Dennis were, respectively, wide and high of the mark. With time running out, it felt as if September would, in the month's final round of League contests, be inflicting its first defeat on the Hatters.
But, cometh the hour cometh the (new) man. And Stevenson's rocket.
Milligan, by way of a second assist for the afternoon, chipped the ball over the home defence, finding the loanee from Alfreton, who composed himself before shooting past the unprotected Breeden, to put County back on level terms.
Even then, the game was not finished with its thrills and spills - at either end. Hurst saved from Beswick, before Nathan Woolfe shot just wide from an angle. And, seconds before the whistle, the self-same County substitute almost had a last decisive say in matters - but his header from a Sharp cross was also narrowly off target.
All told, a fair result on the balance of play, and a good away-point from a game that had become ever-more entertaining as it went on. As the players left the pitch, and with next Saturday's FA Cup-tie in mind, I do just wonder whether ours were quizzing theirs about how to put four past Harrogate, without reply, in their own back yard?!
FULL-TIME: Solihull 2 (Knights, 50; Beswick, 71), County 2 (Sharp, 49; Stevenson, 88).
Team: Hurst, Lees, Duxbury, Churchman, Gregson, O'Halloran, Dennis, Milligan, Spencer (Woolfe, 75), Stevenson, Sharp.
Unused Subs: Ormson, Belezika, Fagbola, Lazenbury.