Hatters Endure Soli-hell, As Moors Score Four
The Hatters’ first reverse-fixture of the campaign, and the match that marked the National League’s halfway-point for 2019/20, saw them suffer a first defeat in four matches and a ‘double’ at the hands of bogey-side Solihull Moors, whose four second-half goals earned them victory under the floodlights in SK3, after Paul Turnbull had given County a lead just before the break.
County took to the field showing no fewer than six changes from the home starting line-up against Ebbsfleet three days earlier. Dan Cowan and Joe Leesley, making their first appearances since October, stepped into the respective right-back and left-back berths, while there were also recalls for captain Turnbull, Sam Walker, Adam Thomas and Nyal Bell. Frank Mulhern, Tom Walker and Jordan Keane (who were included on the bench), as well as Ben Jackson, Tyler Garratt and Sam Minihan, were the players to make way.
The visitors, who, with their win at Damson Park in late September, had completed a straight hat-trick of league victories against County, started on the front foot – earning the night’s inaugural corner within 30 seconds of kick-off. And before 10 minutes were up, Ben Hinchliffe stood tall to block Jake Beesley who was through on goal – only for the whistle to go in the Hatters’ favour for a foul during the build-up on Festus Arthur.
The previous campaign’s top National League scorer, Paul McCallum, skied a chance around the mid-point of the first half. But shortly afterwards, a break by the Hatters created their first chance of note – as Bell fed Thomas on the right, who drilled just wide of the far post.
Ex-Hatter Jimmy Ball tested former team-mate Hinchliffe with a low drive from 25 yards that County’s Number One did well to smother. And the increasing end-to-end fare continued, courtesy of headers by Bell and Arthur that both flew narrowly over following, respectively, Cowan’s cross from the right and an Elliot Osborne free-kick on the left.
Ball fired his round, spherical namesake off the crossbar and into the net four minutes before half-time, although his conversion in the wake of Jamey Osbourne’s free-kick from the right, was promptly ruled out with McCallum flagged offside.
But the half ended on a real high for the Hatters, after Leesley fed Devante Rodney on the left – and the latter squared for Turnbull to fire into the top-left corner, from the edge of the box, for a first goal of the campaign by the skipper that sent his team in ahead at the interval.
HALF-TIME: County 1 (Turnbull, 45), Solihull 0.
County effectively held the lead for seven minutes – with Solihull getting back on level terms after visiting captain Kyle Storer’s free-kick on the left found McCallum, who dived to head home.
Rodney then fired two efforts wide of the right post in as many minutes – but, just ahead of the hour-mark, the visitors went in front. Jamie Reckord delivered a cross from the left to the far post, where Ball converted with his left foot at the second attempt.
Nine minutes later, McCallum scored his second, and Moors their third, of the evening, as the striker glanced Lee Vaughan’s cross from the right past Hinchliffe and into the top-left corner.
Osbourne’s low drive from the edge of the box after 81 minutes found the bottom-left corner to make it four for Solihull, before McCallum frustrated County at the other end by clearing off the line a Thomas header from Tom Walker’s corner on the right.
FULL-TIME: County 1 (Turnbull, 45), Solihull 4 (McCallum, 52 and 67; Ball, 58; Osbourne, 81).
Team (4-2-3-1): Hinchliffe; Cowan, Palmer, Arthur, Leesley; Turnbull (Capt.) (Hammill, 74), S Walker; Thomas, Osborne (T Walker, 68), Rodney; Bell (Mulhern, 68).
Unused Subs: Keane, Ormson.
Booked: Palmer, Hammill.
Man of the Match: Thomas.
Attendance: 3,142 (69 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.