Solihull Moors 2-1 Bradford Park Avenue
Vanarama National North
Report by Colin Stoner
IT will not be remembered as one of the most mesmerising performances of Solihull Moors’ season but the sort of display that separates champions from contenders.
Two well-taken goals from wing-back Michael Nottingham overcame a doughty Bradford side and surely left Moors on the brink of reaching non-League’s elite.
Victory left Marcus Bignot’s table-toppers side needing two wins from their final five matches to guarantee the Conference North title.
But there’s another equation. Nearest rivals AFC Fylde and North Ferriby – 14 points behind but with two games in hand – go head to head next Saturday and if they draw and Moors claim three points from their visit in-form AFC Telford Bignot’s men will be champions.
Despite a strangely muted atmosphere, Moors delivered when needed. In a game of few chances, and against opponents who played with a real zest, Moors’ endeavour and fortitude secured the points.
Moors seemed set for cruise control when they scored after just three minutes. Akwasi Asante’s flick sent Nottingham galloping into the inside right channel and the wing-back smashed his shot goal wards past keeper Jon Stewart. Though Bradford skipper Simon Ainge hoofed the ball away, the assistant referee signalled it had crossed the line.
Asante was inches away from converting Liam Daly’s nod back across goal as Moors sought a second.
But Bradford regrouped and the crossbar denied Ainge’s header from a Richard Marshall free-kick before Daly booted clear Liam Dickinson’s shot.
Four minutes before half-time, their reward duly arrived when Nottingham miscued a clearance and then bundled over Marshall to leave referee Joe Hull pointing to the penalty spot. Keeper Danny Lewis dived to his left but Marshall sent the ball into the opposite corner to level.
Moors started the second half with an extra spring into their step and Ryan Beswick and Asante had shots blocked for corners before Nottingham headed a Jack Byrne free-kick just wide.
But Nottingham has a habit of scoring crucial goals and, on 63 minutes, he was the hero once more. Daly nodded back a Beswick cross to the far post and Nottingham smartly headed home to take his season’s goals tally to six.
Stefan Moore showed great skill but fired over as Moors looked for a game-ending third but Bradford ended with a flurry. Ainge had a free-kick blocked by the wall before Chib Chilaka just couldn’t get a firm contact to a fizzing cross.
The fizz for Solihull looks more like Champagne and the bubbly is now most definitely on ice.
SOLIHULL: Lewis; Streete, Daly, Dean; Nottingham, Byrne, Beswick (Walker, 88), Gough; Asante (Armson, 82) Moore (English, 75), Brown. Subs not used: P Bignot, Byfield.
Photos supplied by Steve Feeney