SOLIHULL MOORS manager Tim Flowers hailed his side’s efforts across the entirety of the season, after they battled to a 0-0 draw in a top three clash against Leyton Orient on Easter Monday.
Moors knew they had to win going into the game in order to maintain their realistic ambitions of winning the National League title and automatic promotion, but were unable to get themselves over the line in front of a record attendance at the Automated Technology Group Stadium.
In what was most likely the biggest game in the club’s history, the Moors pushed leaders Leyton Orient all the way, but now know that the play-off route is all but a certainty.
Orient lead the way on 88 points, with Salford in second and Solihull in third both on 85 points – Moors would therefore need Braintree to beat the leaders and for an eight-goal swing in their favour to take them above the top two on goal difference.
Flowers expressed his delight at his side’s performance on Monday, and was pleased at the manner in which they adapted to his tactical ploy to thwart Orient leading up to the game.
“The way we played, I was delighted with,” he said.
“We changed to three at the back to match them up as we thought that was the best way to get a foothold in the game.
“That’s how we set out and I thought the system worked really well, bearing in mind we didn’t have a long time to talk about it or even work on it.
“I’m delighted with them all to a man – I thought they were terrific.
He then lauded the achievement of his side to challenge at the top end of the league, having very much been the surprise package of the season.
“We’re going to finish in the top three, so it’s a stunning effort. Credit to all of them.
“I’m proud of them but the season isn’t over. We’ve got a very tough away game at Dagenham and then we’ve got to get our heads down, do some homework and have a big performance in a game on our turf.”
The game opened brightly in front of the 3,681 crowd, with an early goal looking likely after both sides showed intent to go forward.
An effort from full-back Lee Vaughan was drilled goalwards through a crowd of bodies and could have deflected anywhere, but to the relief of Orient, the ball flashed wide of the mark.
Jamey Osborne then saw his show-stopping free-kick somehow tipped away with a one-handed save by Orient keeper Dean Brill, with the ball seemingly destined for the net.
Down the other end, Josh Coulson was denied by the quick reactions of Ryan Boot, whilst Tyrone Willams and Danny Wright were both unable to divert the ball goalwards from a Darren Carter corner.
0-0 was the scoreline as the two teams went in at the break, but there were certainly enough opportunities for a breakthrough goal.
The best chance of the game fell the way of Orient, after Macauley Bonne skipped past two defenders as fired a powerful drive goalwards, but Boot at full-stretch palmed the ball behind for a corner.
Then, with the game heading into the final 15 minutes, Jermaine Hylton almost stole the win.
Meeting Lee Vaughan’s low cross across the box, he managed to divert the ball goalwards with the ball slightly behind him, which was initially saved by Brill, but went through the goalkeepers legs.
Realising that the ball was inching towards the line, he managed to claw the ball into his gloves with a split-second reaction – such are the margins of Solihull Moors’ efforts to gain promotion.
Solihull continued to press and with a final chance arriving in stoppage time, a free-kick chipped into the vicinity of the unmarked Kyle Storer was nodded wide at the far post, proving the final chance to snatch a dramatic win.
Moors will no doubt take heart from their showing, and head to Dagenham & Redbridge for the final game of the regular season on Saturday (12:30pm), before a home semi-final against either the fourth or seventh-placed side in the league.