SOLIHULL Moors stars Kyle Storer and Nathan Blissett know just how enviable their efforts have been in creating the feel-good story of the season so far.
Sitting third in the National League, after enjoying stints on top of the pile, but sitting two points and with a game in hand on leaders Wrexham, has had Moors fans licking their lips at the prospect of the unthinkable achievement the club stand on the verge of completing.
Their game today away to Salford City (3pm) stands as one of their biggest tests of the season – a tie that manager Tim Flowers labelled as being “unthinkable to have imagined we’d be above Salford at this stage”, but it could prove to be one of the biggest turning points in the National League promotion race.
Storer, club captain and a key figure in the club’s ‘Great Escape’ in 2017/18 and their ascent up the table this term, believes preparations ahead of the Salford game have gone according to plan, but views the trip to Salford as just another game.
“Our preparation doesn’t change, whoever we’re playing.
“Blackpool, Salford, whoever, we’re the same every week.
“That’s something the gaffer’s put into us, it’ll be a tough game, but it’ll be a tough game for them as well. We’re flying, we’re the in-form team in the league, they’ll be thinking we can close the gap, we’re thinking, right beat these and with a game in hand as well and we’ll be seven points ahead of them if we beat them on Saturday.
The 31-year old affirms the pressure is much greater on the Greater Manchester club than the modest Moors – who’s playing budget of £650,000 is only three times more than what their opponents are paying striker Adam Rooney in wages alone.
He believes a win for Solihull would be fatal for Salford’s season, and is confident of doing just that.
“It would basically knock them out of the race, any top-of-the-table clash are six-pointers now, Orient-Wrexham are a six-pointer, let’s knock Salford out of the race.
“Fylde have got to keep winning, if they lose games and we win they’re out the race, so we’re in pole position.
“At the minute, I see the top three as it is, but obviously someone’s got to drop points between Orient and Wrexham, so that’ll be interesting as we’ll know the score before we go out in the early kick-off, so we’ll know what we have to do.”
Recent signing Nathan Blissett, nephew of legendary Watford and England striker Luther, is no stranger to promotion from this division, having achieved the feat as winners of the league with Macclesfield Town, and previously as a play-off winner with Bristol Rovers.
He, like Storer, is coy to approach the game any differently, but knows the paramount importance of performing to the high standards the Moors have set this season.
“For me, I always see it as playing our game, not trying to cater to how they play.
“Not if we turn up, we need to turn up to get a result, whether it be a draw or win, if we don’t do the basics and the minimum required of us, then it’s going to be a very long Saturday for us.”
Part of the reason for the club’s success this campaign in the eyes of Storer is the approach taken by manager Tim Flowers in every aspect of the running of the club.
He talked up the management style of Flowers, and appreciates how the one-time Premier League winner handles affairs in the dressing room.
“With Tim Flowers now, he is so organised, with his set-plays, everything is to script, everyone knows what they’re doing, everyone at the club knows their job on and off the pitch.
“He’s a big one where if you’ve had a bad result, we talk about it in the dressing room quickly – and then it’s done, that’s it.
“So there’s no weekend hangover, it doesn’t go on into the week. I’ve had previous managers, where it’ll go on into the next game or until you’ve won.
“He is massive for that and the psychology for that is unbelievable. We lost to Telford in the (FA) Trophy which was a big blow for us, we underperformed, but it was squashed after Saturday.
“I think that’s one of the main things that’s changed, he’s just super organised and he gets players wanting to play for him.”
The season has of course been a memorable one for everyone associated with Solihull, but when asked about the moments that have been detrimental to shaping their campaign, Storer points out specific games from memory in an instant.
“The hat-trick he (Blissett) got the other week at Aldershot, that was a game where it was the first time this season we had the chance to go top. We’ve had opportunities to close the gap before with games in hand and we’ve missed out just.
“We weren’t great that night but we won 3-0, he went on and scored a perfect hat-trick, which I’m pleased for him because he works hard, he’s professional and when you see your strikers scoring goals, it’s a relief for your midfield – because the gaffer isn’t knocking your door saying ‘listen the midfield need to be chipping in as well’.
The club captain realises the importance of the forward line’s potency in front of goal, praising the impact each striker has had when given the chance.
“With Adi Yussuf nearly on 20 now, Blissett’s on ten, Danny Wright’s on 10/11, and Jermaine Hylton chipped in with a hat-trick the other day. So all our strikers, whoever plays up there is scoring goals which is massive for chasing the title.”
Blissett was quick to point out that the forwards should be subject to the same amount of praise as the players in the middle of the park, and those at the other end of the pitch for contributing equally to the team’s cause.
“If the midfield aren’t scoring goals, they’re creating chances for us, we’re scoring them but the team are creating the chances for us to score the goals, so it’s kind of working full circle.
“We’re working as a well oiled machine at the minute, which is great to see.”
Storer mentioned another key moment in the season – the second-round clash in the FA Cup with League One side Blackpool.
He viewed that particular tie, in both the home game at The Automated Technology Group Stadium, and in the replay at Bloomfield Road, as a huge lift to the belief in the side.
“I think the Blackpool game gave us confidence going into the season. At the time as well, Arsenal were the key game after (in the Third Round), but I think Blackpool coming here and how well we played in the 0-0 just gave us that little bit more confidence going into the league campaign, because we took them all the way really and should have really gone through.
“For me that was a turning point, although we lost the tie, it gave us momentum going into the campaign.”