Solihull Moors 3
Gainsborough Trinity 2
Vanarama National North
MICHAEL Nottingham is one of only two players to be ever-present in Solihull Moors’ league XI but his importance isn’t just measured in his defensive prowess and marauding wing-play.
There’s the goals too and Saturday’s fourth of the season was another goal of the season contender – following a 25-yard wonder strike against Stalybridge in January – to help transform a mediocre first-half Moors’ show into another crucial three points.
Having trailed at half-time after a distinctly average first-half performance, Marcus Bignot’s men roared back with three goals in a seven-minute spell at the start of the second half to move nine points clear of second-placed Harrogate Town, though the Yorkshire side do have two games in hand.
The equaliser came with a stroke of fortune when Ryan Beswick’s angled drive was deflected past Gainsborough keeper Jan Budtz, but fortune also favours the brave – and that was the perfect mantra for Nottingham’s goal.
Having won the ball on the half-way line, the full-back played two neat one-twos with Andy Brown and Darryl Knights to scythe open the defence and then produce the perfect clipped finish of a quality goal getter to find the net from the inside right channel.
Andy Brown’s hard work was rewarded with a third Moors goal and despite conceding with 25 minutes to play Solihull never looked like allowing Gainsborough an opportunity for another.
Moors had registered their biggest ever victory at Gainsborough just two weeks previously but the visitors were clearly intent on proving a point at the Automated Technology Group Stadium.
With Trinity centre-back Adam Quinn snuffing out Moors’ forward forays with no-nonsense defending, Gainsborough gradually had more of the possession and took the lead on 28 minutes.
After Moors keeper Danny Lewis superbly blocked a Dominic Roma header, Trinity cranked up the pressure with three corners in a row and when Jake Picton headed Elliott Hodge’s flag-kick towards goal Marc Newsham bundled the ball into the net.
Moors’ usual fluency was hardly helped by their failure to link up with their attacking trio. Knights had a half-volley blocked early on but their most dangerous moments came from Knights corners, with Brown and Liam Daly sending firm headers flying past the uprights.
Solihull needed to up the tempo in the second period and within nine minutes of the turn-around they had done exactly that to lead 3-1.
On 47 minutes, a Connor Franklin throw-in was only half-cleared and Beswick, on the left-hand edge of the area, collected the loose ball and whacked it past Budtz via a defender’s boot.
A minute later, Nottingham struck and then on 54 minutes Brown nipped in at the near post to convert Franklin’s cross after a great pass by Beswick to the left flank.
Gainsborough, though, were not finished and on 65 minutes Craig Reid finished with aplomb from close-range after Hodge volleyed Liam Davis’ deep cross from left back across goal.
Instead of any Gainsborough revival, however, Moors tightened their grip on the contest, with Knights having an effort blocked and then Daly heading another corner just wide before Nottingham smashed a dipping 25-yarder which clipped the top of the bar.
Moors had hardly looked like champions in a stuttering first half but they certainly showed the character and class of title contenders after the break.
Their fans happily gave a chorus of: We’re going to win the league. With ten games to play, it’s hard not to agree.
SOLIHULL: Lewis; Nottingham, Streete, Daly, Dean; Byrne, Beswick, Franklin; Knights (Walker, 86), Brown; Asante (Armson, 78). Subs: Bignot, Moore, Gough.