Solihull have made a habit of winning by the odd goal against the Fleet over the past four meetings but they were fortunate to take all three points on this occasion, the damage done with the visitors taking an all-important two-goal lead, writes Katie Humphris.
Greg Cundle gave the Fleet hope after he clawed one back late on and the hosts continued to carve out chances for an equaliser, but the visitors held out for the victory, courtesy of a Matt Warbuton double.
Dennis Kutrieb made three changes to his starting 11 at Rochdale with Chris Solly, Omari Sterling-James and Dominic Poleon returning, which meant Franklin Domi and Darren McQueen dropping to the bench and Jack Wakely out of the matchday squad.
Early drama unfolded as Ouss Cissé was booked within the opening minutes of the match for a challenge on Jamey Osborne – but the referee was slow to apply the consistency of his early decision elsewhere.
The Fleet bossed possession in the early exchanges and Poleon found himself through on goal after a superb long ball from Josh Wright found the striker through on goal. However, goalkeeper Tommy Simkin swept the ball away, blocking Poleon’s attempt to loop a shot around him.
The Fleet continued to dominate the midfield and carve out the only chances before another yellow card went Joe Martin’s way on 17 minutes following his challenge on Jack Stevens. The challenged became the challenger, as Stevens’ late tackle on Chris Solly saw him carded despite protests from Fleet supporters who wanted a red. It was a busy five minutes for the No.14 as he was denied the opening goal by the post, which the Fleet eventually cleared.
Toby Edser placed a ball into the path of Shaq Coulthirst, whose shot from inside the area curled just wide. A great defensive display from the reds then denied Solihull once again. An initial block saw the ball fall into the path of Stevens, who opted to take the shot on but Solly put his body on the line to clear. Former Havant defender Joe Newton then sent his effort over.
But it was Solihull who found that all-important opener. Poleon claimed a foul in the build-up before Jay Benn escaped his attentions and raced down the right to send a delivery which found Warbuton whose well-taken and thumping header was too powerful for Cousins.
The Fleet replied instantly but couldn’t find the back of the net. Poleon was outrun by his marker but Edser collected and as he was about to let fly, he appeared to be brought down in the area. The pattern of the afternoon, however, would be one of the referee waving away the strong appeals from frustrated Fleet players and fans.
The Moors concluded the first 45 minutes in front but it was the Fleet who again started from the whistle the liveliest. Wright played a neat ball to former Solihull player Omari Sterling-James on the wing, where his shot on goal produced a blinding save from Simkins. Coulthirst also had an attempt on 50 minutes but was confounded by Gus Mufuta’s block.
Despite the Fleet’s efforts to securing the equaliser they deserved, Solihull bagged a second in the 53rd minute. Cundle was the man complaining of a clear foul in the approach but the referee indicated to play on with Solihull appealing for an earlier foul. Callum Maycock slipped a ball into the path of Stevens who had his initial effort palmed away by Cousins but Warbuton was at conveniently lurking at the back post to sneak the ball home and double the visitors’ advantage.
The Fleet continued to dominate as they went all-out for a foothold in the game. They came ever so close when the ball left the right foot of substitute Darren McQueen and sailed majestically towards goal, but he was denied by the post.
The goal did come from the resulting corner, however. A short corner was picked up by Cundle who took his time to find the gap and arrowed a fine low ball into the bottom corner sending a roar throughout the Kuflink Stadium.
It was all Fleet by this stage and they another substitute, debutant Nathan Odokonyero, thought he had secured the second goal but his headed effort clipped off the crossbar. McQueen did well to keep the ball in play in added time as he then laid a ball towards Billy Clifford but his shot was too high.
The Fleet continued to push and might have expected – based on the officials’ interpretation of the new rule at Rochdale – a few more than the six minutes they were given at the conclusion of normal time… but the consistency was lacking in that department and the points went to Solihull.
EUFC: Cousins, O’Neill, Martin, Solly, Cissé (Clifford 65), Wright, Sterling-James (McQueen), Cundle, Edser, Coulthirst (Odokonyero 85), Poleon. Subs: Domi, White
SMFC: Simkin, Clarke, Newton (Stearman 86), Osborne (Beck 65), Morrison, Maycock, Warburton, Mafuta, Stevens (Brogan 74), Benn, Craig
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