Preview: Solihull Moors

It’s been 104 days since the last competitive match at the Kuflink Stadium – and some 1,260 since the last National League clash here! – as the Fleet return home amidst eager expectation, writes Katie Humphris.

Life back in the fifth tier of English football has started on a high as the 500-mile round trip to Spotland – or the Crown Oil Arena as it’s known in 2023 – was worth it, with the Fleet arriving back to Kent with all three points. 

Visitors Solihull are competing in the National League for an eighth consecutive season and are one of the more permanent members of the division of late, since winning the National North in 2015/16. None of which will overawe Dennis Kutrieb’s side as they aim to build on last Saturday’s triumph. 

It’s been almost four years to the day since the Fleet last played the Moors – a bottom v top clash with the Birmingham side then league leaders and they prevailed – just about – in a 2-1 victory. The Fleet have failed to take a result from this weekend’s opponents in the last three attempts but on the two occasions before that, we completed the double over the Moors in the 2017/18 campaign. 

Four players were sent off the last time Solihull visited us

Andy Whing’s side make the trip down looking to secure their first three points of the season, following a late goal to secure a 1-1 draw at the ARMCO Arena against much-fancied Eastleigh. On-loan Birmingham defender Nico Gordon received two yellow cards in that one so he’ll be suspended for Saturday.

Whing is one of the youngest managers in the National League at 38 and he was installed this summer following a three-year reign and promotion at Banbury United. A year younger than him is former Republic of Ireland international Stephen Ward who was appointed as director of football after previous boss Neil Ardley departed in the close season. Ward played alongside Hayden White at Walsall before retiring.

Dominic Poleon will return to the Fleet’s matchday squad following the completion of his three-match suspension that carried over from last season and he trails Luke ‘Zlatan’ O’Neill by one goal, the Fleet matchwinner compared to the Swedish legend in the Daily Star following his strike at Rochdale. 

Although it’s the first time these two sides have gone head to head in four years, there are a few familiar faces for the Fleet squad. Billy Clifford will face his previous teammate in Joe Newton, the young defender moving from Havant & Waterlooville this summer. Newton is not the only new face at Solihull Moors – Gus Mafuta had successful spells at Gateshead, Hartlepool, Boreham Wood and York City – making over 200 appearances in the National League – and achieved promotion with Salford City. Young goalkeeper Tommy Simkin joined on loan from Stoke City while Kade Craig put pen to paper on a two-year deal from Shrewsbury Town, showcasing that Whing is putting his faith in youth. Four academy players were also handed professional contracts this summer.

Solihull have fallen from previous heights of late, finishing 15th last season after previous runners-up and third-place finishes. They made it all the way to extra-time of the promotion final in 2021/22 but were beaten late on by Grimsby Town to deny them a place in the EFL. Run by former Oxford United chairman Darryl Eales, added investment has propelled the club from relegation candidates in 2018 to promotion candidates in recent years.

Tickets can be bought online here up to kick-off and also at our ticket windows. Car-parking is available for the special matchday price of £3 at Ebbsfleet International Car Park C. Programmes can be pre-ordered online or bought in the club shop, social club and popup-bar just before the Main Stand for £3. 

Supporters are reminded as we head into the National League campaign ahead that alcohol will not be permitted to be consumed within view of the pitch and that matches will be segregated to a section of the Swanscombe End. Please cooperate with the instructions of our security team and stewards. 


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First-Team Squad