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Solihull Moors 2-1 Fleet

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Much like last season’s visit to Solihull, Fleet were undone by a late winner after a performance that deserved a lot more.

For the first time this season, the visitors took the lead and performed solidly against the free-scoring league leaders whose good possession football and confidence ultimately proved the difference.

Garry Hill resisted the temptation for too many changes, with just Bondz N’Gala coming in for his full debut in place of Lawrie Wilson as Fleet deployed three at the back for the first time this season.

And the early signs of the formation were certainly encouraging, with Aswad Thomas very comfortable in his new slightly advanced role. The league leaders, unsurprisingly, began by looking for an early lead and Jamey Osborne quickly looked to gain the upper hand in midfield while Lee Vaughan was adept in exploiting the right wing.

Moors had sight of goal on 7 minutes when a ball into the right channel had the Fleet defence hesitating but Jack King and Nathan Ashmore managed to mop it up before the towering Nathan Blissett could pounce.

Fleet shocked the home side two minutes later by taking the lead for the first time this season. James Ball got an important touch in midfield to rob his opposite number and got a pass away to the right where Myles Weston took it on his left foot, moved inside and across the Moors defence before slipping a shot back inside that beat Ryan Boot at the foot of his post.

That gave the visitors plenty of confidence and though Moors pressed and enjoyed possession, the three-man back line withstood it well. Thomas slid in well to an Osborne run to the right wing and he was on the spot again to deny Vaughan from a sweeping diagonal ball towards the corner.

Paul McCallum almost got clean away on 16 minutes when he showed great technique to bring down a long ball from defence, outpacing N’Gala and King but smashing a shot over Ashmore and wide on the turn.

The home side should have been back on terms on 26 minutes as they enjoyed a good spell of pressure. A cross into the box saw Callum Howe in space and he hit the target from eight yards but found Ashmore out smartly to get in the way.

But the home side weren’t to be denied and equalised on 34 minutes. Two Fleet corners came to nothing and Terry Hawkridge broke upfield. Play eventually caught up with Osborne who drew a foul from King on the edge of the box. From the free-kick, Osborne lifted it up and over the wall and into the top corner for the equaliser.

Solihull pressed to gain the ascendancy and Ashmore pulled out another top-drawer save from McCallum on the line although the striker was flagged offside.

Jamie Grimes, solid in the air, almost sent Josh Umerah through with another decent aerial challenge and Fleet saw things out to half-time with some solid defending and application.

Fleet won two corners quickly in the second half, with Weston releasing Gozie Ugwu for a run on goal that was intercepted.

But Moors began to pass the ball well, Mitch Hancox more involved down the left as Fleet spent periods having to defend and hold their shape in deep positions.

There was some relief and on the hour mark, Josh Umerah twisted and turned down the left to fling a cross into the box that Obileye met but headed well off target.

Moments later, the effective Osborne rampaged along the edge of the Fleet box, finding space to fizz a low drive on target that Ashmore got down well to keep out.

At times Moors had all 10 men behind the ball which was testament to Fleet’s presence and it was home boss Tim Flowers who showed his hand first, bringing on two substitutes with 20 minutes left.

Umerah fashioned a half-chance with a useful turn and shot and Goddard got behind the defence to sit up a useful cross but it evaded the Fleet forwards who were too far ahead of it.

Moors naturally looked the more desperate to score and they should have on 73 minutes, a cross into the middle for McCallum sitting up nicely on 73 minutes but N’Gala made a superb last-ditch interception from his former Eastleigh teammate.

Another chance fell for McCallum when King and Ashmore both attacked a ball into the box and it dropped for the Moors striker whose shot was fortunately off target with the Fleet goal invitingly open.

Alas, the home side made sure of it with their next attack on 80 minutes. A cross from the left by Alex Gudger floated into the danger area and King attacked it but it deflected off him and Ashmore as Moors strikers attacked it to end up in the back of the net.

Five added minutes presented Fleet with an opportunity for an equaliser but for all their pressing, the visitors found all the avenues to goal closed to them.

Still without a point and deservedly so in some games, this performance deserved so much more. Fleet had little luck and no reward but it was a 90 minutes that can only inspire confidence for the games ahead.

EUFC: Ashmore, King, Grimes, N’Gala, Thomas, Obileye, Ball, Weston, Goddard (Shields 82), Ugwu, Umerah (Thomas-Asante 76). Subs not used: Egan, Willson, Palmer
SMFC: Boot, Vaughan, Gudger, Howe, Daly, Storer, Osborne, Hancox (Carline 88), Hawkridge (Carter 68), McCallum, Blissett (Wright 68). Subs: Williams, Flowers
Attendance: 955

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