Solihull Moors 2 County 2 : ( Conference North) 20 September 2014

Hardly an original thought, but this quite definitely was a point won and not 2 lost, as County came back from the dead to equalise in the 89th minute- a goal exquisitely manufactured by Jamie Milligan, and put away expertly by debut boy Lee Stevenson. Solihull played some good stuff at times and put us under some pressure, and may feel disappointed not to have won.
Lee Stevenson.

That said, County could have won it themselves with the last act of added time, as they piled forward.......if Chris Churchman had not had that haircut he might have got a touch in front of goal instead of going mighty close.
For County I thought that Milligan was inspirational throughout and Sharp ran...ran....and ran some more for 90 minutes, more than deserving the goal he claimed – a bullet header 4 minutes into the second half. Much of the time however County were forced to defend ever deeper by a side fresh from a 4-0 thrashing of Harrogate Town, relying heavily on the dependable excellence of O`Halloran, Gregson and Lees to keep afloat. Gregson for once found himself under pressure at times from Omar Bogle, but recovered well.    With Solihull equalising Sharp`s opener quickly and scoring another 20 minutes later, things began to look iffy for the blues, against a feisty   side with hardly a man under 6 foot 11, but the late /late show from County saved the day and sent 300 or so Stopfordians home happy, after they had stayed on to applaud the team off!

County line up in all white!

Back to 3 o’clock then, and the news was that Stevenson was in the starting line up in place of Glenn Belezika- the only change from Tuesday!
The game opened with Solihull buzzing around in midfield. In response Duxbury, Hurst and Gregson all got in decent early touches. Ryan Beswick managed to steal a cheeky free kick somehow, but any angst on my part dissipated with the sight of Hurst catching the ball well under pressure.

Stevenson in action.

 Another County man to get an early tough was new man Stevenson, and he drew warm applause from around me with a lovely `claim and turn’ that saw him then send Spencer darting clear on a run. The keeper thwarted this at the last gasp, but it was an interesting start both for County and Stevenson.
The first 5 or 6 minutes mainly saw Solihull in possession, and I was relieved to see no home forward alert and available to apply a finish, after Darren Byfield had pulled the ball back from the by-line. Within a minute of this, Byfield was back again....his run, and cross down the right again were good. This time Dominic Langdon was on hand to latch onto it, but he then went on to lift his shot over the bar, which was a considerable relief! The relief was not lasting however. I was happy to see the far liner`s flag up to stop Darryl Knight  on the charge, and to see O`Halloran nicely positioned to deal with a break by Omar Bogle, but less so to watch as Bogle, not long after, shot narrowly wide, having been in oodles of space!
It went on with County forced to defend a free kick, which Duxbury and O`Halloran did to good effect. The free kicks were already racking up for Moors and another from the right saw Hurst claim the ball with impressive assurance. 

Good claim by Hurst.

The home forwards were supplementing the free kicks with some enterprising running now, and Bogle beat Gregson, before cutting inside to get a shot off. It was a decent effort, but it took a deflection, going out for a corner which O`Halloran headed out calmly!
 County responded after this....Sharp just unable to latch onto Milligan`s through ball. Corners came and went for the blues, and Dennis was unlucky to see his shot drift inches wide after Sharp had kept the move alive with some selfless running followed by a decent cross. Duxbury went close from Spencer`s pass, and things began to look good as Spencer then turned to go past Rob Elvins who was the last man. The County man was then pulled down by the defender....a blatant foul, only for the referee to wave play on in truly astonishing fashion.
County angst was then followed by the Moors variety as the right side of County`s defence was shredded by Bogle and Knights. In a flash the ball was heading for the empty net via Bogle`s right boot, and a goal seemed seconds away until Gregson tracked back to hook the ball out from under the bar!   Duxbury headed the resultant corner clear to complete the great escape.
We needed a reply from County, and Sharp provided it, darting clear onto a terrific ball from Milligan. An excellent shot followed, but Breedon was up to it ,getting down at the near post to make the save!
Churchman joined in next putting Moors under the cosh with a probing ball across the box. This was repulsed, but not for long as Stevenson emerged to feed Churchman again, and he lifted another teaser goal ward. A teaser....yes..... but no  more than that, but somehow Breedon contrived to almost fumble the ball into the net. Instead it was a corner and this was cleared by Moors without difficulty.

Mark Lees tracks Darryl Knights.

It was back onto deep defence for County next as Knights and Byfield put us under pressure down the right. Lees did good work to see this threat off, as did Hurst moments later as Ryan Beswick put Gregson under pressure.

More good stuff from Hurst.

 On it went with Junior English kept out by an excellent tackle from Gregson. The corner that followed, saw Hurst initially in difficulties before he recovered to claim the ball and end the threat.

Stevenson on the ball.

Half time was approaching fast now, and thoughts of heading for the excellent burger van were put on hold as Dennis stole in past Langdon. With Sharp and others goal side this looked pretty promising, but I had figured without Reece Fleet, and his intervention saw him snaffle the ball and speed it in Hurst`s direction!
Then Moors broke....    Beswick was offside but not flagged so, and County were perhaps fortunate to not concede......and then so were Moors as County hit them on the break through Dennis who was in behind the defence and well set. He got his shot off but somehow Breedon kept it out, albeit at the second go!

Kristian Dennis in full flow.

County were firing on all cylinders now and Spencer was sent clear by a header from Lees. Unfortunately he had a couple of defenders for company and had to settle for a corner, which Gregson was inches away from putting away.
More and better came from Dennis next, and Breedon did well to get something on Dennis`s shot after Spencer had tried and tried to get a shot off.
That was it for the first half, and all to play for in the second 45.
County Bench.......

The second half opened with crosses from Knights and Byfield giving Hurst something to do, but nothing untoward happened until 4 minutes into the half ,when an unceremonious trip by Elvin on Stevenson teed County up for a free kick.

A Milligan free kick looms !

 Gregson was just kept from this by Nottingham, who was there again to concede a corner when Duxbury slung the ball over again from the right. This brought Milligan centre stage again and his delivery was perfect as was Sharp`s response and his header almost ripped the netting from its supports! It was a belter, and County were one up!
Well ......they were for about 50 seconds, because with the celebrations still in progress Knights stole clear to beat Hurst with the simplest of finishes.
County came under the cosh after this – the dangerous Bogle heading over at one stage ,and then looking on aghast shortly after to see O`Halloran clear a goal bound effort off the line! That was awesome stuff from the Irish international and applause rang out from the majority of the 600+ crowd!

Heads...its Stephen O`Halloran !

The pressure continued, and then County broke with speed and precision and it looked curtains for Moors as Duxbury scooted clear past his marker. He was away...and then he wasn`t because the far liner`s flag was up for offside, which I was not alone in describing as `ridiculous’. Duxbury was away again moments later, this time thanks to another beaut from Milligan, and this time there was a hint of hand to ball from the defender, Mike Nottingham, but the referee would have none of it and that was that.

Duxbury on the charge!

Then....back came Moors and the pressure was on in earnest as Bogle was denied in quick succession by excellent work by O`Halloran and Churchman ( twice).. Moors were on top, but they were showing no signs of repeating the goal scoring feats of recent games, thanks to the resilience of the County defence. But.......they persevered, and after Breedon had got himself in a lather punching a corner out following a shot by Churchman, County went to sleep again allowing Ryan Beswick time on the ball midway inside the County half. He promptly stopped ...looked up.....then sent a measured shot past Hurst`s dive into the far corner of the net. It was 2-1 to Moors and County had a mountain to climb!
A killer blow might just have followed as well, but Hurst did well to dash from goal and wallop the ball clear as Knights threatened through the middle!
That really would have ended the game, instead it was still all to play for even though time was running out.

With 14 minutes left, Sharp headed narrowly wide from a Duxbury cross......
Seven to go and Sharp was there again running onto Lees` pass, before turning and sending a shot thudding into the ad hoardings inches past the near post!

Spencer under scrutinity from Nottingham.

This was interrupted by a free kick to Moors and a neat save by Hurst, before County re-doubled their efforts to Dennis lifted one over the bar from a Sharp pass.

There was just 2 minutes left and things began to look a tad gloomy as both Churchman and Sharp had shots charged down...and horror of horrors Sharp sent Dennis clear again ,only for the liner`s flag to deny them ( correctly this time)
Surely all was lost, wasn`t it!? because suddenly Milligan latched onto the ball before dispatching a deliciously weighted ball over a host of yellow and blue shirts to where Lee Stevenson hovered! Then the place erupted as the County number 10 sent a fierce shot into the far corner of the net! It was 2-2 and pretty much game over!
Well I thought as much ,but County were fired up now and a wave of attacks followed as Sharp and Milligan urged them on, and Woolfe ,like me, thought he had scored deep in added time, his shot drifting barely wide of the angle of bar and post with Breedon a spectator.

Byfield did fashion one break but this was put to bed nicely by Lees and Hurst, and with all the attacking, County rather took their eye off the back door allowing Beswick to make it to the by-line. Only a corner ensued from this, but Hurst was in difficulties for a moment or so with Byfield hungrily looking for the decisive goal.

Mainly though it was County dashing about like Dervishes forcing block after block from the opposing defenders. last charge, and the ball again whizzed in from the right. Woolfe and Churchman were the closest to the ball as it flew across goal at speed. For a second it looked like the moment belonged to Churchman and he had headed it in, but it was not so, and somehow Moors had clung on for that hard earned point.
Game over then..... and considering how badly we faired this time last season at this venue......and taking into account the current form of their opponents.... I claim that this is a good point for County, which keeps the momentum moving nicely ahead of next week FA Cup tie!
Catch you at Harrogate then !

County line up:
Hurst, Lees, Gregson, O`Halloran, Duxbury, Churchman, Milligan, Stevenson, Spencer ( Woolfe 75), Dennis, Sharp.
Substitutes not used:
Ormson, Fagbola, Lazenbury.

Solihull Moors line up;
Breedon, Nottingham, Langdon, Fleet, Daly, Elvins, Byfield, English, Bogle, Beswick, Knights.

Gough, Taylor, Denny, Brown, Espejo.

Attendance : 658   

Ian Brown


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