So we travel on Saturday to Solihull Moors seeking victory.
So what is there to know about Solihull Moors
Last season Solihull Moors finished the Conference in 16th position with 15 wins, 10 draws and 21 losses for 55 points and having scored 62 and conceded 75.
That 16th is somewhat illusory as York were relegated having got 50 points for the season so Solihull weren't far away.
Indeed April wins over Macclesfield and Eastleigh gave them a buffer at the end of the season when they ended with a whimper as a loss to Orient and Boreham Wood and draws versus Barrow and Guiseley made them sweat ever so much.
In fact it could be said in 2017 insofar as the 2016-2017 season was concerned was a trainwreck for them as they won 7 league games, drawn 5 games and lost 12 including a brutalizing 9 -0 loss away to Tranmere and a 4- 2 to Barrow which occurred in a 6 game loss streak which saw them outscored 20-4.
At home they were patchy, winning ( from 1 January 2017 to the end of the 2016-2017 season) 3 games, losing 7 and drawing 1. A note of caution though, they could be held scoreless on their day or score 3 and equally opposing sides could be held scoreless or to 1 goal or score 3 or 4. One good stat though, in their 5 games against Northern opposition at home from January 2017 to the end of the season, they lost 5 being outscored 3-10. Homecooking wasn't their style.
But they enjoyed takeaway a little bit more as they won 4, drew 3 and lost 3 including that 9-0 loss away to Tranmere.
They aren't playing away though in this game.
For the 2016-2017 season their leading goalscorers in all competitions were:
Akwaze Assante 11 goals ( he left in January 2017 for Grimsby)
Omari Sterling White 9 goals ( transferred to Mansfield)
Harry White 8 ( transferred to Chester)
Andy Brown 5 ( transferred to Brackley)
Jamie Osborne 5 ( he left for Grimsby in January 2017)
There were a few players who scored 4 goals or less but it was essentially case of old mother hubbard.
The close season
Not surprising, given their brush with Conference mortality, they went a bit crazy over the close season.
In (including loanees) came Campbell (WBA), Dunkley (Hednesford), Kelleher (Oxford), Trueman(Birmingham), Cleary (Birmingham), Hylton (Swindon), Barnewell (Dagenham), Lait (Stourbridge), Edwards (Leamington), Thomas (Boston), Benbow (Stourbridge), Tonks (Stourbridge), Vaughn (Worcester), Green (Tamworth) and Carter( Forest Green).
That's a fair bit of league talent in. Also Luke Benbow scored 39 goals for Stourbridge last season in the Northern Premier League. Whether this translates to goals is another question.
They then lost Nortey (Dover), Charles Cook (Charlton), Byrne,Lewis, Franklin and Brown to Brackley, Beswick (Nuneaton), Daly ( Kidderminster), Sterling White to Mansfield, Mwanyongo to Boston and White to Chester.
White and Sterling James were big losses from a team that didn't score much at all.
Basically, they've imported a whole new team in to replace a team that didn't do very well last year.
Solihull played in friendly games Barwell (2-0 win to solihull in a Brighouse type opener), Walsall 3-2 win to Solihull in a game in which Walsall changed XIs at half time, lost to Burton 1-2 in a game in which Burton had 57% of the possession and drew 1-1 with Tamworth in the last friendly in which Tamworth had 55% of the play but Solihull had only 6 shots to 2.
That friendly form sounds well, distinctly ....... friendly.
The 2017-2018 season
If you believe omens, the 2017 season started ominously for Solihull as their home opening game against Chester was called off because of ticketing fiasco.
So they've played one less game than the the rest of the league.
Then they voyaged to Clapton Orient and their season started the way it ended with them losing 3 -1, after falling behind at half time 1-0. Their sole goalscorer was Afolayan, a 20 year old striker. Afolayan scored 4 last year. The Clapton goals were scored by a 175cm defender, a 187cm striker and another 185cm defender. The game was also pretty testy with Orient getting a yellow and Solihull getting 3 yellows and a red in the 81st, after all the scoring had been done.
Then they travelled to Boreham Wood 4 days later where they lost 4-1 where one of their summer signings, Kelleher, scored in the 33rd minute and Boreham then scored 3 in 12 minutes and Boreham were 3-1 at half time. After half time, Boreham scored another in the 59th minute and the game petered out. The game was relatively quiet with one yellow to Boreham and one to Solihull. Boreham's goals included one by a 185cm defender, one by a 186 cm striker and 2 by sub 180cm strikers.
Then 4 days later, they played their first home game against northern opposition in Barrow and were 0-2 behind at half time, Barrow scoring through Nieskens, a defender to start the scoring, and then Jones a 183cm defender .Barrow were reduced to 10 men in the 56th minute and Solihull scored 3 in a row ( to take the lead) from the 61st to the 73rd minute through goals to Joel Kettle, a defender, then Afolayan and last Carter, a 188cm midfielder. Barrow though nabbed a point in the 96th minute with a penalty ( and you think our Dover loss was heartbreaking).The game was another testy affair with 2 more bookings for Solihull and 2 yellows and a red for Barrow. Solihull's crowd was a paltry 558.......
So what do we take from the above.
- attacking defenders score goals against Solihull
- they have, in the past fallen behind, and if they do, assuming you have the full 11 men, teams have kept the lead
- their strikers per se have scored very few goals
- height may be an advantage
- Solihull play a testy brand of football so discipline is necessary ( that's right I'm talking about you Mr Kosylo)
- with a few supporters, we can turn it into the Shay
The Solihull team that played Barrow had only Kettle, Murombedzi, Carline of the first team and Afolayan of the subs had played with Solihull before this year so this is a young group who have not played much football with each other.
As for experience, Carter is a vastly experienced ex pro, Kelleher has played Scottish football for Peterhead. But a lot of their team has played football for non league midlands teams or is young. Campbell is a youngster on loan from WBA.
As for height of the team that played Barrow, their tall players include their keeper Trueman is 186cm, and the defenders Cleary (182cm), Kettle ( about 190cm - he's 6 foot three) Kelleher (190cm), Carter (188cm) and Carline (188cm). Cullinane Liburd is also tall. So they have some height in their side.
This game is a very winnable game for us but we would be fools to take Solihull lightly or to give them a break by showing them any indiscipline. They key, IMO, is to be ruthless, to get in early and take control of the game, prefereably with a goal or two buffer. Then we should not take our foot off the throat and try to score a few.
They are a young side, a new side so we should not give this sucker any even break.
We should also have some adventurous defenders as Solihull have conceded 10 goals in 3 games, 5 of which were scored by played more reputed as defenders.