Solihull Moors v Aldershot Town – Match Preview – Friday 30 March 2018
Aldershot Town’s excellent 2-0 home victory over Boreham Wood last Saturday took them above their visitors and into fifth place in the National League table, level on points with third-placed Tranmere Rovers and fourth-placed Wrexham. On Good Friday, The Shots hit the road again, to take on a resurgent Solihull Moors side who are unbeaten in their last four matches and on the verge of climbing out of the relegation zone.
Rob Worrall previews the action…
Shots manager Gary Waddock will await news on the fitness of Jim Kellermann and Fabien Robert. Nick Arnold continues to work his way back to full fitness following his long-term knee injury. Otherwise, Waddock should have a full squad to select from for the Moors game.
Opposition – Solihull Moors FC:
Founded: 2007 (as a result of the merger of Moor Green and Solihull Borough)
Nickname: The Moors
Ground: Damson Park
Manager: Mark Yates
Moors began life in Conference North in season 2007-08, with the nucleus of the Moor Green squad which secured survival with a seventeenth-place finish. Similar finishing positions were obtained over the next two seasons and then, in 2010-11, they finished seventh. Marcus Bignot took over the reins, following the death of Bob Faulkner, who had managed the side (and previously Moor Green) for twenty-five years in total. Another season of survival followed, before ninth and eighth-place finishes saw them just miss out on the Play-Offs. In 2015-16, Bignot steered Moors to the Conference North title and promotion to The National League. After guiding his team to a steady start, Bignot left the club in October 2016 to become manager of Grimsby Town and Liam McDonald took over. A dangerous late slide down the league table caused a relegation scare, but McDonald secured consecutive wins to see out the season and Moors attained their record high finish – sixteenth in the National League.
Birmingham-born Mark Yates, who played more than 450 games as a midfielder for Kidderminster Harriers and Cheltenham Town, was appointed Moors manager in November 2017, following the departure of Liam McDonald by mutual consent a month earlier. Yates arrived with ten-years’ managerial experience under his belt, at both of the aforementioned clubs and more recently a spell with Crawley Town. Yates appointed former Blackburn and England goalkeeper Tim Flowers as his Assistant Manager and the two have worked tirelessly to turn around Moors’ season ever since.
McDonald lost six players at the end of last season, including forwards Harry White (Chester), Omari Sterling-James (Mansfield Town – since returned on loan), and his Captain and Player of the Year, Liam Daly (Kidderminster Harriers). However, centre-back Daly soon returned to the club and is currently skippering the side again under Yates. McDonald released two other players, retaining just nine of last season’s squad, including striker Oladapo Afolayan (who has since jumped four levels to join Premier League West Ham United), England C midfielder George Carline and goalkeeper Nathan Vaughan, who won the National League’s August Player of the Month award before moving on to Chester in November and more recently Kidderminster Harriers. McDonald added more than twenty players to his part-time playing squad for the 2017-18 season – more than any other National League club – but since his departure there has been a large turnaround of players both leaving and coming into the club. The pick of the early-season arrivals remains former Birmingham City and Forest Green Rovers midfielder Darren Carter, whose experience in midfield has been vital, as have been the six goals he has scored to date.
Since his arrival, Yates has strengthened the Moors side throughout, most notably with the signings of Kidderminster Harriers defender Tyrone Williams, midfielder Jamey Osbourne on loan from Grimsby Town, and strikers Kwame Thomas (who has four goals since joining on loan from Coventry City) and Adi Yussuf (three goals since joining from Barrow, for whom he scored a hat-trick against Aldershot Town earlier this season). Yates now has real competition for places up front, with Omari Sterling-James re-joining on a loan spell from Mansfield Town, and Alex Reid, the Fleetwood Town striker who has scored twice since signing on loan until the end of the season.
Moors’ turnaround in form since the arrival of Yates and Flowers is astounding. Having lost 14 of their first 19 National League matches under McDonald, securing just 11 points, Solihull have subsequently picked up 29 points from Yates’ first 20 matches in charge, losing just five times in that spell. Moors are unbeaten at Damson Park since Yates took charge, a run which now stretches back 9 games!
Shots and Moors have met just three times to date. In September 2017, a ninth-minute Shamir Fenelon goal was all that separated the two sides.
Last season, The Shots won both games 2-0. Second-half strikes from Shamir Fenelon and Scott Rendell secured a win for Town at The EBB Stadium in October 2016, whilst two Kundai Benyu goals at Damson Park were enough to secure the points for Town twelve months ago, in what was last season’s annual ‘Tour of Duty’ game.
Friday’s referee is Joe Hull, who has taken charge of 14 National League matches so far this season, showing 36 yellow cards and one red card. He has not refereed Aldershot Town this season, but did take the middle in Solihull Moors’ 0-1 home defeat to FC Halifax Town back in August.
BBC Surrey Sport’s Rob Worrall and a special guest will be covering the game live on Friday afternoon. Tune in to the BBC Sport website or the BBC Sport App from 2.50pm for full match commentary. To interact with them, tweet @RobShot66.