Solihull Moors got a 4-0 win over Worksop Town on Saturday, to put themselves in the hat for the FA Cup fourth qualifying round draw. A brace from Ryan Beswick, and goals from Omar Bogle and Rob Elvins contributed to a scoreline which perhaps flattered the Moors, but it was their proficiency on the counter attack which was the main factor in the win.
Marcus Bignot made three changes from the team which drew at home to Bradford Park Avenue last week. According to the programme, Dom Langdon was starting as number two, but it appeared to be Junior English who the fans were referring to in that shirt during the game. In other changes, Gary Birch and Aron Wint were dropped to the bench in favour of Darryl Knights and Omar Bogle. The visitors from east of Sheffield had only booked their place in the round with a 5-3 win on Wednesday, in spite of a late rally from Shelley Town, four divisions below. On Saturday, they made four changes from that match, indicating Mark Shaw’s willingness to keep players fresh.
It was a clash between one of England’s oldest non-league clubs, and one of the youngest, with a massive 146 year gap between their respective foundings. Between the year Worksop Town were founded, 1861, and the year Solihull Moors were founded, 2007, England has had 40 different prime ministers.
Moors started much the brighter team, and in the opening minute, a Ryan Beswick cross from the left was fired just over by Omar Bogle. With such an attacking start from Solihull, it looked as though the gulf in age wouldn’t be the only one between the two teams. In the opening period, Moors favoured an adventurous passing game, preferring to get the ball to the flanks at the first opportunity, rather than pass to feet.
Jay Denny was to play an important, Michael Carrick-esque role in midfield, dropping deep to help the defence guard against Worksop attacks, and then spraying it out wide. He made up for one slightly overhit crossfield ball in the opening minutes, by contributing to the first goal. A through ball down the right for Peter Till to get the better of Phil Roe, and a dinked cross from him to the back post ended up finding Ryan Beswick, who nodded the ball home to give Solihull an early lead.
Shortly afterwards, Moors clenched their firm grip of the game, and searched for a second. A clever piece of play from Till won a free-kick, taken unexpectedly quickly by Bogle who found Till on the right, he gambled on an early cross but there unfortunately weren’t enough bodies forward. Worksop offered little in the way of creativity, particularly in the first fifteen minutes. They relied on a very tall and strong number nine in Tom Denton to spearhead their attacks, which were normally route one goal kicks from the keeper. A powerful snapshot from range by Shane Clarke, and a misdirected back-post header from Denton, was the closest Worksop came shortly after the goal.
On 20 minutes, a scrappy phase in the game then emerged where neither side’s play developed any real momentum, and the two teams kept giving the ball away. Darryl Knights looped a free-kick over the bar for the Moors, and shortly after Jay Denny’s shot was tipped wide by Hallam. As the rain began to pelt, Worksop continued their direct style of play, which forced a one-on-one save by Singh from Mettam. Singh was to go on to have a good game, but Solihull Moors deserved much credit for the way they defended, they looked a real unit at the back. The players never shirked their defensive duties, always crowded the box and normally restricted Worksop to long range efforts.
It was Moors who had the final say of the half. Worksop were given a warning when Till’s cross was scrambled goalwards and cleared off the line by Jordan Lemon, but his reflexes were to be in vain. Less than a minute later, a through ball from midfield found Bogle, who tucked it into the near corner. Bogle could consider himself a little lucky with the goal, because he didn’t do much else that afternoon. He struck me as not the hardest worker when it comes to work rate off the ball, but one who has that bit of quality when it matters. The half-time whistle sounded leaving the score at 2-0, and Worksop with a very difficult ask to crawl back into the FA Cup hat.
But The Tigers provided some encouragement for their 100-odd fans who made the trip over, with an improved performance after the restart. Whereas in the first half, their play was entirely route one, in the first ten minutes of the second, they upped the tempo, and had long spells of possession. Leon Mettam latched onto Pierpoint’s poorly placed pass, and forced another good save from Singh. At the age of 20, the goalkeeper looks to have potential to play in the Football League.
After a couple of dangerous headers from Denton, Worksop’s positive attacking play transcended into a series of counter attacks for Solihull. The visitors’ defence pressed high up the pitch, which inevitably allowed more space in behind for Solihull, with the pace of Beswick and substitute Aron Wint.
As much as Worksop continued to get the ball forward, from the 60 minute mark onwards, it was only ever Solihull who looked like scoring. Following a corner from the left, there was a scramble in the box and close-range efforts from Gough and Bogle forced a double save from the keeper. A comical moment from PA man Gabbie shortly followed, getting the numbers of a Worksop substitute mixed up, before correcting himself! Not that Moors fans will have cared, because they had their third goal which killed off the tie, from Rob Elvins. A throw-in from the left found the feet of their captain, who hammered the ball home from just outside the six-yard box, and the Moors’ place in the next round was well and truly booked.
Once Singh had completed his afternoon’s work by forcing Tom Denton to dribble too far wide of the goal when one-on-one, it was only a question of how many for Solihull. And it was a case of three bites at the cherry for Beswick. Latching onto a clearance he found himself one-one-one with keeper Hallam, who saved his effort. But just a few minutes later, another scenario almost identical for the winger, a block from Hallam’s feet this time, before Beswick rolled the ball into an empty net to clinch a brace.
4-0, Moors now winning in style, and Gary Birch came on for Bogle, with the remaining minutes very much a foregone conclusion. Birch seemed to be a popular figure, as Gabbie announced him as ‘number 20, BIRRRRRRCHY!… Gary Birch.’ He came onto the pitch to enthusiastic applause and chants of ‘Birchy’s gonna get ya’. Looking at him, he was a rather stocky bloke, at first I was slightly surprised the fans had taken to him so much. But in terms of his reading of the game, he was very impressive; think a not-so-good Dimitar Berbatov and you won’t be too far off. His vision and awareness was spot on, in one of his first touches he executed a very well weighted pass to the opposite flank. On a counter attack, he found space outside the box to receive a cut-back from Wint, he layed-off a ball for Beswick, who had moved to the right, but his cross went unattended.
Admirably, the Worksop players still looked desperate to restore some minor credibility from the scoreline and grab a goal back, and they kept pluckily pushing men forward. But in the final 10 minutes, Wint’s pace as a fresh substitute became key to the Moors’ counter-attacking moves, and Worksop’s naivety at the back was nearly punished further. An excellent first touch, controlling the ball at height, confused Chris Salt and as he narrowed down on goal, his shot hit the near post.
The full-time whistle came at 4-0, with Moors through to the fourth qualifying round, although the scoreline perhaps didn’t reflect the whole story. Some humorous chants from fans in good spirits, of: “we’ll be running round Touchwood with the cup!” and also:
“we are unbeatable”. The Moors, and also Brackley Town, remain the only team unbeaten in Skrill North division, but in the next few weeks, they might just celebrating a run in the cup as well.
The draw for the fourth qualifying round will covered be live on TalkSport at 10:30am on Monday morning.
By Gabriel Sutton