Karl Standeven – @karlstandeven
A night to forget for the yellow army. After Saturday’s 3 points, it was back to earth with a bang and hopefully a massive learning curve for the lads. The performance was abysmal but let’s not forget that this is a Solihull side that finished 2nd in the league last year and strengthened with a 26 goal striker from last season in Paul McCallum. Four changes for the gulls with Lewis and Keating replacing Vincent and Andrews on the left (I assume for the height and physical presence) and CLE and Edwards coming in for Duku and Kalala – after Saturday’s performance you couldn’t argue either a start.
Things could have been a lot different within the first 90 seconds after some nice foot-work from CLE found Reid, with the goal at his mercy, only for his shot to be dragged agonisingly wide. Seven minutes later and United found themselves two goals down, the first from one of our many sloppy clearances of the night. The ball fell to Osborne some 25 yards out for him to pick the bottom corner. Maybe he saw it late, but I feel MacDonald could have got more of a hand to it.
The second came from more of United’s own undoing, with Edwards and Little trying to pass it out of our own box resulting in being dispossessed and the former tripping his man, conceding a penalty. Hawkridge stepped up – MacDonald guessed the wrong way. United shell-shocked. A few minutes later, Reid had another chance when through on goal with only the keeper to beat, but his tame shot was straight at the keeper.
The rest of the first half was spent pretty much under siege with wave after wave of Solihull attack, MacDonald with a brilliant reaction save from a McCallum volley keeping the score down. Eventually the pressure took its toll when Osborne got his second from another clumsy clearance, making no mistake with his finish. Johnson made a statement dragging Keating and Edwards off with a minute of the first half to go. Boos (rightly?) from the yellow army at half time, after what has to be the worst 45 minute performance since the darkest Owers days.
United emerged for the second half a good few minutes after their opposition (I hope that half time talk is added to the documentary as bonus footage). Alas nothing changed, with the hosts looking like they were going to add to their tally. The introduction of Andrews for Lewis brought a change of shape, but not so much a change of fortune for the yellow army.
It wasn’t until the last 12 minutes that United woke up and showed what they are capable of. Kalala showed some neat footwork finding Reid whose cross returned to the Frenchman, his shot well saved by the keeper, Hall with the rebound which was somehow also kept out. Duku hit the woodwork a few minutes later, then a penalty of our own was awarded soon after with CLE tripped in the box. Duku picked the ball up, Little takes it off him, Keeper guesses the right way and United’s long penalty misery continues. When did we last score a meaningful one?
MacDonald – 4: Could’ve done better with the first goal, great save from McCallum but his kicking, especially in the first half, left a lot to be desired.
Wynter – 5: Tried as always, with limited success in a poor team performance.
Lewis – 3: A debut to forget, drifting in the centre too often giving the Solihull winger all the space in the world far too often. Thrown to the lions a little against a strong side. Don’t write him off on this performance though.
Cameron – 5: In a night of trying to find some positives to talk about, the best I can find is that the centre backs prevented a very impressive forward line from getting on the scoresheet.
Niate – 5: See above.
Hall – 4: The midfield was AWOL tonight, maybe to the credit of Solihull’s pressing and physicality, but no impact and countless missed passes added to a poor team performance.
Little – 4: See above with added penalty miss.
CLE – 4: Looked like his magic was going to continue when he found Reid in the opening minute, but again, much like Hall and Little, too many miss placed passes made it a frustrating night for the Welshman.
Keating – 3: Certainly a night to forget for Ruairi, struggled to assert himself on the left with Lewis. Not surprised he was replaced early on the night.
Edwards – 3: Had a few runs down the right with little success, conceded the penalty. May have had more impact coming on to terrorise a tiring defence in the second half.
Reid – 4: Two very good chances in the first 15 minutes that, at this level, he needs to begin to make count. A frustrated figure up top on his own, with Solihull’s height at the back. Grew into the game with Duku and Kalala in support.
Kalala – 5: Tried his best at times to join his fellow midfielders woeful passing night, came alive (all be it too late) in the last 15 mins to show what he is capable of.
Duku – 4: Booked within a few minutes of coming on, which meant he couldn’t put himself about like he was brought on to do, still not gelled with Reid yet.
Andrews – 5: Brought a change of shape when he came on, which lead to our best spell, and wasn’t involved in the abysmal 60 odd minutes so can’t mark him down for that. Not the game-changer but he played his part.
Man of the Match: Jean Niate
I’m not sure anyone deserved the title man of the match, more of a ‘best of a bad bunch’, but I will give it to Niate. It sums the performance up when a defender wins it in a 3-0 defeat, but the only positive I found (like I mentioned above) is that a strong, threatening Solihull front-line was kept off the scoresheet. Despite his poor performance last game, he put his head on the line numerous times to stop the score line escalating.
The fans – After 70 minutes of football, that I thought I had seen the back of 12 months ago, the yellow army broke into voice. The noise was electric and must have lifted the players on the pitch. Well done to you all, the real heroes of the night. And the many pilots taking off from the airport – some impressive turning manoeuvres on take-off that we certainly were not seeing from the team in white on the pitch.
I would never question GJ’s tactics after the last 11 months. 4-4-1-1 with Gary bringing in Lewis and Keating to try and match Solihull in the physical department, CLE playing just behind Reid. It just didn’t work and we were soon found out and exploited in open play. Andrew’s introduction in the 2nd half saw a 3-5-2 shape which saw us more of a threat. Too many well below individual performances and as a unit we didn’t assert ourselves until far too late in the game.
This is far from the Solihull side we saw on our last visit, who performed their own great escape in our relegation season. Tim Flowers has done a great job in transforming them into a team that finished 2nd in the league last year. Strong and physical with a skilful midfield, they opened us up far too easy and far too often. Certainly a team that will be in the play-offs at least come the end of the season.
The referee was Rebecca Welch – Easy to slate the ref when things are not going your way but she got the big decisions right. My only criticism comes from her not letting the game flow and bringing everything back. I’ve seen much worse at this level.
Jamie’s miss in the first 90 seconds. We were at the other end of the ground but it certainly looked, from our view, easier to score than miss. But miss he did and two quick sucker punches later the game was gone.
Let us not dwell too much on this result. Yes the performance was not good enough – the players know that and Gary, in his brutally honest post-match interview, has not held his frustration back at that performance. Hopefully a lot of lessons will have been learnt from the result and I have every faith that these lads can put it right on Saturday when we go again. This will still be a successful season for the gulls, one result won’t change that.
Safe travels to all fans going to Bromley on Saturday. COYY