We ended Solihull Moors' unbeaten start to the season with a dominant display at Meadow Lane.
Having somehow not scored in a one-sided first half, we finally had our goal when Adam Chicksen produced a composed finish in front of the Kop.
Having beaten Halifax 4-1 on the road only two days prior, Luke Williams decided to shuffle his pack slightly by including Geraldo Bajrami and fit-again Ruben Rodrigues in his starting line-up. Jim O’Brien and Sam Austin had to settle for a place on the bench.
It was to be a first half of near-total dominance, with the tone being set on four minutes when Moors were fortunate to see Macaulay Langstaff’s header from Aaron Nemane’s cross deflected off-target.
Two minutes later another free-kick caused chaos as Matt Palmer’s delivery was met with a flicked header from Bajrami, which flew just wide.
Solihull responded with a first-time Jamey Osborne effort from 22 yards, which Sam Slocombe did well to hold at the first attempt.
Langstaff fired an instinctive shot wide, Baldwin was off-target with an audacious 40-yard strike, Rodrigues saw a shot blocked and Richard Brindley fired a wayward left-footed effort well off-target as we continued to build pressure on the Moors goal, guarded by Louie Moulden who appeared to be struggling with an injury after receiving lengthy treatment midway through the half.
Rodrigues and Langstaff were beginning to combine threateningly and, shortly after the latter had released the former to send a left-footed shot just over, the roles were reversed as Rodrigues’ slide-rule pass sent Langstaff through on goal. The forward had done brilliantly to get goal-side of his defender but, being pushed wide, he couldn’t find the target with his shot.
Moors attacks had been few and far between but both Brindley and Baldwin’s concentration levels were tested on 38 minutes when they both had to make big blocks to quell a scrappy spell of play in our final third.
It would have been nothing short of a travesty had we gone in behind, though, and even more so after Solihull defender James Clarke made an incredible block on the goal-line to keep Rodrigues goal-bound effort out.
And we had another massive chance to take the lead inside injury time when Bajrami played a stunning ball over the top to match the clever run of Cedwyn Scott. The forward brought the ball under instant control but had his back to goal, with Moulden out quickly to narrow the angle. A shot was probably still on, but Scott opted to roll the ball to Langstaff instead. His strike partner wasn’t on the right wavelength, though, and Solihull cleared to keep their clean sheet intact going into the break.
We picked up where we left off early in the second half with a brilliant move which saw Clarke make another heroic clearance, this time denying Langstaff who also scuffed a volleyed effort three minutes later.
While chances weren’t presenting themselves as frequently as they were in the first half, we still looked the far more likely side to take the lead and finally got the goal we deserved on 65 minutes. With Moors’ defenders worried about the in-form Langstaff, they neglected to pick up Chicksen at the back post and the wing back did brilliantly to stroke home Palmer’s cross in front of the Kop.
We had a good chance to double our lead with five minutes to play when we outnumbered Moors on the break, only for Mitchell to see his shot blocked when he should really have played Rodrigues in to his left.
The two worked well together a minute later, however, winning the ball high up the field which led to a chance for Mitchell, who was snuffed out at the near post.
There was still time for Rodrigues to try his luck from 50 yards, sending the ball narrowly over the bar, and inside added time we found ourselves four-on-three in attack but substitute Jim O’Brien could only scuff the ball straight at Louie Moulden.
We should have been far further ahead but in the end it wasn’t to matter as we saw out the game to make it the perfect bank holiday weekend.
STARTING XI: Slocombe; Cameron, Baldwin, Brindley; Chicksen, Nemane; Bajrami (O'Brien 90'), Palmer, Rodrigues; Scott (Austin 62'), Langstaff (Mitchell 82')
UNUSED SUBS: Adebayo-Rowling, Francis
BOOKINGS: Bajrami 46', Chicksen 88', Slocombe 90'
ATTENDANCE: 7,004 (291)