Alcester’s Defeat Hands Promotion To Boldmere, As AFC Solihull Complete Double Over The Romans…
AFC Solihull 2-0 Alcester Town
Twice within a week AFC Solihull has defeated Alcester to leave Town’s promotion hopes in tatters. A Cup Final defeat to champions GNP Raiders two days before this encounter had probably taken a good deal out of the Town players but too many midweek games, some injuries and unavailability have also done for Danny Janes’ lads. He was even forced to play at right-back in this match at Tudor Grange Park on a sunny May evening. It was bizarre at the venue, for athletes of all ages were running on and around the orange track, forming one of the biggest ‘crowds’ I’ve witnessed at a non-league match this season.
|NOT ONE OF THE OFFICIALS WANTS TO PLAY STONE, SCISSORS, PAPER WITH DOWNEY & REYNOLDS...|
Filming became a nightmare in the darkening later stages, as the grandstand’s roof lights and the low trackside floodlights (though hardly of ‘flood’ proportions) began to affect the focus of my camera. And wouldn’t you just know it, as the lead-up to goal two was building, I lost the focus, had to stop filming and quickly start it again; just about in time to capture Sonny Swann’s kick into an empty net. He wore 18, not 12, as it said he was to wear on the team-sheet… And those numbers, dull light blue on darker blue shirts: they aren’t the easiest to recognise, so much so that it becomes necessary to learn players’ boot colours, hairstyles and heights to identify them early in the game…
Ah yes, the game… Strange… Both outfits had periods when they threatened, almost taking it in turns; two time-slots each on offense in turn made up the first period and two each after the break kind of summed up the flow. Visiting goalie Alex Gretton’s inaccurate throw left him clutching a first minute lob by Lee Savings, who didn’t last long before being replaced by the burly Tony Furness. Gretton then plunged at Luke Whitehouse’s feet as a poor back-pass harassed the ‘keeper. Then it was Alcester’s turn to attack…
|MARSTON & REYNOLDS...|
|GRETTON WILL CATCH SAVINGS' SHOT...|
Home gloveman Mark Fitzsimmons was scrambling to field an awkward low drive by Louis Bridges, Wil Beach fed Luke Williams for a lifted shot too high and then a fine Zaqib Hussain centre wasn’t reached by Beach’s head (Beachy Head? Well he did throw himself…) Beach’s easy running style would not have been out of place on the track but following another neat rush, Fitzsimmons saved the wide-man’s gentle low shot. And then the pendulum swung to the other end…
|PUT WW2 UNIFORMS ON THESE GUYS AND YOU'VE GOT A MEMORIAL...|
|BRIDGES IS READY TO SNEAK...|
A wild Whitehouse volley (his left boot probably wasn't happy that his right shoe hadn’t taken the shot), Andy Matthews shoved Williams out of the way and forced a low save from Gretton, who then stopped another Matthews shot with an outstretched right boot, before Williams did well to nod a dangerous long throw by Furness past his own near upright. Gretton made two difficult punches from left-side deliveries by AFC but at the third time of asking he made a catch to ease the pressure and set his own team off on their next period of offense which took the game to the interval. All this to-ing and fro-ing had become a bit weird to watch…
|"SORRY MATE, I'M MORE USED TO BEACH SOCCER..."|
Alcester really ought to have scored during this section of the match but after several attempts at goal, it was instead the hosts who broke away to net just seconds before half-time. Fitzsimmons stopped a low Bridges shot, who then fed Hussain but his drive rose too high, before the speed and ability to make inroads past home defender Jamie Hyland displayed by Beach allowed for a shot on the turn by Lewis Marston but Fitzsimmons was equal to that too. Watson and Marston combined but Fitzsimmons saved Williams’ low shot, tipping it past his right post, Marston drove an effort over the right angle of crossbar and upright and a clipped Watson pass bounced off Williams’ foot at the left post but off target.
|ALCESTER HAVE JUST CONCEDED...|
The referee then decided that a tackle on Ben Whitmarsh by Alcester’s Ash Bunn was not a penalty, so that the fallen AFC midfielder punched the turf in frustration, although he was soon elated when left-winger Jack Shields passed square to Whitehouse and his low shot beat the right glove of Gretton from 18 yards. The interval was whistled for immediately and Alcester seemed understandably shocked and frustrated. Yes, they had squandered goal chances but so had AFC…
|1-0: WHITEHOUSE THE SCORER...|
|MATTHEWS STARTS HALF 2...|
The second period began like the first had done with a pair of goal efforts by Solihull, followed by a period of dominance by the desperate visitors. A fine run on the left by the skilful Shields resulted in a splendid centre from the byeline but somehow, from 3 yards out, Whitehouse’s unhindered header cannoned back off the crossbar. Town broke out from this escape but Watson shot wide at the opposite end. Elliot Price drove over the Alcester goal-frame, Hyland was replaced by AFC’s Ollie Gee but then neat play by Town allowed Watson to shoot past the right post. Bridges shoved a 20 yard free-kick into the left side-netting, Josh Moore replaced Williams for the guests, a low Beach cross was parried by Fitzsimmons then a higher Beach centre was nearly headed by Whitehouse but not quite, resulting in the forward crashing into the right upright instead.
|BUNN LEAVES THE OVEN...|
Sonny Swann replaced the hurt Whitehouse for the hosts and they really ought to have clinched the points with their next bout of offense. Three times Gretton saved his team, palming aside shots by Whitmarsh and Gee, before Eddie Pitt, the very efficient home left-back was cautioned and Gretton dived again to deny Matthews this time. Next, from Shields’ clipped centre, Whitmarsh leapt and headed over the crossbar from very close range for the hosts. Still the visitors needed one goal for parity and thus they began the next instalment of their own attacking intent…
"SHIT, LOOK AT THE TIME... I HAVE TO BE HOME FOR MY COCOA IN HALF AN HOUR..."
|GEE'S SHOT HAS BEEN SAVED...|
|PITT IS CAUTIONED...|
|CORNER FOR AFC...|
|GRETTON, TO WATSON: |
"LOOK AT THE LINO... HE THINKS THE QUEEN'S JUST ARRIVED..."
Beach struck the base of the right upright, Marston was cautioned for calling the referee a “…fiddling idiosyncrasy…” or something like that, Watson made a rush but ran the ball out for a goal-kick, Beach drove wide from 22 yards but then the hosts capitalised upon some lax defending by Alcester and Swann glided through the middle of the 18 yard box to convert into an empty net and Solihull had grabbed their victory.
|CAUTION FOR MARSTON BUT HE'S WALKED AWAY...|
|...BUT HE WAS MADE TO RETURN...|
|MATTHEWS: WORKED HIS SOCKS OFF, WHICH HE IS NOW PUTTING BACK ON...|
|2-0... SWANN THE SCORER...|
Beach then got himself into trouble by pulling back Shields and apparently collected two cautions in one I believe and therefore he was dismissed but his subsequent demolition of the plastic drinks crate was one of the better struck shots of the evening… Whitmarsh for AFC and Bridges for Town were also cautioned as ‘feisty’ became the prevalent feeling around Tudor Grange Park but somehow Janes escaped a booking for a rough challenge on Shields, whose shirt had been ripped in the earlier incident with Beach. The referee told Janes that there were only a couple of minutes left and to calm it down. Rather unfair on those who had been yellow-carded earlier, I reckon…
|JANES LINES UP A FREE-KICK...|
And so the game ended with Alcester’s heads down and with their mission having failed, although the commitment of skipper Keiran Downey was admirable. Sure they might have won this game but none of their shots attempted in those dominant periods were good enough, despite the efforts of Bridges and Williams in that department in particular. Marston was missed in midfield earlier in the game then reverted to his normal position with the arrival of substitute Moore in attack but despite Marston’s promptings and those of Watson, Town’s finishing almost always lacked accuracy.
|BRIDGES HASN'T QUITE GOT THE HANG OF STARTING BLOCKS...|
AFC were so well served by the energy of Matthews in attack, plus the strength alongside him of Whitehouse but once again, central defender and skipper Tom Reynolds was a magnet for the ball, getting away a number of clearances during the match. He was well supported by Steve Mason. However, Shields was the outlet for Solihull with his elegant dashes in possession but unlike many wingers these days the majority of his deliveries from wide were decent.
|...BUT GETS BOOKED ANYWAY...|
You take your chances, you win matches; Solihull did just that and in doing so wrecked the distraught Romans’ season…
MARK FITZSIMMONS, TOM REYNOLDS (CAPT), EDDIE PITT, STEVE MASON, JAMIE HYLAND, LEE SAVINGS, ELLIOT PRICE, BEN WHITMARSH, ANDY MATTHEWS, LUKE WHITEHOUSE, JACK SHIELDS.
SONNY SWANN, OLLIE GEE, JAKE WHITEHOUSE, TONY FURNESS.
ALEX GRETTON, DANNY JANES, KEIRAN DOWNEY (CAPT), LUKE WILLIAMS, DEAN HAY, ASH BUNN, ZAQIB HUSSAIN, RYAN WATSON, LEWIS MARSTON, LOUIS BRIDGES, WIL BEACH.
CAM BENNETT, JAMES ROBBINS, MARK McALLISTER, JOSH MOORE, KENNY SANDERS.