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Telford 2 Solihull Moors 2 - Report

A second-half fightback capped a largely satisfactory performance from Paul Carden’s Bucks in their final game of pre-season.

Paul Carden the head coach / manager of AFC Telford United.
Paul Carden the head coach / manager of AFC Telford United.

Goals from Byron Moore and Harry Flowers earned the Bucks a creditable draw against a Moors outfit who are one of the favourites for promotion from the National League. Indeed, it was only a play-off final defeat in June that meant they were playing the Bucks on Saturday, rather than playing their a first-ever fixture in the EFL.

The game took place at Wolves’ Compton training ground, Moors agreeing to a change of venue after vandalism at the New Buck’s Head left the playing surface in need of further renovation work.

With no spectators present, a training ground feel to the game might have been expected, but neither side were there to go through the motions with places at stake for their respective opening league fixtures next weekend.

Whilst Carden’s team struggled in the early stages against a lively Moors attack, it was after falling behind to an 8th minute Andrew Dallas goal that they settled and then began to cause problems for Neil Ardley’s side.

Dallas’s goal came after an early flurry from Moors. Recent signing Josh Kelly was denied from a corner by a combination of the crossbar and goalkeeper Luke Pilling, and Pilling was alert to deny Dallas from the loose ball when a goal looked certain. He was not to be denied, however, and barely a minute after that miss, Dallas stroked home the opener past Pilling and into the bottom corner when he took Callum Maycock’s pass inside the penalty area.

The signs looked ominous for the Bucks under threatening skies, but the Moors onslaught, much like the cloudburst, never arrived.

The Bucks started to have some success, notably when they were able to get Devarn Green on the ball. Sam McLintock’s shot from 18 yards was held by Louis Moulden, and Flowers headed a free-kick over Moulden’s crossbar, but it wasn’t one-way traffic.

Bucks skipper Jordan Piggott’s excellent last-ditch challenge denied Dallas as he looked set to double the lead, but Carden and his staff were pleased with that they were seeing, midfielder Prince Ekpolo particularly praiseworthy.

Alas, the next goal, in the 38th minute, went the way of the Moors. Kelly and Dallas linked up neatly and Kelly’s precise pass set his strike partner free to race beyond a stranded Bucks back line and finish confidently past Pilling.

Two goals behind at the break, the next goal needed to go to the Bucks if the game was to remain a genuine contest, and they got it, five minutes after the restart. Another attack down the left, where Green was regularly testing James Clarke, resulted in a low ball into the middle being tucked away by Moore, beating a flailing Moulden to his left from close range.

Carden had been forced into a half-time reshuffle too; right-back Josh Dugmore’s calf was troubling him, so Robbie Evans replaced him, with Liam Nolan dropping into the centre of defence from midfield and Piggott loving to his right to cover the slot vacated by Dugmore.

That prompted a Moors riposte, and former Bucks loanee, ex-Shrewsbury Town man Ryan Barnett, was involved in much of it. Piggott headed away a dangerous Barnett cross for a corner and though the kick brought no reward, Barnett was soon to link up with Maycock, opening up a shooting lane; his effort was deflected, and looped over the crossbar.

Moore and McLintock made way for Kobe Jae Chong and a trialist around the hour mark, and after 63 minutes the Bucks were level. Flowers, a former Moors player, poses a huge threat at set-pieces, and although Moors skipper Callum Howe is a close physical match, Flowers used every inch of his 6ft 5in frame to win a header and beat Moulden to level from a free-kick.

Parity was restored, but it should quickly have been 3-2 to Moors, Barnett wasting a great chance when blazing over from 10 yards. Soon afterwards he was dumped unceremoniously to the turf by a Chong challenge, the resulting free-kick bringing no threat.

There were few chances for both sides in the time that remained. Nate Blissett, another former Moors player, dived in at the near post but his head couldn’t make contact with a cross from Green, however the substitutions made in the game’s final quarter couldn’t help either side find a decisive goal.

The respective managers expressed themselves reasonably satisfied with the outcome. Both Carden and Ardley felt the goals their sides conceded could have been avoided, whilst the Moors boss felt missed chances prevented his team establishing a comfortable lead.

The Bucks still need more cutting edge in the final third, but with illness and injury victims Matty Brown and Jason Oswell still to return there is a sense that Carden is close to knowing his first choice starting eleven, and ultimately that, and establishing fitness, are what pre-season is all about.

The phony wars are over; the first battle of a 46 game campaign awaits against Chorley on Saturday.

Teams

Telford: Pilling, Dugmore (Evans 46), Daniels (Bood 73), Piggott, Flowers, Nolan, Ekpolo (84), McLintock (Chong 60), Moore (Trialist 60), Green, Blissett (L.Baker 73).

Scorers: Moore (50), Flowers (63).

Solihull Moors: Moulden, Clarke, Trialist, Howe (c), Jones, Maycock, Kelleher (Gudger 46), Whelan, Barnett, Dallas (Sbarra 62), Kelly (Reid 62).

Scorers: Dallas (8), (38).

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