While Sutton’s record since Paul Doswell took over as manager is hugely impressive, their success rate in the first game of the season could hardly be described similarly, and that record was extended to one win in nine games as Solihull Moors came out on top in the battle of last season’s North and South Division champions.
It wasn’t quite as chastening as U’s debut in the National League South, when they were swept aside 5-0 by Woking, but it was still a disappointing start as U’s failed to make the most of a dominant first half display, and then struggled to make any impact after Solihull had taken the lead for the second time early in the second half.
Ross Stearn blazed a shot high and wide, and Dan Fitchett glanced a Stearn free kick just wide as U’s continued to press for an opening goal, but Solihull’s defence, in which Liam Daly was a towering presence, managed to clear anything else that came their way, and eight minutes before half time the visitors struck with pretty much their first attack. U’s felt hard done by as Stearn appeared to be fouled on the edge of the Solihull penalty area, but referee Carl Brook waved play on and a counter attack saw Darryl Knights exchange passes with Stefan Moore and pull back a low cross which ran through to Beswick, who placed a low shot just inside the far post.
U’s response was immediate, as Stearn received a short corner on the right and his low cross fell to Dean Beckwith, whose shot found the net despite the attempts of Omari Sterling-James on the line. Before half time they could even have led, but a slight deflection to a Dan Wishart cross just took the ball behind Craig Eastmond, who, off balance, could only sky his shot over the bar.
The early stages of the second half suggested a similar game, with Stearn cutting in from the left and driving a shot just over the top from 25 yards, but ten minutes after the break a Connor Franklin cross from the left was only cleared as far as Sterling-James, whose crisp volley went under Ross Worner who would have hoped to do better.
U’s response was to replace a defender, Simon Downer, with a striker, Chris Dickson, and at first they continued to put the defence under pressure as they looked for a second equaliser. Dickson worked one chance for himself with some neat skill but then shot wildly, and slowly U’s threat evaporated. Thirteen minutes from the end Andy Brown burst through as U’s looked for offside, and also looked as though he might have handled the ball as he brought it under control, but with no whistle he shot low past Worner to secure the points.
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