Salford City resume the Vanarama National League campaign with a first trip to fourth-placed Solihull Moors on Saturday (KO 15:00).
It is already set to be a definitive weekend with leaders Leyton Orient travelling to third-placed Wrexham, so this clash between second and fourth adds to the weekend’s excitement.
Wrexham, Orient and ourselves were three of the sides expected to be challenging around the top of the table, but for many Solihull Moors probably won’t have been around that cluster.
Under the management of Tim Flowers, Moors have really been the surprise package of the season having narrowly avoided relegation last season, and what would have been the deadly ‘second season syndrome’ after they won the National League North in 2015-16 and with it promotion to the National League for the first time.
There is certainly no fluke about what’s happening in the league as Moors are also in the Emirates FA Cup Second Round next week where they host Blackpool on Friday night, and are likely to be coming up against a former Moors and Salford fan favourite in Michael Nottingham.
Mark Yates did a good job last season in keeping Moors up before leaving for League Two Macclesfield Town in the summer, with Flowers filling the position. A good number of last season’s squad stayed and Flowers has brought in a few additions who have settled well.
After the close shave of last season it was important for Moors to make a good start and three wins on the bounce set that momentum rolling. Consecutive defeats against Fylde, Sutton and Harrogate threatened to upset that but they were followed by a win against Wrexham and all in all, Solihull appear to have the making of most clubs in the division.
Home form is strong with just one defeat of five coming at the ATG Stadium, and the difference at the moment between being in amongst the top three and sitting just outside has been defeats away at some of the bigger clubs in the division (Fylde, Leyton Orient and Barnet).
Routine wins have come in the FA Cup though with 2-0 victories at Witton Albion and Hitchin Town rewarding Moors with that Blackpool tie in front of the cameras on Friday.
Moors will be looking to go into that game with a strong unbeaten run behind them – there won’t be many grumbles or much attention paid to Tuesday night’s Birmingham Senior Cup defeat at Nuneaton with a below-strength side. That apart, Moors are unbeaten in seven league and FA Cup games dating back to a 2-0 loss at Barnet.
In the league they have won three of the last five, with the draws both being 0-0s at home in their last two outings. We put our own pair of home draws behind us with a 4-0 win against Aldershot Town last Saturday.
One to watch – Matty Stenson
The striker signed for Moors in October from Leamington where he scored eight goals in 13 appearances this season since signing from Barwell in the summer. Prior to that he had been with Leicester Road, so he is a bit of an unknown quantity and scored his first goal for the club in last weekend’s 3-0 win at Braintree Town.
Ably assisted up top with Adi Yussuf and Danny Wright, Moors have plenty of firepower going forward.
We signed the attack-minded right-back from Solihull in 2016 ahead of our debut in the Vanarama National League North, and with Nottingham fresh from winning the title with Moors.
He made over 100 appearances for Marcus Bignot’s Solihull in three years at the club, and made just short of a century in his time with us, scoring 15 goals too, before leaving for Blackpool in the summer.
This season he has scored twice in 22 appearances for The Seasiders, and played in their League Cup tie against Arsenal at The Emirates!