Two Reds, Four Goals, Three Points
Automated Technology Group Stadium
01.01.2018 // 15:00
Solihull Moors made it consecutive comeback victories in a tempestuous encounter at the Automated Technology Group Stadium.
The referee was the centre of attention in the first half, booking several players and producing two red cards, Adrian Clifton and Jamey Osborne the recipients.
Thankfully the football took over in the second period as an Oladapo Afolayan brace either side of a Darren Carter wonder strike secured back-to-back victories for the first time since April.
Yates made three changes following Saturday's win with Jermaine Hylton returning after suspension and Oladapo Afolayan restored to the starting XI, George Carline and Paul Green both dropping to the bench.
The third change was in goal where Sheridan Martinez, signed from Telford United prior to the Barrow fixture, replaced Max O'Leary who was recalled by Bristol City ahead of their fixture at Villa Park.
The opening 20 minutes was where much of the bad blood started with the days officials, Shepherd Murombedzi first in the firing line. As he went to challenge substitute Christian Smith, he slipped and went crashing through the midfielder. He rightly received a yellow card.
It was the reaction of the Maidenhead United players that blew situations up, expecting red for Murombedzi and bookings for Afolayan and Jamie Reckord who caught Rene Steer and Ryan Peters respectively while trying to block clearances up field.
They were at it again on 16 minutes when Kwame Thomas tried to poke home Liam Daly's header at the back post. Unfortunately for Thomas, keeper Carl Petney got his hands to the ball and he could only toe-poke the keeper's chest. The yellow card suggested the referee was being easily swayed.
It left a sour taste on the game early on with the visiting fans making an almighty racket about what they felt was a real injustice. Things were not helped when the home support believed Jermaine Hylton should have been given a penalty after taking on Rene Steer. Nothing given.
It was easy to forget that there was actually a football match going on so Jamey Osborne's volley woke a few people up. Six minutes later and The Moors should have been ahead, Petney reacting superbly to deny Hylton's effort after good work Afolayan. From the resulting corner, Kwame Thomas could only guide the ball wide of the far post.
The Magpies started get themselves into the game with ten minutes left to play of the first half, Harry Pritchard giving Martinez a little something to do before Petney denied Liam Daly once more. Pritchard fired an effort over the stand, Christian Smith's effort was deflected into the car park and Adrian Clifton ought to have done better with a headed chance.
Controversy ensued once more on 44 minutes when Paul Marsden issued two red cards in the space of two minutes.
The first was given when Jamey Osborne's sliding challenge was met by Adrian Clifton's late and reckless attempt to win the ball, his studs catching Osborne's face.
Osborne then saw red himself for two bookings. His first was never a yellow, Osborne sliding along the ground to poke the ball to a team-mate and an opposition player tripping over him after the ball had been won. An awful decision.
However, Osborne clearly forgot about his yellow card seconds later when he chased a loose touch, steaming into an opposition player and receiving his marching orders as a result.
A couple of players could be heard sharing a joke about the game being 'all about the ref' prior to the half-time whistle which prompted both sets of supporters to chant 'you're not fit to referee'.
Just 20 players lined up for the second half and it was The Moors who began the stronger, Jermaine Hylton racing onto the ball and feeding Darren Carter who curled just over the bar.
Despite having spent much of the game in the ascendancy, we fell behind on 56 minutes when a Fiacre Kelleher misread a left-wing cross to allow Moses Emmanuel free to head home from close range.
A couple of weeks ago we may have collapsed but we made of sterner stuff these days. Petney was forced into more action when Afolayan flicked Jamie Reckord's cross towards goal. Hylton's follow-up was blocked before Murombedzi's shot may have hit a passing car.
Despite the recent upturn in performances, Oladapo Afolayan has not had things all his own way of late. He rarely looks a player short of confidence, however, and that was evident as he drove inside from the right, cut through two players and thrashed the ball through Petney and into the back of the net. A moment of brilliance and his first goal for over two months.
He was outdone two minutes later as Solihull Moors took the lead. Darren Carter loves a crack from distance and it finally paid off as he took control of the ball 30 yards from goal and curled the ball powerfully into the top corner. Petney had no chance and I have to admit to almost squealing with delight at what I had just witnessed.
From that moment, Solihull Moors never looked like being pegged back and the third came on 72 minutes. Jermaine Hylton turned his man near the halfway line and drove into the box, cutting back onto his right foot and seeing his effort blocked. He weighed up the options and found the run of Afolayan who slotted home to make it double figures for the season.
Pritchard did his best to get Maidenhead back into the game but Daly blocked his strike while Martinez was thankful Sean Marks bundled Harold Otamedey's low, teasing cross into his arms. Afolayan had the final effort of the game from 25 yards and I'm still unsure whether it was a woeful effort or whether he was attempting to time waste.
Either way, Mr.Marsden blew his full-time whistle and Solihull Moors could lap up the supporters' applause at another hard-fought victory.
The victory takes us off the bottom of the table and into 21st position, the gap between us and survival now at 7 points.
It's league leaders Macclesfield Town next.
Starting XI: Martinez; K.Green, Daly, Kelleher, Reckord; Murombedzi, Carter, Osborne; Afolayan (Carline), Thomas (P.Green), Hylton. Unused: Bowen, Frempah, Asante.