Big scores but play-off heartbreak for sullen Solihull

The play-offs – a great way to get promoted; a terrible way to end the season if Bradford Park Avenue do you over in extra time. As I just found out.

It’s like I’ve just been served a cold cup of sick in one of those really cheap and horrible cafés outside train stations that have those electric blue lights behind a grill to kill flies. After winning one of the most bizarre but euphoric play-off semi-finals against a Histon side that finished above me by just two goals, I was made to play the final at Bradford PA’s Horsfall Stadium, which seems a bit of a cheek given that any other league above the Conference North plays its play-off finals at neutral venues.

After falling behind on 13 minutes, Ross Wilson equalised with his 18th league goal of the season on 27 minutes. It was deserved. Bradford PA turned the screw after the break but it remained 1-1 at full time. We went behind just four minutes into extra time, and then gave away a penalty on 107 minutes, which PA scored. I made my final substitution. Jamar Dobson made it 3-2 with eight minutes left, but then my centre back Dominic Langdon got injured and had to be brought off. PA inevitably scored through the striker Langdon was supposed to have been marking and secured a 4-2 win, leaving us to face a third season in the Conference North.

However, simply making the final looked unlikely after losing the semi-final first leg 1-0 at home to Histon. It was a smash and grab performance – we dominated and wasted chances; they scored with three minutes to go with their only shot on target. I wasn’t happy. I may have sworn and put my ‘page up’ key out of action for a while. It should really get fixed but I don’t use that key so much.

I needn’t have worried. Because this happened:

Screenshot of a 6-2 win for Solihull Moors at Histon.

That’s right. Langdon got us level on aggregate justsix minutes into the tie and not-so-Junior English put us ahead later in the half. Langdon made it 3-0 on the night on the stroke of half time, and then goals from English and Tommy Taylor made it 5-0 with 26 minutes still to play. Although Histon pulled a goal back almost immediately, English completed his hat-trick just a couple of minutes later to make it 6-1. Histon grabbed a consolation near the end but it finished 6-2 to Solihull and 6-3 on aggregate.

It was, without doubt, the most remarkable play-off game I had ever been involved in on any version of Football or Championship Manager. It got me thinking back to times when I may have scored six goals as the away side, and I don’t even think that’s ever happened to me before.

It wasn’t the only big score of the night – check out the other semi-final:

Screenshot showing Bradford PA's 7-1 win over Gainsborough Trinity.

You can see why I didn’t fancy playing Bradford PA in the final after they came back from a 2-0 deficit to trounce Gainsborough Trinity 7-1 in their second leg. Ultimately I have very few complaints with how the final went, but it’s still a kick in the teeth not to get promoted after a pretty solid season:

Chart showing Solihull Moor's2013-14 league progress.

When I last blogged there were still six league games to go. I got a great 1-0 win at Guiseley, who were above me and in the play-offs at the time, and I followed that up with a good 2-0 home win over mid-table Tamworth. A 2-0 defeat at Harrogate didn’t go down well after I’d had more than 20 shots on goal, but we grabbed a decent 2-1 win at Stalybridge to keep us in the play-offs by a couple of points going into the final two games of the season.

What made the 6-2 win at Histon so remarkable was that it followed an incredible 6-1 win over Gainsborough just a few weeks earlier. Gainsborough were just below me and a win for them would have seen me drop out of the play-offs with one game left. Tyler Collishaw – a fringe player for the entire season and an average rating of around 6.55 (with no goals or assists from roughly 10 starts and 10 sub appearances) turned in a man of the match performance, scoring two and setting up another in a completely unprecedented rout. It was a game in which everything hit the back of the net.

The final game of the season – after we had secured a play-off spot – was a 0-0 bore draw at home to Vauxhall Motors. It was a result that actually relegated the side from Ellsmere Port. Had they won, they’d have survived. Meanwhile, Hednesford scored in the 91st and 93rd minute at Colwyn Bay to turn a 2-1 defeat into a 3-2 victory to stay up at the Welsh team’s expense.

Ultimately, the board seem happy with what we’ve achieved this season:

A summary showing largely positive progress bars.

You’d think the board would offer me another year on my contract to say thanks, wouldn’t you? Well, that they did… but £50 less than what I was earning. That’s right – they considered my current deal of £400 p/w and chose to reduce it to £350 p/w, to reward me for such a thrilling campaign.

In all honesty I’m not sure I’ll be staying at Solihull Moors next season. It’s not just down to petulance over £50 that doesn’t exist or even have any bearing on the game whatsoever; it’s just that there are top players like Connor Roberts-Nurse and Ross Wilson who I know I won’t be able to keep for next season.

And with the club more than £250,000 in debt because of its pathetic weekly attendances of 350, I’m anticipating a further reduction in my already meagre weekly wage budget – making a repeat of this season’s feats highly improbable.

I’ll take time to decide whether I will spit my dummy out.

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