THE magic of the FA Cup resumes this weekend and lower league lover Gab Sutton (@_FootbalLab) has his say on the televised tussle between Solihull Moors and Blackpool
Solihull Moors v Blackpool | Friday 30th November 2018, 19:55 | BBC
Solihull Moors and Blackpool kick-off the weekend’s FA Cup Second Round action on Friday night.
These two sides will relish the attention of the nation, because it has thus far been a good season for both.
Solihull Moors, who have reached this stage of the FA Cup for the second time, are fifth in the National League and on course to enjoy their best ever season in their current incarnation.
Of course, no season at Blackpool can truly be considered great until the ownership of the club is transferred to better hands, but Terry McPhillips is certainly maximising his on-field resources.
Who will prosper on the big night?
Flowers’ side blossoming
Whenever Solihull Moors win an FA Cup game, the terrace favourite is: “we’ll be running round Touchwood with the cup!” to the tune of “Coming Round the Mountain”.
The sight of captain Darren Carter serenading the local shopping centre with the prestigious trophy in May might be unlikely to come to fruition, but it’s hard not to be impressed with the progress the club is making.
This time last season, the Moors were bottom of the National League, but Mark Yates took over and inspired a return of 12 wins from 29 to keep them up, prior to leaving for Macclesfield.
Chairman and boyhood fan Darryl Eales, who did excellent work at Oxford, earmarked this campaign as one of consolidation as the club steadily adapts to the fifth-tier, on and off the field.
Manager Tim Flowers however, has not changed too much of the setup from the second half of last season and continued momentum sees them in the mix for a top seven finish; victory on Friday would certainly boost the coffers to aid their unexpected promotion push.
Solid Moors rearguard
Solihull Moors are one of the National League’s clean sheet specialists.
They have kept an outstanding 11 shut-outs this term, with only AFC Fylde keeping more.
Most impressively, their most recent clean sheet came against arguably a League One calibre attack in Salford City, with whom they drew 0-0.
Goalkeeper Ryan Boot has been in inspired form since joining from Port Vale; he has even been man-of-the-match in certain games in which Moors have conceded, like September’s 1-0 defeat to Hartlepool, which was decided by an unstoppable strike from the opposition.
In front of Boot is centre-backs Liam Daly, who offers fine leadership qualities next to Alex Gudger, who’s brave defending has made him a revelation since joining from Brackley.
Kyle Storer, who captained Cheltenham to the National League title in 2015-16, offers plenty of bite in midfield next to Carter.
The latter, who offers sound positional awareness as well as a set piece threat, has only been at the club since 2017 but his achievements with Birmingham City – a club that some Moors fans also support – has enabled him to become an influential figure quicker than would ordinarily be the case.
Blackpool had won their last five in all competitions before Tuesday's trip to Doncaster and their impressive form has been built on a strong spine.
Mark Howard is one of the best goalkeepers in League One, even if he had to recover very quickly from a slight slip in the first half of Saturday’s 3-0 win over Burton.
Sheffield United loanee Ben Heneghan had formed an imperious centre-back pairing with Curtis Tilt, before more recently Donervon Daniels has come in to form a back-three.
Inspirational captain Jay Spearing offers relentless tenacity in midfield, which should ensure the Tangerines match the work ethic of their hosts.
Up top, Joseph Dodoo leaves defenders extinct with his direct runs in from the left channel to support the lanky Armand Gnanduillet, who is enjoying arguably the best goalscoring form of his career at this level with four in five.
Interestingly, both of Blackpool’s wing-backs will have played against old clubs in cup competitions this term, if Michael Nottingham starts on Friday.
Former Arsenal youth product Marc Bola, who offers thrust and quality from the left, recently played in the narrow 2-1 EFL Cup loss to Unai Emery’s side.
Nottingham, a powerful presence on the right, played 106 games at Damson Park and cleaned up at the end of season awards after Moors won the National League North title in 2016.
Those who buy into the sense of fate and romance that comes with the FA Cup might be intrigued by RoyalPanda’s 8/1 on Nottingham to score anytime.
The 29-year-old has scored two goals in 11 league and cup appearances this term – and bagged 11 goals in all forms for Salford in the 2016-17 campaign, which suggests he knows where the net is.
The betting angle
For our best bet however, we’ll take BetVictor’s 11/10 on Both Teams To Score – No.
Both sides are set up to defend stoutly then counter-attack at pace, which suggests the first goal will be crucial.
If Solihull Moors score it, they have a rear-guard well-equipped to keep the Fylde-coast visitors at bay.
If Blackpool bag the opener, Dodoo should get more space between the lines to make the type of runs he did in recent victories over Southend and Burton, which may see the favourites take control.
Given that these teams have kept a combined 24 clean sheets in all competitions, a goalless stalemate is not out of the question either.
Solihull Moors v Blackpool – Both Teams To Score – No (11/10 BetVictor)