Grimsby Town will be eyeing up an immediate return to the Football League when they take on first time hopefuls Solihull Moors in Sunday’s National League playoff final.

By Amos Murphy

Football League stalwarts Grimsby meet first-time hopefuls Solihull

Neal Ardley will continue his search to guide Solihull Moors to the Football League when his side take on Grimsby Town at the London Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Having dropped out of the fourth tier at the end of last season, the Mariners will be keen to end their one season hiatus out of the Football League when they travel to the capital this weekend.

Unable to prevent Grimsby from the drop, Paul Hurst stayed on as boss of the Lincolnshire side, with the 47-year-old on the brink of promotion redemption.

While their playoff final appearance represents a huge success for Grimsby, they had been in the mix for an automatic promotion spot, with the Mariners as high as third at the turn of the year.

Instead, a second half of the season drop off meant Grimsby were forced to settle for the playoffs, where they’ve enjoyed late drama in their two fixtures so far.

Leaving it late, twice, against Notts County in the Mariners’ eliminator fixture, Grimsby had been losing until the 96th minute of added time, before Gavan Holohan netted a last gasp equaliser.

Not content with the one dramatic moment at Meadow Lane, Emmanuel Dieseruvwe popped up in one minute from the end of extra time to send Grimsby through to the semi-finals.

Embracing the chaos in their last four clash against Wrexham, Grimsby prevailed in a frantic nine goal thriller against favourites Wrexham, with Luke Waterfall netting the eventual winner from the 5-4 clash in the dying embers of extra time.

Operating with a sense of destiny during the playoffs, Football League stalwarts Grimsby will come up against a side who have never graced the top four tiers of English football in Solihull.

Finishing third in the regular season, Solihull qualified for the semi-finals directly, where they met Chesterfield at Damson Park.

Goals from Andrew Dallas, Alex Gudger and Callum Howe helped Solihull come from behind against Chesterfield, after Joe Quigley had given the Spireites a first half lead.

Composed and controlled, even after falling behind, Solihull earned great plaudits for the manner in which they overcame the deficit, with many pointing towards the Moors as suitable candidates for promotion.

Performances which haven't come as a surprise to many, given their form heading into the playoffs, with the Moors having lost just one of their final 22 league games of the campaign.

An astonishing record, which is made even better by the fact their only league defeat since the beginning of January came against champions Stockport County.

Overcoming the league’s in-form side could prove difficult for Grimsby, not least because of their wretched form against the Moors this season.

Of their two league clashes so far, Solihull have won both, firstly triumphing 2-0 at Damson Park in November, before a Kyle Hudlin brace helped them take all three points from their clash at Blundell Park in March.

Prior to the current campaign, Grimsby had only faced Solihull twice before, with both clashes coming during a 2015/16 FA Trophy tie.

Progressing from that clash, Grimsby also enjoyed success at the end of the season, with the Mariners earning promotion via the playoffs – a lucky omen, perhaps?

For Solihull, the 2015/16 campaign also represented the last time Solihull earned promotion, with the Moors finishing the season as champions of the National League North.

It completed Solihull’s journey up the non-league pyramid, having spent nine years in the sixth tier after the merger between Moors Green and Solihull Borough in 2007.

Sunday’s clash marks a historic moment for a quintessentially non-league football club in Solihull, who will be looking to follow in the footsteps left behind by Harrogate Town and Sutton United in reaching League Two for the first time.

Whereas for Grimsby, the Football League is somewhere they have operated many times before, with Sunday’s meeting a chance to right the wrongs of last season and bounce back at the first attempt.

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