SOLIHULL Moors manager Tim Flowers says his side should have comfortably sealed their progression in the Scottish Challenge Cup after bowing out of the competition on penalties to Rangers Colts.
Moors were 3-1 to the good with just under 20 minutes to go, after Callum Howe and Adi Yussuf goals were added to by Darren Carter’s second-half strike.
But Rangers hit back through Albanian international Eros Grezda’s late double to force penalties, which the visitors edged 4-3 after misses from Terry Hawkridge and Gael Bigirimana.
Flowers says the defeat could, and should, have easily been avoided, blaming a lack of cutting edge and intelligence to see out the game as Solihull’s downfall.
“For the first 60 minutes I thought we were good at sticking to our game plan, if we’d have come off with five goals, it probably would’ve been a fair reflection at half time in terms of chances missed and created,” he said.
“I thought physically, as you would expect, we knocked them into next week.
“We ran out of gas as far as I’m concerned, player’s legs went and fitness became an issue then and we weren’t clever enough in terms of our experience levels at 3-1 up.
“We should have been absolutely out of sight, it could have been a cricket score.”
The returning Paul McCallum was first to go close for the hosts with a close-range header, before he acrobatically sent an effort over the bar.
McCallum brought about the opener just eight minutes in when his long throw was nodded home by Howe, giving Moors a lead for all of three minutes when Jamie Barjonas found the back of the net with a stunning strike.
Moors almost went back in front through their livewire McCallum, though he was unable to keep his effort down after being played through by Yussuf.
Nine minutes before the break, Solihull regained the lead when Carter’s free kick to the back post was headed back across goal by Howe for Yussuf to divert into the net.
The hosts appeared to be in command when a direct free kick by Carter was flashed over the wall and beyond Lewis Budinaukas from 25 yards out to give Moors a two-goal cushion.
Rangers did not allow themselves to get disheartened and found a lifeline when Grezda buried a low strike in the bottom corner.
With just six minutes remaining of normal time, Grezda popped up again to follow in after goalkeeper Ryan Boot had saved an initial shot to decide the game on the lottery of penalties.
Moors were always chasing parity after Hawkridge’s opening spot kick was saved, with Graeme Murty’s side scoring all four of their penalties prior to Bigirimana’s deciding miss.
Solihull were beaten by a 95th-minute strike by Remy Clerima away to Maidenhead United in a 1-0 loss in the National League, and will seek to get back to winning ways at home to Dagenham & Redbridge on Saturday (3pm).