Solihull and Gateshead out to avenge heartbreaks

Solihull Moors and Gateshead are separated by more than 200 miles, but they will be united on Saturday in their attempts to make up for crushing disappointment.

Just five days ago at Wembley, Solihull were a penalty shoot-out away from a place in the English Football League, only to lose to Bromley.

Gateshead could only wish they had made it that far.

Their play-off spot was taken away due to the EFL announcing that they had not satisfied the criteria for possible promotion.

But both sides have a chance to end the season on a glorious high as they meet in the FA Trophy final (16:15 BST).

For Moors manager Andy Whing, the task is simple - to try to rally his players for an immediate response.

After giving his squad a couple of days off after that penalty heartache, he gathered them together for a few beers to chat through what happened.

With that behind them, Whing wants to be leaving Wembley as winners.

"To come off the back of such a disappointment, we want a nicer feeling this time coming away from Wembley," he told BBC Radio WM.

"If that gives us extra motivation, then that's brilliant and the players will have learned from that massive experience.

"Then we can give it a right good go."

Solihull players after losing on pens at Wembley
[Rex Features]

'Everything about Solihull progressed so much'

Defeat to Bromley was the second time in three seasons that Solihull have come up agonisingly short of reaching the EFL for the first time.

However, Moors have come a long way in a short time given that they were only founded in 2007.

They are aiming to take 10,000 fans to the national stadium for their first appearance in the FA Trophy final.

Victory would represent the most significant achievement to date in the club's relatively short history.

Defender James Clarke was one of a number of players who made it to a local shopping centre this week to drum up more support and interest in the team.

"I've been here three years and the fanbase has grown and everything about Solihull has progressed so much in such a short space of time," he said.

"If we keep doing well on the pitch, the fans will come with that as well."

'Little club in a big city'

As Solihull attempt to get over on-field disappointment, Gateshead players and staff head down to London nursing off-field grievances.

The two clubs actually finished one place apart in the final National League standings with Solihull fifth, and the north east club one place and one point behind them.

They should have met in a play-off eliminator in the West Midlands, only for the Heed to be kicked out for failing to meet the entry criteria for membership of the EFL.

The club had failed to secure a "10-year security of tenure" at the International Stadium' by the March deadline, so they could not fulfil their play-off spot.

It is three weeks since the league season finished and now Gateshead have the chance to take out their frustration.

While for interim manager Rob Elliot, it is the opportunity for a fine season to end in a more fitting manner.

"For the lads to finish off by playing in an occasion for what’s been a brilliant season is the least they deserve," he told BBC Radio Newcastle.

"Hopefully we can go off for the break on a high and let this be the last memory of what’s been a brilliant season."

Greg Olley playing at Wembley
Greg Olley captained Gateshead in the 2023 FA Trophy final loss to FC Halifax Town [Rex Features]

It is the second straight year that the Tynesiders have made it to Wembley for this fixture, having lost to FC Halifax Town 12 months ago.

Their Durham-born captain Greg Olley, who has been with the club for six years, could not get his hands on the trophy that day.

But Olley, who did lead them to the National League North title in 2022, recognises what a special achievement this could be.

Sandwiched between those two sporting pillars of north east life, Newcastle United and Sunderland, he knows that it is a constant battle for attention for the Heed.

“I’ve lifted one trophy and it’s a really good feeling and you want to do that for the rest of your career," he said

"We are only a little club in the middle of a big city and it’s extra special to everyone here that we could win something nationwide at the national ground."