Gary Newbon: Non-league shambles hits Solihull Moors in battle for priceless place in EFL

Shambles. That is the only way to describe the National League’s handling of the vital play-offs to a club chasing a place in the EFL as far as Saturday evening announcements were being made to Solihull Moors.

And a shambles the way the FA have scrapped replays for their major cup competition.

All this when I should be leading on Coventry City’s magnificent FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United where they lost a penalty shoot-out at Wembley for the second year running.

Let me start with the National League rulers, who gave me the impression on Saturday night that they could not organise a p***-up in a brewery!

Maybe the right hand did not know what the left hand was doing that evening.

Solihull Moors finished fifth and therefore qualified for the play-offs. They were due to play the sixth-placed team, Gateshead, at home tonight and the winners would then play Barnet, who finished second, away on Saturday.

The team that emerged winners from that will play at Wembley on May 5 for a place in the EFL League Two next season.

Meanwhile, Altrincham, who finished fourth, were due to play Halifax, who finished sixth, tomorrow with those winners playing Bromley, who finished third, away on Sunday. Got it so far?

That is what should have happened.

Then it was announced that Gateshead’s council-owned ground is not up to EFL standards so it was announced a bye would be given to Solihull.

Then came a further announcement. Solihull would NOT get a bye but play Halifax at home tomorrow instead (7pm), and eventually it emerged the winners would play Barnet after all in the next stage.

The National League should have known the problems over the Gateshead ground. The club had been play-off contenders for some time.

The League finally explained that the rules state that, in the event of a club being removed from the play-offs and not being replaced, the structure of the draw should be adjusted based on final league positions...

It would have been good if that had been explained earlier, instead of the shambles that followed!

The FA have obviously caved in to the top clubs by scrapping FA Cup replays. The EFL had no say. It is a shambles because the big clubs are not involved in rounds one and two, so why could they not have left replays in rounds one and two (plus possibly three)?

So, let’s now concentrate on the team of the weekend, Coventry City.

What a magnificent effort by coming back from 3-0 down in their Wembley FA Cup semi-final to mighty Manchester United and having a goal disallowed in extra time by such a narrow offside margin.

The Sky Blues then suffered the heartache of a 4-2 defeat by penalty shoot-out. Cruelly the same fate as last season’s Championship play-off final to Luton Town.

If football had a George Medal, you would surely give it to Coventry City. They may not make the play-offs again this season but Mark Robins keeps rebuilding his teams like his old Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

He has certainly found new strikers who score in Ellis Simms and Haji Wright. Let’s hope he hangs on to Callum O’Hare. That may be difficult.

Remarkably, Aston Villa are the only English team left in Europe. Their narrow win against Lille was largely down to goalkeeper Emi Martinez with two penalty shoot-out saves, but his strange antics, albeit successful, earned him two yellow cards and he is suspended for the first leg of their semi-final.

He will miss the tie at Villa Park on May 2 against the Greek team Olympiacos.

This may be a good quiz question: Which player received two yellow cards in the same match and then did not receive red to be sent off?

I must admit I was confused watching the match why Martinez did not see red, but like most people I did not know that the law had been changed so that yellows in the shoot-out did not count to two yellows equalling a red.

It is his total in the Europa Conference League that has brought the suspension.

Villa’s 3-1 win over Bournemouth strengthens their claim for a fourth- place finish in the Premier League and the last spot in the European Champions League. It is not certain but it looks just like four places now for English clubs.

They still have some tricky fixtures left but they are in a good place.

I wish I could write the same for Birmingham City who slid back into the relegation zone – one point from safety behind Sheffield Wednesday who won 3-1 at Blackburn on Sunday. Two games to go.

Birmingham are away to Huddersfield (right below them) on Saturday and then at home to Norwich on the last day. Wednesday have West Bromwich Albion at home and then Sunderland away. It’s tight.

I went to Leicester on Saturday. The Baggies lost 2-1 but missed a hatful of chances. They should make the play-offs.