Not one for the neutral, but a game United grew into and deservedly won – scoring at arguably the perfect time. The first half lacked action of any note, with neither keeper being called into action. The second half Torquay dominated, with all the clear cut chances falling our way. We left it late but a well worked move and after some serendipity in the six yard box left the West Midlands with three points.
Player ratings (out of 10)
Gallifuoco 7 Anderson 8 McGinty 8 Rowe-Turner 8
Lathrope 7 Young 7 Verma 5
Reid 6 Keating 8 Sparkes 7
Subs: Harrad 7 Williams 6 Lee 7
Man of the match
The focus for both teams seemed to be on not conceding at any cost, and it has to be said that McGinty and Anderson consistently nullified any threat Solihull Moors posed – to the point they didn’t have a shot on target all match. Neither are particularly pretty footballers, but their commitment to the cause last night was top drawer. I’d give the MOM to McGinty, with Anderson a close second. McGinty is a solid leader on the pitch, and you could hear him saying the right things at the right times to those around him.
As mentioned, we were certainly looking to not concede rather than take the game to Solihull Moors until the last 15 minutes. That’s fair enough, given the circumstances, and when we do what we did last night in looks like a master-stroke. We were very direct and aerial for large portions, and this worked to a degree as Ruairi Keating chased everything and was a constant menace to their back four. That approach does nullify how much effect the likes of Young and Sparkes have however. When we started moving the ball through the midfield in the last 15 (admittedly as the game stretched), we looked consistently threatening and a nice move through the lines ultimately brought about the winner.
88 mins – It’s hard to recapture moments of such delirium in their fullest capacity, but the winner from Dan Sparkes was something that will live long in the memory – mainly because of the brilliant carnage that ensued between the players and fans behind the goal. Shaun Harrad picked the ball up with his back to goal and played in Lee down the right. His deep cross found the head of LRT on the far side. It was briefly cleared to Lathrope, who chipped it back in towards the six yard line. Williams and their defender went up, and it fell perfectly for Sparkes who nodded it past the keeper from roughly four yards out. It could be a defining moment in this campaign, and regardless of the shenanigans going on off the pitch at Plainmoor, the players last night showed they are committed to the shirt and to the club.
Ruairi Keating – In my opinion, this lad could be a real find. He chased numerous lost causes last night, kept their centre halves constantly on edge and his movement was very impressive. It suited our direct style at Damson Park, and when their back four did have the ball, his energy and relentless pressing set the tone for the rest of our attack. He’s excellent in the air for a relatively slight bloke, and on another night he could have scored a couple as well. I think most Gulls fans will always back a player who gives 100% from the first whistle to the last, and Keating is exactly that. His attitude, work rate and commitment were a vital element in a performance that led to what could be a very important result.
Solihull Moors, as most will know, were only promoted from the National League North last season, and I think most of their fans would have taken being 16th with six games to play. They are far from safe though judging from last night. The most worrying thing for their gaffer Liam McDonald will be the lack of mental toughness his players showed, particularly when under the cosh in the last 15-20 minutes. They’re currently 7 points above the relegation zone, but a couple of bad results over the next couple of weeks and they could be in for a real end of season battle to extend their Conference National stay to a second year.
Away Fans Perspective
Being based in Leicester, there is a real dearth when it comes to ‘local’ matches for a Gulls fan. Back in the heady days of League 2, there were 5-7 to pick from – easy enough to get to and not too much of a drain on the old petrol costs. Now there’s really only Lincoln and Solihull Moors that you’d constitute as local. I’d made it halfway last time before Storm Doris forced last month’s original fixture to be abandoned. Problems on the M69 last night made for an interesting start, but I did finally make it to Damson Park – only to encounter a sizable queue to get in as only two turnstiles were open.
The ground itself is ok – nothing special but does the job. I’m not a massive fan of non-segregation as I’d personally prefer to stand with the Yellow Army for atmosphere’s sake. But the Gulls who did make it to Solihull made themselves very much heard, and in the second half the stand behind the goal was jumping. I’ll certainly have very fond memories of the night though – tends to be the result that dictates that!