I’ll get the cliché clang out of the way immediately, if you’d have offered me that point before kick-off, I’d have bitten your hand off. Make no mistake, Barrow, as always, is a tough place to go – I did actually predict we would go one further today and secure the win, we were so close, but it wasn’t to be.
It’s fair to say it wasn’t a phenomenal performance from a Torquay side still riddled with injuries, but it was a marked improvement. The defence, with the exception of one lapse of concentration, was well drilled and organised. The midfield had class, grit and wing-play, three elements we’ve lacked in abundance this season. We looked a little light up front, but otherwise, a performance that certainly left me more encouraged than concerned.
An electric first twenty minutes saw us a goal ahead and with the entirety of the possession and play, we managed the rest of the game well, unlucky not to double our lead on a couple of occasions, followed by the inevitable sucker punch. Late goals are becoming part of the parcel for Torquay fans, we have to address this. A naive approach to the importance of concentration has undone us countless times in the past four years; we have to instil the determination to see these games through…
Torquay break the dead-lock
Anderson 6 Gowling 8 McGinty 6 Efete 7
Young 8 Evans 6 Dowling 7
Reid 9 Gray 7 Pittman 7
Subs: Keating 4 Myrie-Williams 5
Man of the Match:
I recognise he divides opinion and to a point I can understand why, but I’m a fan of Jamie Reid. He gets his head down and works hard, with glimpses of quality that on a good day, he shows consistently. Today was one of those days; he was our best outlet down the left wing, which incidentally I still don’t believe is a beneficial place to play him. He beat his full-back time and time again, offering creative flair and some wicked crosses into the box. He’ll keep his place in GO’s team on that showing. He’s a few goals off winning the doubters over, in my opinion.
Using the beautiful “spine of the team” analogy, Josh Gowling represents a majority of our vertebrae – his presence makes such a difference. He must have won nearly 50 headers at the back and there’s nothing better than a defender that can play it out, an assuring performance.
In addition, Young and Dowling makes for a cracking centre-midfield partnership, they both have such class and I’ll expect to see both of them plying their trade in the higher divisions next season. Dowling succumbed to a groin injury in the 17th minute, coincidentally the time our complete dominance faltered to ‘on-top’
49 from a Torquay perspective – legends
The Tactics Board:
I liked Gary Owers’ approach to the game, he opted for what appeared on the face of it, a defensive selection, but as the team lined out 4-3-3, I could see where he was coming from with Evans almost shielding the back four and the other midfielders leaning towards the attacking element of their duties. It worked on the most part; Barrow really didn’t threaten us much, with Dorel not having much more to do than pluck a few balls out of the air.
Barrow are a wicked team, to say you know what you’re going to get at Holker Street is an understatement. They opted for a 5-3-2 and posed absolutely nothing in the first half, with the exception of long throws which became notorious by the end of the game. They have some enormous players and naturally they play to this strength. I’m struggling to pick an individual that stood out for them really, Moussa Diarra perhaps, a familiar name and he kept Ruairi quiet all match.
I’m at a loss how to describe the referee today, on the one part, he was incredibly favourable to Torquay, he gave us countless decisions that I would have been aggrieved to see go against us, but on the other hand he made a couple of very questionable calls. One in particular saw that man Diarra completely mistime a challenge on Evans, bang in the centre of the park. It looked like a red to me, and the protests from a furious Torquay team matched my suspicions, but a yellow was awarded.
What else? 92nd minute, Torquay-Time. A woeful ball by Barrow substitute Paul Bignot eluded everybody in the Torquay defence, bumbling its way through to Harrison at the far post with a simple tap-in. It was especially gut-wrenching because I just genuinely didn’t think we deserved it, about seven Barrow fans chirped words to the effect “you were mugged” on my way out, it really did feel that way.
Oh, Ruairi, how I felt for him today. I’m his biggest fan, but worryingly he looked blunt of pace and out of his depth today. He entered the fray on the 17th minute and from one miss-pass to the next, he really struggled through that game. He was caught in possession countless times and brought very little to the front line. There’s an exceptional talent in there, but I do think he’s confidence lead – perhaps due to the young age, he needs to find his form and get back to doing what he does best.
Away Day Overview:
I drove yesterday, so not as much of an experience as usual. We arrived early and had a couple of drinks in the adjacent “Soccer Bar” which was friendly and welcoming. Parking was free, which is always a plus. Otherwise, there is absolutely nothing around the ground; it does make me wonder just what exactly was lucrative enough for Barrow’s investors to invest.
Holker Street is a torrid stadium; you could be excused for referring to it as a dump. The estuary and North Sea are minutes away and you feel the wind, chill and rain rip in across the ground, it doesn’t matter what season it is, you can guarantee it will be windy! It really is in need of a re-fit, you weave your way through what can only be described as ruins to get to the away end, which is bizarre in itself.
The atmosphere was flat, it’s impossible to generate anything in an open terrace and as much as the Yellow Army tried, the sound would just seep away into the wind. Upon leaving the ground, countless Barrow fans were keen to offer us a pleasant journey home, which I’m always impressed to see. They were an extremely friendly bunch from the minute we arrived, to be fair.
I’m not sure about that!
This was never going to be an immediate fix, Gary and Martin have an enormous job on their hands but I saw some really encouraging signs yesterday. The defence and midfield made a ten-fold improvement on my previous fixture and it I was reassured to see it.
We desperately need that one win; the whole mentality will change when we get it. Three days after the appointment was probably a big ask for GO and MK to have made a big difference, but I think Macclesfield at home offers a much more realistic challenge and a platform to judge them. Let’s see what the week brings.
Macclesfield Town, Home, Saturday 23rd September, 15:00.