A tale as old as time itself. Torquay went to a better side, probably just about shaded the game, spurned countless chances to score and then chucked in a soft goal at the death. “Déjà vu all over again” as the great Yogi Berra might’ve said, if he’d had sufficient interest in a fairly unspectacular and largely meaningless game of fifth tier English football.
There’s probably not a great deal of similarity between the legendary former Yankees and Mets coach and the current Gulls manager Garry Owers. In fact next to none in all honesty. But Owers could do with drilling another of Yogi’s great paradoxes into this United side – “it ain’t over ’til it’s over”.
That’s nine points we’ve dropped so far this season now through goals coming in the dying embers of a game, and it’s just not good enough.
The more positive news is that this was actually the best I’ve seen Torquay play in a long time, and a far cry from the last time I saw them at Bromley. The first half was something of a tactical battle with neither team creating chances in huge numbers. But on the stroke of half-time, a reverse pass from Luke Young set free Jamie Reid, who reached the by-line and drilled the ball across goal for Josh McQuoid to simply tap the ball into a gaping net for 1-0. Watching our new winger lean back and balloon the ball over the bar and out of the ground, one started to wonder if what United actually needed was an exorcist rather than a new manager.
The second half saw the Gulls begin to edge the game as the home side’s frustrations increased with each passing minute. Jamie Reid, who spent much of the game perfecting his Torvill and Dean impression as he skated around barely able to stay on two feet, fired off a brilliant dipping volley that looked for every inch to be headed towards the top corner, before the Daggers keeper pulled off a stunning acrobatic save to tip it over the bar.
A low, fizzing cross from McQuoid had a lunging Rhys Murphy inches away from securing a first win of the season as we piled the pressure on, but in reality it looked for all the world like a day when we’d have to accept a hard-earned point and move on.
And then, as sure as eggs is eggs, up stepped the referee – who up until then was having a pretty good game – to award what looked to be the softest of all penalties for a shirt pull from McGinty. A daft thing to do so late on no doubt, but for the referee to decide to award a penalty then when it had been a regular occurrence from both sides for the whole ninety minutes was both mystifying and enraging in equal measure.
Davis (9), McGinty (5), Gowling (7), Higgins (6);
Lathrope (7), Young (7), Evans (7), Reid (7), McQuoid (7);
Man of the Match:
In an occasion rarer than an under-cooked steak tartare, Liam Davis finally managed to pull on a Torquay United shirt and kick an inflated pigs bladder around a patch of grass for ninety minutes. And what’s more he was really impressive. Solid in defence and never once letting his man past, quick and strong in attack, with a good eye for a pass and not afraid to come forward, he was the left back we’ve been missing all season. A really impressive debut.
The new additions to the squad have made a real difference, and none more so than Rhys Murphy yesterday. Whilst still needing minutes in his legs after doing very little for Forest Green, he ran tirelessly, was a real nuisance for the Dagenham defenders, held the ball up well and showed great composure with it too. He got himself in the right positions each time and with a bit more fitness he’ll score goals.
Callum Evans also stood out for me doing a really impressive job sweeping behind Lathrope and Young.
The Tactics Board:
Owers set the team up to a tee. Looking more balanced than at any other point this season, he did a real tactical ‘job’ on Dagenham and stopped them playing. 4-5-1/4-3-3 in attack worked a treat and we were strong and assured in defence, and tough tackling and disciplined in possession in midfield. The only downside being that it left Murphy a little isolated up front by himself, but we still created enough chances to win the game.
I was very disappointed by Dagenham, who were exceedingly ordinary. Clearly they’re on a bit of a poor run but they look very average. However as we all know the mark of a successful team is one that wins when they’re playing poorly, and they keep doing just that.
Seemed very even handed and keen to let the game flow for the most part. Kept his cards in his pocket until well into the second half and generally got the big calls right. Except one.
There can only be one. Whilst we were at the far end of the pitch in the away end, the decision to award a penalty at the death looked so soft. I’m prepared to be proved wrong when I see the highlights, but I saw nothing out of the ordinary, and as far as I could tell there was little by way of an appeal. It’s a cliche, but if you’re going to give that as a penalty then there should have been ten or fifteen in just this game alone.
The penalty decision was extremely harsh but he had been poor all game. He looked slow, sluggish and his distribution when compared to that of Gowling and Davis alongside him was – as usual – poor. We turned defence into attack far more often with those two, and sadly McGinty just doesn’t cut it on the ball retention front.
You have to think that Efete will come back in when fit.
Away Day Overview:
It’s a fairly soulless excuse of a stadium Victoria Road, with the home fans making very little noise. It’s easy to find and easy to park at but that’s about it. The away end is smart, covered and seated – but at £21 entry that’s the absolute minimum I’d expect.
171 Torquay fans made good noise at times, but more often than not just seemed to lack a bit of enthusiasm, and who can blame us after the last few years. The only thing that really brought everyone together was the chance to warmly welcome the referee off at the end, with the tunnel handily placed right next to the away stand.
The shoots of recovery are there to be seen and watching this game in the flesh gives me a small glimmer of hope. That was not the performance of a team propping up the league with only four points. However, the result was.
Simple though it sounds, Owers needs to get this team winning and pronto. You feel that one win might send them on a bit of a run that starts to cut down that deficit. But we can’t afford to keep losing games late on after we’ve put in all the hard work.
Hopefully with the quality additions he’s made and the improved fitness work he’s set the players to, we might just see the tide turn at Plainmoor on Tuesday night.
John Cadigan – TT Contributor
John also makes up 50% of our friends at The National Obsession – a dedicated National League podcast, with a large sprinkle of witty humour.