Another season, another exit from the FA Cup at the earliest possible stage. Have Torquay United ever heard of the magic of the Cup? Is there actually a competition we are any good at any more?
In what was another forgetful FA Cup tie, neither team played particularly well in a game of few chances. We looked solid at the back for the most part, with the back four now developing a very good understanding and limiting Aldershot to a handful of chances. However, going forward it is clear to see why we are where we are in the league, with lots of effort but absolutely no end product. To paraphrase an expression from the timeless Malcom Tucker, we are about “as much use as a marzipan dildo” going forward.
United shaded the first half with Aldershot well off the pace. The midfield of Young, Evans and Lathrope dominating Aldershot’s, allowing us to turn defence into attack on numerous occasions. However, like we always do, we could not turn our momentum into something worthwhile as the move inevitably breaks down on the edge of their box. Our best chance all game fell to Lathrope whose rasping drive forced a great save out of Aldershot’s keeper Cole, with Murphy as well going close from a corner.
The home team were massively improved in the second half, looking much more dangerous and really putting United under pressure. After hitting the post and forcing Dorel into action a couple of times, ex-Gull Scott Rendell Rose the highest and nodded the ball into the back of the net with 12 minutes left. We had our chances in a very open and slightly manic second half, but we couldn’t score (sounds familiar?) and the result was probably a fair one.
Davis 7 Gowling 7 McGinty 7 Higgins 7
Lathrope 8 Evans 7 Young 7
McQuoid 4 Reid 6
Keating 5 Myrie-Williams 5 Efete n/a
Man of the Match:
Damon looked back to his best. He wasn’t just breaking up play fantastically well, he was also using the ball well. Often setting us loose after winning the ball back, or playing the simple option to the more creative Young. He looks like he is starting to form a good understanding with Young and Evans in a midfield that dominated Aldershot’s for large portions of the game. His commitment to the cause is also admirable, covering every inch of grass and putting his injury problems behind him. Taking him off to change formations may have been a mistake, but I don’t blame Owers for doing so.
Liam Davis is a class act. Hardly put a foot wrong all day and is surprisingly skilful for a player of his stature. Hardly got beaten all game and kept the awkward Fenelon quiet. Callum Evans looks very assured in the midfield for a player who I thought was a right back when he signed him. Similar to Lathrope in his ability to break up play, and keep the ball moving.
Owers named an unchanged line up from the defeat to Dover, lining up in a 4-3-3 and/or 4-5-1 formation. Evans was the deepest midfielder while McQuoid was on the left and Reid on the right. The obvious game plan was to sit deep and break quickly through McQuoid’s and Reid’s pace, with Murphy’s as the obvious “big man up top” to hold it up and hassle the opposition defence. However, a lack of composure from Sean “hoofball” McGinty at times meant that Murphy was upfront on his own with no service or Reid and McQuoid had to chase a ball they were never going to get. We also did not get enough crosses into the box. It’s no good having a player of Murphy’s size up front if he is not getting the supply he needs.
Owers went for a 3-5-2 with 5 minutes to play by brining on Efete and pushing Higgins and Davis further forward but the players didn’t look sure how to play it and by that stage the damage was done.
Aldershot were Aldersh*t in the first half, looking completely off the pace and being bullied by our midfield. They kept trying the same long ball towards Rendell who was being shackled by McGinty and Gowling all half. Rowe looked a handful through the middle, however couldn’t do anything with it as there was no space as Torquay’s well drilled back line limited their chances. They did manage a couple of dangerous looking crosses, but Dorel dealt with them without any fuss.
The second half they were a completely different prospect as they kept the ball on the ground and left us chasing shadows at times. Gary Waddock’s men looked very organized and full of energy as they managed to find space all over the park. They’d been troubling us down the wings all game, and it came as no surprise that their goal came from an inch perfect cross by McDonnell from the left. No surprise that they are where they are in the league.
Christopher O’Donnell was consistently inconsistent. Throughout the game he went through periods of being incredibly whistle happy to periods where he would let anything and everything go for both teams. He was a bit lenient on the cards and at times (McQuoid really should have been booked for a challenge early in the first half), but never had any big decisions to make. It’s fair to say that I’ve seen a lot worse at this level. He did seem to have a vendetta against poor Ruari who was blown up on numerous occasions for no obvious reason. Maybe he just really hates Boyzone?
We all love Ruari Keating, no matter what we tell you. However, what were you thinking when we broke and had a 3 on 2 with Keating, Young and Reid tearing into the box. Instead of playing a simple ball across to Young, he tried to do 12 step overs too many and lost the ball, much to the dismay of Young, Reid and all the Torquay fans who, trust me, made themselves heard. Aldershot then won the ball back, and had gone in front less than five minutes later. Come on Ruari, you’re at your best when you play it simple.
McQuoid obviously has ability as well as league and international experience. But oh my word, he was frustrating today. Time and time again the play broke down because he was offside, or his pass was over hit or his touch was awful and so on. He works hard, but his confidence looks shot and was doing more harm than good to the team. Part of the reason Murphy is struggling up front is that McQuoid looks off the pace and is not providing the support he needs. He was rightly hauled off with 15 mins left, but probably should have been sooner.
Away Day Overview:
Aldershot is a depressing place. The grim weather and the inevitable sense of foreboding didn’t help, but it’s not the most cheerful town. However, once inside the stadium everyone was very friendly and incredibly helpful. One steward even joking with me when I asked about where away fans sat, telling me that away fans exited through the gate and kept going for 100 miles!
The stadium is very non-league, but the away fans view was not bad, with both seating and standing available opposite the dugouts. Better than being stuck in the corner behind the goal (as I’ve been told we were before, this was my first time in at the EBB). The home fans were singing for most of the game and laughing with (at) us for most of it too. I went to Dagenham away a couple of weeks ago, and this was a much better experience. £17 for entry is still cheaper the Bristow’s and the 152 away fans made good noise throughout the match. Overall a good experience, even if I did miss my train home.
We shaded the first half, they shaded the second. We have Reid and Murphy, they have Fenelon and Rendell. We can’t score, they can. In what was a pretty dire game at times we more than matched Aldershot in defence and midfield, but not much is going to change for us if up front we can’t offer a serious threat. Aldershot were probably the deserved winners overall as we extend our unwanted FA Cup record. But hey, at least we can focus on the league now?
Sam Jones – TT Contributor