Sam Jones – @samuellejones
I thought we had no chance. Honestly. On the train there, I was thinking that a draw would be a miracle. I didn’t think we’d get smashed, but I thought we would lose by a goal or two. I thought we’d create chances, we’d have a go, but we would make a stupid mistake and concede. I was wrong, very wrong. The game was scrappy, but the Gulls took their chance and managed to keep Sutton at bay in an incredibly impressive performance. After the pathetic showing at Fylde, this was the perfect reaction. The passion and relief shown by the players at the final whistle was evident. They look like they believe that we can stay up, so now they’ve got to make it happen.
The Gulls dominated the opening minutes, creating a couple of good chances. McGinty forced a save out of their keeper from a corner as we kept them on the back foot. But just as I finished thinking “here we go again, more of the same” we scored.
A cross from the right by Young was flicked on by Reid and Keating stole in ahead of the advancing ‘keeper to nod the ball into the back of the net. That was the high point of the game. The rest of the half was very scrappy, with both sides struggling to get their foot on the ball and create any meaningful chances. Sutton has a few shots fly over the bar as they pressed towards the end of the half, but nothing to trouble Dorel.
The home side looked much sharper in the second half, keeping the ball on the deck and trying to play their way around us. They still tried to play the odd long ball, but no matter what they did our defence held firm. There were a few nervy moments for us as balls flashed across the goal and crosses floated just out of reach but I’m pretty sure they did not have a single shot on target all game. We had our chances as the game got increasingly stretched. Young forced a great save from Sutton keeper Butler and McQuoid should have done better from a corner.
But as the clock wound down our game management was excellent, and we held on for all three points. We couldn’t beat them with a defender in goal last season, but we could when they played a proper keeper. Only Torquay.
Davis 5 McGinty 8 Efete 8 Davey 8 Barnum-Bobb 7
Lathrope 8 Young 8
Reid 7 Keating 9
Higgins 6 Pittman N/A
Man of the Match:
I didn’t really want to choose a man of the match to be honest, almost everyone was fantastic, but Ruari takes the biscuit. His predatory instinct in front of goal showed as he reacted quickest to get the winner. He was a constant thorn in Suttons side with his running, never giving the defence time to settle. Deserves to keep his place up front as the partnership with Reid and McQuoid begins to develop.
Everyone was brilliant, I don’t think I’ve seen a team work so hard and look so relieved at full time. Lathrope had another exceptional game, looking a real leader in the centre of the park, while new boy Davey was solid as a rock and formed a good understanding with McGinty and Efete. Dorel looks a very good keeper at this level, rising highest time and time again to claim crosses he had no right to get.
Owers played the 3-4-1-2 again with Davey in for the injured Gowling, Lathrope replacing Evans and Keating partnering Reid up top. The game plan was to sit deep and hit them on the break. This didn’t always come off, as too often we looked for the miracle ball, or the wind caught the pass and it would trickle out of play. Reid and Keating ran the channels tirelessly and McQuoid linked up very well behind them. Barnum-Bobb looked solid at right back but struggled going forward as his touch eluded him at the crucial moment. When we relaxed, and we kept the ball on the ground, we played some nice stuff. The goal actually came from a period where we built pressure with some nice passing and interplay on the right wing, rather than the old hoofball over the top.
Sutton could’ve gone top today and at times it showed how good they are, only sporadically. For periods in both halves they dominated the midfield and looked a real threat, but at times they were very ordinary, playing a lot of long balls towards their front two of Lafayette and Dundas. Their biggest threat came from their right wing back Bolarinwa, who Davis is probably still having nightmares about. However, his end product was lacking as the final ball would be cleared, or into the grateful arms of Dorel. Most of their crosses were hit and hope, only finding the heads of the three Torquay shaped rocks at the back.
Savva Yianni had a good game, with no major decisions to make. It wasn’t a dirty game: odd hopeful penalty appeal here and the odd shove that was probably a foul there, but nothing too bad. One of the better referees I’ve seen at this level.
Has to be the goal. I mean, not much else happened to be honest. The goal didn’t change the game in terms of tactics, but it felt like it gave the boys something to hold on to. After dominating the opening periods and forcing a couple of half chances, we finally managed to make our pressure tell.
A ball swung in from the left was flicked on by Reid and Ruari reacted quickest to nod it past the keeper. The celebration was almost the best part, right in front of a section of travelling fans. Keating lost it, the players lost it, the fans lost it. Couldn’t have been any better.
When I saw him at Aldershot he was excellent, a real leader in the middle of the park. Winning balls, making passes and really dominating the midfield. He was exactly the same today, if not better. I didn’t realise how vocal he was either, barking instructions and encouragement in equal measure. I have no idea how Evans has got in the team in front of him recently, as Lathrope has a surprising amount to his game. He deserves to be in the team when he plays like he did today, let’s hope he can keep it up.
Away day overview:
Sutton is awkward to get to. No tube and the ThamesLink only goes places I don’t want to go (not because it’s dodgy, just the wrong end of London). I saw on Google beforehand that the stadium was next to the station, but when I got off the train, I really struggled to see it, it’s that small.
The ground has a certain charm to it, a proper old school non-league ground with only one small seated area and the rest standing room only. With the big exception of having an artificial pitch, of course. The staff were friendly, the fans very good natured, but no segregation meant that it was hard to find fellow Yellow Army members (Sutton play in yellow too). But the away contingent did their best to sing their hearts out and support our boys. £15 for entry was Fair, but the burger at £4 was overpriced, but that’s London for you. I should’ve had a pie really, I hear they’re popular at Sutton. Overall a very good experience, made better by the result.
Before writing this, I tried to think of snappy and clever lines to make it a bit more interesting. For example, on the train down I thought of a line to reflect our recent struggles in front of goal. “There never was a story of more woe than that of Torquay in front of goal” was this week’s winner. I am so glad I didn’t have to use it: it’s pretentious as hell and we actually scored! Not even the great Shakespeare (William, not Craig) could’ve predicted the effort the players produced tonight. We took our chances, we rode our luck and we held on for the all important three points.
After the pathetic showing at Fylde on Saturday, Owers demanded more and more he certainly got. This has been said before, and it hopefully won’t be said again this season: the result and performance should be the springboard our season needs and help us climb to safety. One thing was clear at full time: the passion showed by the players on the pitch and by the away fans dotted around the stadium is enough to make me believe this club will survive. Both in the Conference and in the Boardroom.
@ Plainmoor 25th November – National League