Inside a Plainmoor that stunk of “Christmas shopping Saturday” and FA Trophy apathy, United put in a performance that would embarrass the most lacklustre of pub sides.
The four (yes, four) goals Torquay conceded were so defensively soft and frustratingly immemorable that I’ve needed to consult the official site’s uncharacteristically critical report to jog my memory. Maidstone’s first serious attack led to their first goal, after a corner was not cleared, and tucked in at the second attempt by a Maidstone defender.
The next goal was even more scrappy: goodness knows what went on but a penalty area scramble (not helped by Clarke’s inability to cling on to the ball) presented an opportunity to Prestedge about ten yards out, who volleyed home. The third, a simple ball into the box was nodded home by Joe Piggott. Arguably the most embarrassing goal came in stoppage time where the Maidstone men almost did everything they could not to score: just running rings around the Yellow back four before presenting a tap in for Wraight.
The sole shining light of the dour first half was a misplaced (but no less mesmerising for a crowd who have been starved of excitement this season) rabona from George Dowling, although it may have been easier to just use his left foot. The only briefly enjoyable moment of the second half came after 50 minutes when the referee made the unquestionably correct decision to dismiss Barnum-Bobb, and the ensuing rage of the seemingly partially sighted Popside. I’m sure the Yellows fans will join me in wishing Jazzi a very merry (match-free) Christmas.
Clarke – 4
Davey – 3 McGinty – 3 Andresson – 3
Barnum-Bobb – 2 Young – 5 Dowling – 5 Myrie-Williams – 4
Reid – 3
Pittman – 4 Gnabouyou – 4
Keating – 5 McQuoid – 4 Evans – 5
Man of the Match:
Instead of justifying this with an attempt at a reasoned answer (like the club did today), I think Vincent Dorel will be the happiest man of the match. Not only can he avoid blame and abuse, but Ryan Clarke could not have put in a weaker challenge for his number 1 jersey, and the Yellows fans will be praying that Vince’s child is born in this upcoming ten-day break.
Today’s honourable mention goes to Ruairi Keating. His typically spirited (albeit ineffective) second-half performance was exemplified by the fact that he was the only Torquay player to get anywhere near the Popside after the match to clap the fans. A small cluster applauded from the centre circle, while the rest (including Owers and co.) made no effort at all. Perhaps it’s trivial of me to be worked up over this, but I don’t think walking around part of the pitch clapping the people who pay the players’ and coaches’ wages is a lot to ask.
Another honourable mention must go to the immensely intelligent member of GI’s barmy army (presumably Harrop) who decided to charge almost full price for this game. I hope he was happy with the attendance of 804.
Same formation, same toothless attack, same defensive disorganisation. In order to avoid the “shuffling the pack” cliché, I’ll say that Owers rotated in some fringe players. Five changes in all: Clarke, Myrie-Williams, Dowling, Gnabouyou and Pittman in for Dorel, Davis, Lathrope, McQuoid and Keating.
Reid was as effective as McQuoid has been in the hole: not at all. In fairness to Myrie-Williams, he did alright while playing out of position at left wing-back. That said, none of the incoming players did enough to retain their places in the XI for me.
Following Barnum-Bobb’s red card, United reverted to an equally ineffective 4-3-2 formation, which provided no width, no defensive solidity nor attacking threat. Although, in fairness, the game was gone by that point anyway.
I genuinely could not pinpoint a player who showed any real talent for Maidstone. In fact, they barely posed a threat beyond the four goals. The Gulls certainly beat themselves, as opposed to being beaten by a good side.
There was no real turning point to this game. I suppose it was properly over when the second goal went in just before half-time, although as soon as Maidstone took the lead, the result was written in the stars.
Got the big decision right: Barnum-Bobb went over the ball, probably only one foot off the ground, but his studs were up and he could have no real complaints. In fairness, I’m sure he won’t be complaining about being able to go home for Boxing Day and New Years’ Day. Predictable.
Player Spotlight – Axel Andresson
Axel’s game started very poorly when he misjudged a clearance with his first kick, and was out-muscled into conceding a corner. We’ve had two full games of watching him at home now and I cannot say I’m impressed at all. Despite forcing Maidstone’s ‘keeper into the best save of the game with a volley, the Reading loanee is giving me no reason for confidence in his defensive ability.
I really hope that both Gowling and Efete are available soon because I’m unconvinced by our back five as it stands.
I really like the FA Trophy (I refuse to call it the Buildbase Trophy) and I think it’s a shame that we are out of both cup competitions this season after playing just one game in each. The only saving grace for today is that it’s not three points dropped, and I hope Owers has seen how poor some of his fringe players are. Although, of course, there should be no panic because we’re not rubbish anymore…
Matty Hayward – @MattyHayward96