Sam Jones @samuellejones
In the build up to the match, Yellows Twitter was exactly as you’d expect. Polls were going up asking how much we would lose by, or how would we humiliate ourselves this week (conceding three in the first 10 minutes seemed the likeliest). As you can tell, no one was giving us a chance of getting anything. Not in a month of Sundays. Especially after the Maidstone game, where the lack of any spark or moment of magic was sorely missed and the candles where beginning to be lit on this year’s relegation cake. However, I’m very glad Yellows Twitter was wrong as Torquay put in the kind of performance that had been missing all season.
The first half was a very competitive affair, with both teams going for it but not creating any real chances. Dorel easily caught a free kick from George Elokobi (yes, the one you’re thinking of) and Williams fired over from about 30 yards after some clever build up play, but the final ball was lacking. The highlight of the opening half hour was Sean McGinty slipping over and catching the ball in the process, giving away a free kick deep in our half. They almost scored from it too. The goal was the only moment of magic by any side as a mazy run from Brett finished with the ball being laid off to O’Sullivan. His cross found Romain who nodded it in from 6 yards out. 1-0 to the Gulls and a mixture of euphoria and shock all around. The half then petered out and the Gulls led. There was a downside however, as there was yet another injury to Gowling who went off after 31 minutes after a nasty collision with Dorel.
The second half was the most one sided I have ever seen in my life. I don’t think Torquay properly kept the ball till the 75th minute as Leyton Orient went up about 3 gears. Saying that I think they were stuck with the handbrake on as they didn’t really do much with the ball as Torquay’s back five (or ten) defended resolutely. A goal mouth scramble in Torquay’s area left a few hearts in mouths after an hour. But this was the closest they came before David Mooney rolled back the years to hit the post in the 3rd minute of stoppage time. The Gulls created the odd chance with Pitman planting a free header straight at Brill after some great work by Jamie Reid. But his miss wasn’t rued as the Gulls held out for three points. It probably is too little too late for Torquay, but the response after Maidstone was good to see. Maybe there is some fight left in the old bird after all?
Davis 8 Balatoni 9 Gowling 8 McGinty 8 Barnes 7
Connor Lemonheigh-Evans 8 Sokolik 8 Young 8
Romain 8.5 Williams 8
O’Sullivan 8.5 Reid N/A Pittman N/A
Man of the Match:
The couple of times that I’ve seen Conrad Balatoni play, he’s been alright. Never spectacular, but often slow, cumbersome and completely off the pace. However, tonight he looked like the man that helped steer Partick Thistle to the Scottish First Division in 2013 (I assume, I never saw him play for Partick). Despite his lack of pace, or height, he won every battle he faced using all of his experience to keep Orient’s front line at bay. I also really liked his no-nonsense approach which was crucial at times in the closing moments of the game. Every time he won the ball it would go up the pitch or out, relieving the pressure on a very grateful Torquay. An outstanding performance from the defender, who really stepped up in Gowling’s absence.
Elliott Romain must get a mention for the winning goal. Compared to his dreadful performance at Maidstone, this really was in a different league. He ran his socks off, held the ball up brilliantly at times and took his goal really well. Was probably lucky to avoid a second yellow after several niggly fouls but didn’t and that’s all that matters.
I had never actually seen Tommy O’Sullivan play for us before, but the reviews I’d heard had not been good. Tonight he was the difference maker as he set up Romain’s goal with a peach of a cross and worked his socks off to help secure the win. He showed fantastic skill at times only to be let down by a poor pass at the end. Definitely the Adam Lallana of Torquay United.
Can we start calling the 5-3-2 the Owers special? He’s used it in every game I’ve seen us play this season and I don’t think it’s going to differ any time soon. The only change in the starting line-up was Gowling in for Dowling and Sokolik pushed up into the holding role in midfield (who was surprisingly good). The game plan was the same: hit the ball long to Williams and Romain to chase and try to turn the defenders. Unlike last time out, it actually worked as the passing was better and the movement was in a different league as Torquay stretched Orient’s back four.
Hate to say it, but Gowling’s injury actually helped the Gulls as O’Sullivan’s flair was needed to make a difference. Once the goal was scored, the Gulls sat incredibly deep and defended brilliantly, often having everyone but Romain behind the ball. This restricted the space in between the lines and meant Orient had to go wide. It was a much cleverer performance from the Gulls than we’ve seen at times this year.
Justin Edinburgh has got his side playing very nice football, with some very skilful player in their ranks. They lined up in a 4-2-3-1 and looked to keep the ball on the ground and pass their way up the pitch. Wingers Adams and Reynolds were very pacey and direct and were complimented nicely attacking midfielder Brophy who managed to find space were none seemed to exist. Despite all the nice play, they seemed to have no idea what to do when the ball got in the final third. Whether it was the Gulls restricting space in the middle of the park, or a lack of ingenuity, they would often cross the ball aimlessly towards an aging and slow David Mooney.
They actually lost their way in the game when they took of Reynolds and through on Matt Harold as they lost the threat down the left-hand side as they went into a 4-2-4. I see why they went on a good run of games when Edinburgh took over, however the lack of imagination may drag them back into the relegation dogfight before they know it.
Alan Dale was rubbish, absolutely dreadful towards both teams. The slightest bit of contact by any player was automatically a foul and at times showed the yellow needlessly. On the flip side, he could (and maybe should) have shown a couple of reds to our boys too. Both strikers were lucky to get away with it, especially Brett who put in a horror tackle in the second half to which the home side were rightly incensed at the lack of action.
The key moment in the match is Elliot Romain’s winning goal. He must be our top scorer by now?! Just when the first half threatened to fizzle out, up step Brett. He put on his best impression of Lionel Messi as he drove from the half way, twisting and turning his way past every defender at least once. Once he’d got bored of humiliating Orient, he laid the ball off for O’Sullivan whose inch perfect cross fell to an unmarked Romain 6 yards out, who literally couldn’t miss. It was by far and away the moment of any real quality from either side and proved to be decisive.
Aaron Barnes should not be playing right back, Efete should. Does anyone know where he is? But anyway, Barnes is built like a solid holding midfielder as seen against Maidenhead. His touch wasn’t good enough tonight, but he’s too slow to be a proper right back having spent most of the game chasing the nippy Reynolds and hoping Balatoni will help clear up his mess. The team is better with him playing in the midfield as he complements Young and Dowling/Lemonheigh-Evans so well as the enforcer in the middle of the park.
Away Day Overview:
Living in London, I often don’t get the full away day experience. Not that I’m complaining really, as it only took me 25 minutes from the office to get to the Matchroom Stadium on the Central Line. The stadium is about 5 minutes from Leyton underground station, which is actually in quite a nice part of London. The Matchroom is a weird one, as it’s built for a team that was obviously expected to be in League 1 or 2, not the Vanarama National League.
Due to it’s 9,000 odd capacity it often felt a bit soulless with only the Yellow Army making any sort of noise, high up in the East Stand. The stand is actually really poorly designed as there was a massive pillar obscuring our view of a good sliver of the pitch. The West Stand is also the ugliest stand I have ever seen in a football match. Go look it up, trust me on this one. £20 and a cheeky search from a security guard was a bit too much. Oh, and the sausage rolls were terrible.
To put it bluntly, we are still up sh*t creek, without a paddle. Or are we? No. We really are. The three points are akin to a paddle shaped branch floating by, just out of reach. Owers got his tactics spot on and showed fantastic game management to see the game out in the final moments. We took our chance, defended well and seriously pissed off the home fans which is always a nice ending to an away game. It wasn’t all plain sailing though as we seriously rode our luck too, and probably could have ended the night with 10 or even 9 men. But when you’re fighting relegation you take anything you get.
So that begs the questions, why do we keep delaying the inevitable? Why are we starting to show some fight now? And when can we send the invites out for the relegation party? All rhetorical and pointless question aside, it is great to see the boys put up a fight towards the end of the season and not go down into oblivion with a whimper. I for one, am looking forward to the National League South next year. I’ve heard Oxford City away is a good laugh and who doesn’t like to be even more hipster about their football club?