The Gulls came into this game in some decent form. 10 points from the previous 4 games meant that there was the faintest possibility of a third Great Escape in a row. We had a fully fit squad and showed some real fight against Woking, so what could go wrong? Well, a lot is the answer. A hell of a lot in fact. An already terrible game descended into the ultimate non-league farce as Torquay finished with 9 men, assistant manager Martin Kuhl was sent to the stands and the balloons started to be inflated for Torquay’s relegation party. Let’s see if Park Lane will host, I know Reidy likes it.
The first half offered nothing. Right from the whistle it was obvious that both teams wanted to play the long ball to the big man up top, meaning that the game resembled bad rugby union. Despite the lack of actual football being played, most of the chances fell to Torquay. Healey should have done better when well placed, twice, and some hesitation from Dover keeper Walker meant Romain was almost in. However, The Whites man recovered well to save his blushes. Gallifuoco and Bird headed over for the home side, but that was all they really offered as the match drifted towards the break.
The second half started in much the same way, with long balls being played aimlessly forward and Gowling had his token bit of treatment by physio Gareth Law (tick that off your Bingo card). However, Dover started to apply the pressure which resulted in Jeffrey hitting the post with 10 minutes of the second half played.
GOAL – 3 minutes later a shot by Dover hit the outstretched arm of Lemonhaigh-Evans and a penalty was given. Up step Ryan Bird to score his 13th of the season and put the home side in front.
After that the game just got silly. Healey was shown his second yellow after an hour and Kuhl got sent off with 5 minutes to go after complaining too much. The only real chances after the goal fell to Torquay who just couldn’t put the ball in the net from within 6 yards. Luke Young tested the keeper with a rasping drive and the ball fell to Romain, who headed the rebound straight at Walker. Williams then did exactly the same, except that the ball hit the keeper in the gentleman’s area. Bit of a dick move to be honest. That was to be the last chance of the game as Romain was shown a straight red for a raised foot on GG as the clock hit 90. That really was the icing on the cake. Dover held on and the Gulls lost in the most Torquay fashion possible.
Davis 5.5 Balatoni 5.5 Gowling 5.5 McGinty 6 Barnes 5
Young 5 Lemonheigh-Evans 5
Romain 3 Williams 3.5
Efete 5 Reid 4.5
Man of the Match: Ryan Clarke
Due to injury to Dorel, Ryan Clarke was restored to the side. He gets today’s man of the match by default as no one else really did anything noteworthy. Clarke did what he had to do with little fuss, made a couple of decent saves and caught the odd cross well. Could do nothing about the penalty though, even if he has history saving them. Not a bad outing for the veteran.
Brett Williams gets a mention as the only forward not stupid enough to get himself sent off, even though he did very little and should’ve equalised right at the end. He looks distracted and a shadow of the player we saw this time last year.
Sean McGinty was solid enough, making very few mistakes and marshalling the back line well. Came over to talk to the fans after the game, which was a nice touch. He still looks like he really cares, and I hope he stays with us next season.
I could copy and paste this from pretty much every game we’ve played under Owers that I might start calling it “The Gary”. Torquay lined up in the 5-2-1-2 with Healey behind Romain and Williams. The long ball was hit towards the forwards to hold up and/or chase.
The front two did their best but Dover have a lot of very big men who easily muscled us off the ball. We looked solid at the back, but our midfield was too light weight. We need someone to win the ball back in the middle of the park and provide more protection for the back 3. Now Efete is fit, I’d like to see Barnes in a midfield 3 with Young and Evans, as against Maidenhead. We went to a 4-3-2 when Healey received his marching orders as Efete went to right back. Not that it changed anything mind.
Dover are a big, nasty team who know how to use their physicality to their advantage. Chris Kinnear has got his side very well organised and difficult to break down, which is why they are riding high this season. The back two of Gallifuoco and Essam won most balls in the air and former Newport man Ryan Bird up front is a real handful.
They hit the ball long and try to bring their wingers Nortey and Jeffrey into the game while pushing the other team back. Torquay defended well enough to stop them doing too much damage. They didn’t show any real quality all match, or have a player with any real spark, and probably wouldn’t have scored if it wasn’t for the penalty.
Carl Brook was dreadful all game. The penalty was the correct call, and Healey’s first yellow was a dive. However, the second yellow was soft and Romains red was harsh but all game he seemed to be favouring the home side. They were physical, but some of the grappling was silly and would’ve been a yellow in rugby. His highlight though was missing a leg breaker on Barnes and giving Dover a throw in instead. Saying that, I’m not convinced we would have won the game anyway but we all like a scapegoat (especially Owers).
Despite the fact there was only one goal (and trying not to be lazy) the key moment for me was Healey being sent off. The game was so terrible, I felt that we could have got something from it with 11 men. His first yellow was a daft dive, but his second was stupid and soft as the same time.
He lost the ball on the edge of the Dover box and left a bit on Essam, who went down like he’d been shot. It was probably a foul, but Carl Brook deemed it reckless and showed him a second yellow so off he went. Who knows what would have happened if we had kept 11 men on the field? Probably nothing. But I can dream.
Player Spotlight: Connor Lemonheigh-Evans
The more I see of Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, the more I like. A strong wind would blow him away, but he has a lot to his game. He’s skilful, quick, can pick a pass and even made a few good tackles. However, he needs a real ball winner next to him in the middle of the park as he’s just too small. Wouldn’t be surprised if he’s playing in a higher division next year. I mean higher than the conference, not just higher than us.
Away Day Overview:
Dover is an awkward place to get to. It took me two hours from London to get there, and then another 30 minutes to walk to the stadium. I actually got lost trying to find a pub for the Liverpool game, which wasn’t a great start to the day. However, I ended up in a little place called the Three Cups which was super friendly. I recommend it for anyone going to Crabble for a game.
The actual ground is an odd one, sloping down to one corner with four stands each looking like they’ve been taken from other dodgy stadiums around the country. It was also the worst atmosphere I’ve experienced all season. The only time the Dover fans made any noise was when they scored, then it went back to being a library again. The walk back from the ground by the river was nice and I didn’t miss my train. £17 for entry was steep and £4.50 a burger was too much for a bang average away day.
What a waste of a day that was. Seriously. I watched two games of football, saw one goal, two red cards and missed the Manchester Derby. I saw us completely lose out s**t, get our assistant manager sent off and paid way too much money for the privilege to do so. Now Kuhl’s gone, can Owers be sent off too? Maybe for good? And take Harrop and those GI ba***rds with you. Right, I’ve calmed down. The only real highlight was Barrow losing to Leyton Orient. Oh, and finally meeting the other TorquayTalk contributors of course!
We are down, there’s no other way of looking at it now. We greet in-form Fylde and the unstoppable Danny Rowe without our best forward and Rhys Healey, who does offer something different. Williams and Reid up front anyone? In what was the worst game I’ve seen all season, the Gulls showed nothing to convince me that the Great Escape will be done again. They ran their socks off but lost their minds completely and deserved to lose.
I am still going to Hartlepool away (from London, yes, I am an idiot) and Ebbsfleet at home on the final day but we’ll be down by then. I guarantee it. At least East Thurrock United away will be a belter.