Matty Hayward – @MattyHayward96
A strong but wasteful second-half display was not enough to win Torquay three points today, nor was it enough to keep this fine, professional club in this awful, semi-professional league.
A wicked deflection from a long-range strike which deceived Dorel served as an excellent metaphor for a lackadaisical, lazy first-half performance, and indeed our season. This may well have been Hartlepool’s only shot of the game, from which they deserved nothing more than a point.
Torquay had a great chance to get back into the game shortly afterwards, but Williams’ timid penalty was well-saved by the Pools’ captain.
The Gulls’ showing after the break was vastly improved, especially when George Dowling was introduced. There was a time where United had a chance every five minutes: Reid, Healey, Williams and Gowling all missing good chances. If anything, the Yellows looked less threatening after Hartlepool had a man sent off and Healey’s shot from 12 yards hit the top corner with ten minutes to go.
Barnes 6 Balatoni 3 Gowling 6 McGinty 6 Davis 5
Young 6 Lemonheigh-Evans 6
Reid 6 Williams 3
Subs: Dowling 6 Efete 6, Keating N/A (genuinely not sure he touched the ball and I’m sure he was on for at least ten minutes)
Man of the Match: Rhys Healey
Despite my ratings, Healey just about pips Dorel to MOTM on the basis that Dorel had very little to do and the Cardiff loanee worked hard and produced a top finish to keep the game alive. This said, it was very difficult to award this to any of the players, none of whom should receive accolades for not winning that game.
Josh Gowling was superb at the heart of the defence again, but my honourable mention goes to Jamie Reid. Twitter BANTZ aside, Reidy’s performance today was distinctly average but there was a spell where he produced two crosses in a couple of minutes (one with each foot) that provided huge chances for Healey and Williams. He’s in the team to make chances and score goals: he scored last week, he made two absolute sitters today. It mystifies me that he’s the butt of a lot of abuse.
Same old same old until about an hour in. Dowling replaced Balatoni to make it a 4-3-3 which worked far better. In truth, there was very little structure to our side for much of the second half as Hartlepool backs were against the wall.
Hartlepool were almost literally the perfect opposition for Torquay today. Nothing to play for? Tick. Not actually a very good side? Tick. Poor atmosphere? Tick.
They never looked like scoring and, although I couldn’t spot any obvious deficiencies, their defending must have been pretty poor to afford us all those chances.
From the limited amount I saw, it seems a perfectly reasonable place while their fans were very respectful and apologetic for stopping us taking the three points. It’s a club that reminds me a lot of our own: good fan base, decent ground, deprived of the level of football it clearly deserves.
I don’t think the referee was very good today. Although I was at the wrong end to see the penalty decision, I was very surprised to see it given. A cross came in and Rhys Healey appeared to be barged over when contesting the header, but it seemed soft and I think the contact came after the ball struck Healey’s head.
The other big decision was the red card. This was probably a better piece of officiating: Cunningham came lunging into a 50-50 challenge with two sets of studs in the air. The Hartlepool fans who were closer to the event than me, however, seemed less than impressed.
Overall, Mr Lucas was very petty and the players soon twigged that if they went down they’d get a free kick, but there was even a great deal of inconsistency in this misattribution of the law.
It’s hard to look past Brett Williams’ timid spot kick as this game’s key moment. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that we’d have won the game if he had put that away. Credit must go to the Hartlepool stopper whose save was decent, though a comfortable height.
There are two spotlights shining down onto the Victoria Park pitch today, and they’re both for negative reasons.
How Conrad Balatoni continues to keep his place in this side is beyond me. He’s certainly one of the worst players I’ve seen in a Torquay shirt and joins Josh McQuoid, Axel Andresson, Jakub Sokolik, Rhys Murphy, Jennison Myrie-Williams and Callum Evans* on the list of awful Owers signings.
The second spotlight is on Brett Williams. I know Sam has recently given him stick in this section and I don’t think I can add much so I’ll just reiterate. The man was good last year (and lazy). This season he has been useless and lazy. The one scrap of sympathy I have for Gary Owers is that he signed Brett knowing he could score goals to keep a team up and he has completely failed to do that this time around. Some strikers can get away with going missing for long spells in a game because they pop up with a goal and goals win games, but Brett Williams is not Dimitar Berbatov, he’s not Zlatan, he’s not even a bloody goalscorer anymore.
*I don’t care if he’s won the league with Macclesfield, he was abysmal for us.
Gary Owers lied in his post-match interview. We really were not “excellent”. Yes, we missed a penalty, hit the post and made plenty of chances but this was against a side who had nothing to play for and are in the bottom half of a shocking league. If that was “excellent”, I don’t want to see his idea of poor.
I’ve tried my best to concentrate this report on the game – as opposed to its context – partly because it hurts too much, partly because I’ve been asked to write a match report, and partly because people will articulate the hurt better than I can. But I will say this:
Everyone has their own ideas on who is to blame (and the list is arms’ length) but there is no way a club of our size with the loyalty of support it has should be in the fifth tier of English football – let alone the sixth.
The last two seasons ended in jubilation, which is actually embarrassing given the prestige of the ‘achievement’. And yet, every ounce of joy, every flare, every exclaimed tweet, every pint bought for a player, every picture taken on the pitch with Ruairi Keating (yes I’ve got one and I loved it), every pound spent has been utterly futile.
It breaks my heart to see our club in this way, I’m absolutely certain everyone reading this is far more upset about it than Gary Owers could dream of. I hated being there today and I’ve hated writing this. It’s time to go away, block it out, watch England get beaten in a remote Russian town by a country whose capital city would definitely be a Pointless answer, and just turn up in August for our game against East Thurrock and sing our hearts out again. For now, Goodbye Horse.