Ben Currie – @bencurrie8
Torquay made it seven points from a possible nine, and three clean sheets in a row, with a 2-0 victory over East Thurrock which was not as straightforward as the score-line suggests.
Ruairi Keating was given his first start of the season and rewarded his manager’s faith with a goal in each half as The Gulls overcame some stern Thurrock pressure in order to record back-to-back home wins.
First, the young Irishman capitalised on a defensive blunder to slot into an open net just moments before half time, before adding to his tally with a fine downward header minutes after the break to give United the two-goal buffer you always felt they needed.
East Thurrock neither gave up nor capitulated but could not find a way back into the match, whilst at the other end The Yellows lacked the final ball and rued poor decision-making in order not to put a bit of gloss on the score line.
Sokolik 6 (Regis 6)
Keating 7 (Reid 6)
Williams 6 (Banton N/A)
Man of the Match:
It’s hard to overlook the man whose goals made the difference, but Liam Davis was the best player on the pitch today. He managed to find himself with the ball further up the field and gave his opposition full-back a torrid time. Width is so important in the system we play and requires both wing-backs to rapidly get up and down the field, Davis has great fitness and does this easily. So often last season we saw Liam get into a dangerous position and flatter to deceive with a poor ball in; his pin-point cross for the second goal was excellent and if he finds that sort of delivery on a regular basis he will not be playing at this level for long.
Ruairi Keating scored both goals and was a constant menace to the East Thurrock defence, his first goal was a result of his perseverance whereas his second goal was very smartly taken. Keating is a real live-wire and will make things happen which is something the crowd feeds off. There are plenty more goals for him this season if he can get himself on the same wavelength as his team-mates.
Shaun MacDonald gave an assured performance In between the sticks, marshalling his defence well and offering clear and early instruction. After one particularly unconvincing flap on Tuesday it was heartening to see the ‘keeper catch every ball into the box today. A difficult decision for Owers when Bass returns perhaps?
Three clean sheets tells its own story- ours is a system that allows players back in numbers and makes us hard to break down. Going forward we rely on keeping the ball moving fast through the midfield and out wide to the wing-backs. Today we saw both Davis and Wynter with the ball further up the field which immediately put the opposition on the back foot. Our strikers, I feel, need to offer a bit more movement (or anticipate the early ball in) because too many times our attacks fizzled out into nothing despite midfielders having offered decent support. However, as the team continues to bed together and get used to this system I can see us becoming an increasingly difficult side to beat.
Despite playing on Wednesday and enduring a nightmare journey down on the day of the match East Thurrock offered stiff opposition and perhaps had the better of the play right up until the opening goal. The Essex team had one or two tight offside calls go against them in attack and particularly looked threatening at set-pieces and the match was nowhere near as comfortable as 2-0 suggests. Orsi-Dadomo missed a golden chance to equalise just moments before Keating made the game safe and even when trailing by two goals they continued to create chances. On another day, and with a bit more killer instinct in front of goal, East Thurrock, conceivably could have snatched a point today and it would have been hard to argue against that, a very spirited display. This was a game that United would expect to win and that’s not a slight on the likes of East Thurrock, more a comment on how far we have fallen and the level we (deservedly) find ourselves at.
Pretty much went unnoticed for the entire 90 minutes so a job well done.
Just moments before Keating headed in his second, MacDonald made a key save to keep the score at 1-0. After a complete miscue in the Torquay defence Orsi-Dadomo found the ball at his feet, 10 yards out, dead centre of goal. His powerfully struck shot was terrifically tipped onto the bar and over by our goalkeeper, it was an excellent save but at the same time, with the whole goal to aim at, the striker should have done better. Four minutes later Torquay scored their second and it was effectively game over.
Asa Hall has all the attributes to be a key player for us this season. No one has particularly stood out as a creative force in our team so far, but I have been encouraged by how he keeps the ball moving and finds himself in pockets of space in order to dictate play. Not everything he has tried has come off, but he has shown the ability to mix the percentage short passes with the more extravagant cross field switches and he’s been solid in the tackle too. When Sokolik came off injured today Hall seamlessly moved into the back three and didn’t look too troubled by switching positions. I think he has excellent organisational and leadership qualities and was a little surprised that he hasn’t been given the captain’s armband this season based on what I’ve seen.
Seven points and three clean-sheets from the opening three fixtures represents a solid if unspectacular start to the season. You would hope that the performances will come later as confidence rises via good results, but we will have to play better in order to beat many teams in this league. We won’t get the absolute gift of a first goal every week and better teams might well punish our defensive lapses. That said you can only beat what’s in front of you and grinding out results is all important in a very frantic start to the season. These are the games you would expect to win, and it has set us up nicely for two potential banana-skin looking away games in the following week. Those two games will be a clearer indication of where we are and what sort of season we are going to have.
Oxford City (A) – Tuesday 7:45 KO