Sam Jones – @samuellejones
The first four games of the Gulls maiden season in the National League South had yielded 7 points and only one goal conceded. Not a bad record considering most of the team had never played with each other before. However, this needs to improve if we want to win promotion back to the promised land of the National League. After the poor showing at Oxford on Tuesday night, the Gulls really needed to bounce back with three points against a Slough side riding their promotion high. I can categorically say they didn’t do anything of the sort. In the game that literally no one was calling the Great British Comedy Derby (until now), Slough and Torquay battled out an entertaining yet incredibly annoying 0-0 draw. That’s The Office vs Fawlty Towers, if anyone was curious.
The game started with Slough on the front foot, despite an early break from Reid, the Yellows (in blue funnily enough) were struggling with the pace and width of the Rebels wide men. Multiple balls flashed across our box that should’ve been turned in, with Flood and Coles guilty of missing big chances for the home side. Torquay did create some chances of their own as they got a foot hold in the game. A beautiful ball by Nabi set up Brett who scuffed it when well placed, and a terrific cross in by Dickson from a free kick should have been converted. However, no one could take their chances and the half ended 0-0.
The second half was a lot more open with both sides creating some good chances. Slough continued to look dangerous when the ball was whipped in by the fullbacks, but Torquay were having the best chances. After Brett faffed around with the ball too much when well placed (again), a great counter by the Gulls ended up falling to Reid who smashed it wide with the goal at his mercy. Hall then should’ve put the Gulls ahead with about 20 minutes left, but that was to be our last real chance. Slough began to get the upper hand as they cranked up the pressure. Their golden moment arrived after a daft challenge by Essuman on Harris gave them a penalty with 7 minutes left of normal time. Up stepped Dunn who put it at a nice height, but debutant Bass pulled off a great save to keep the scores level. The game then wound down to its conclusion as the Gulls came away with a point in a game they could, and probably should have, won.
Bass – 8 – Saved a penalty on debut that gave us the point.
Wynter – 6 – Did enough in both attack and defence before going off injured. Hope it’s not too bad.
Essuman – 5.5 – Was decent enough when moved to right back but loses marks for giving away the penalty.
Niate – 6 – Won all his headers but was caught out of position countless times. Wasn’t so wasteful with the ball as others.
Cameron – 6 – Same as Niate, with more hoofball.
Davis – 5.5 – Wasn’t so threatening going forward as we know he can be, and seriously struggled defensively.
Hall – 5.5 – Very erratic performance. More about him later.
Dickson – 6.5 – Good set piece delivery and kept the ball nicely. Much more of a leader than Brett.
Nabi – 7 – Only real creative spark in the team. Looked much fitter than Ive seen him before and put a real shift in.
Reid – 5.5 – Bless him, he tried but he should’ve scored an absolute sitter.
Williams – 5.5 – His movement was much better but looks short on confidence and often dawdled on the ball too long.
Banton – 5.5 – Started brightly but faded as our midfield struggled to get him the ball. Kept getting in the way of Davis.
Bawling – 4.5 – Very lazy and did nothing with the ball when he got it.
Wright – 5 – His hold up play was fine, but often held it for too long. Kept straying offside.
Man of the Match:
Alex Bass had a very good debut. All game he commanded his area excellently and was solid whenever called upon. The save from the penalty was excellent as he dived like a salmon to his left to palm it away. He looked a bit like a fish out of water today, as he actually played well and can hold his head up high. Most other players were pretty carp (I’ll stop now, I promise).
I was going to give Samir Nabi today’s man of the match, but Bass took it hook, line and sinker. What he lacks in pace, he makes up for with ability as he always had his head up looking for the pass. A couple of his through balls we’re excellent and really should have been finished off by Williams.
Ryan Dickson is a real leader and has a wicked left foot. His set pieces remind be of peak Young, especially one which was begging for a touch. Kept the ball nicely, not trying to do anything stupid with it, and came over to say a proper thank you to the travelling supporters. Should really be our captain.
The Gulls started the game with the same copy and paste 5-3-2 Owers ball. Bass made his debut in goal, with the usual back 5 in front of him. Dickson and Nabi flanked Hall in the middle of the park with Brett partnering Reid up front. Ruairi was dropped from the squad completely as Wright was the backup striker on the bench. We were typically impotent up front as the aimless long balls towards Brett and Reid came to nothing, but our set pieces were a threat at times.
Then, an unfortunate injury to Wynter meant that Banton came on and Owers actually changed formation (I know, I was in shock too). We went to a 4-2-3-1 with Essuman at right back and Banton on the left wing. Nabi sat behind Williams, with Reid on the right. We created an awful lot more after the switch but were a lot more open. We also looked like we’d never really played it, and the lack of understanding of the system showed. If we stick with it, we’ll create a lot more chances and might actually win away from home for once.
Slough were a very well-organized team, who had plenty of width and came in with a clear game plan. Basically, everything we’re not. They lined up in a 4-4-2 with the wide men very wide, and the full backs pushing right up to support. Their deliveries into the box were outstanding all game, and continually caused us trouble. The Rebels left back Wells was the pick of the bunch, especially as he was given the freedom of the park due to Bawling’s laziness. The movement of Coles and Flood up front for the home side kept creating chances, as they kept finding themselves free in the box and ended up having quite a few free headers. They were a threat from set pieces, as they once again seemed to always have a man free. A better team would punish them as they weren’t that solid defensively, but if they play like that all season they should stay up, and probably finish higher than us.
The referee got involved a bit too much at times and did this weird thing of waiting a second after blowing his whistle to show who won the foul. This made it super dramatic. The penalty was probably the correct decision and he did not have an impact on the outcome of the match. So far, the standard of refereeing in this division seems so much better than that of the National League.
Alex Bass’s penalty save undoubtedly gave us a point, however if Reidy could finish we may have taken all three. After the switch in formation, we countered brilliantly at times and it looked our most likely method of scoring. With just under half an hour to go, the ball broke for Brett who drove down the line with purpose. His clever little cross found the onrushing Nabi whose shot was palmed away by the impressive Turner in the home goal. The ball dropped to Reid 6 yards out with the goal at his mercy, and he hammered it wide. Most of the yellow army had started celebrating but ended up looking on in disbelief as Reidy fluffed the easiest chance he’ll have all season. If we want to go up, we need to take every chance we get. With the current crop of strikers, we have, that’s not going to happen.
Asa Hall is an annoying player to watch. He can pick a pass, make a tackle but then goes completely brain dead when doing the simplest things. At times he was pinging 30-40 yard passes to the wings, winning every header that would come his way and stopping the Slough attack in their tracks with several perfectly timed challenges. However, he would then misplace every 5-yard pass he had to make, completely scuppering any momentum we had built up. I’m sure there’s a very good player in there, but at times it’s like his brain is moving faster than his feet.
Away Day Overview:
I had never been to Slough before, but it definitely lived up to its infamous reputation. The town most famous for being where David Brent had his empire, is a miserable place. The walk from the station to the ground was grim, but to be fair, the actual stadium wasn’t too bad. Arbour Park has a 3G pitch and only one real stand, but it was modern, well-kept and mostly covered which was a pleasant surprise. The locals were friendly, but hardly made any noise all game, apart from the odd half-hearted cry of “Rebels, Rebels”. £12 for entry and the £2 pasty I had was decent enough. At least I won’t have to go back there again this season (watch us draw them in the cup).
In the lead up to the game, Slough co-manager Neil Baker said that he couldn’t believe his side were playing Torquay United. Well don’t worry Neil, we can’t believe we are playing you either. That sort of statement from on opposition manager shows how far we’ve fallen as a club in the last few years, and the worst thing about it is that nothing on the pitch today made me think we’d rise again soon. We were shocking when we played Owersball, more exciting after the change of formation but ultimately, a bit lucky to come away with a point. Brett has regressed, Reid is useless and going forward we have no idea what we are supposed to do. We have a good squad for the division, but the management is shockingly bad. Please just walk away now Gary, no one wants you here. I think we’ve made that very clear.
As the only professional club in the division, we should have this league by the crown jewels, making it ours. We should be speeding ahead, winning games easily and fighting not just for the playoffs, but for the title (how sweet would beating Billericay to the title feel?). However, we are not, and we don’t look like we will anytime soon. We have 8 points from 5 games, have only scored 3 goals, none of which have come away, and seem to be playing more negatively each time out. Even if Reid had scored his chance, or Brett hadn’t fluffed his lines on multiple occasions, we are still not good enough under Owers. It’s incredible that so many members of the Yellow Army turned up today, considering the rubbish on the pitch that we have to watch week in, week out. It all got too much for one Torquay fan who, two minutes from the end, went over to Owers and started hurling abuse at him. I will not repeat what he said (even if it was true), but it drew the applause from the away end as we all share the sentiment. Well, all but one fan who turned around and asked us if he thought we could do any better. The answer to that is: yes, yes we could. TorquayTalk managerial dream team anyone?
Hampton and Richmond Borough F.C. (H) – 25th of August 15:00 KO.