Andy Charles – @capitalgull
Baby steps Andrew, baby steps. I’m trying not to get carried away because of the standard of the opposition but, a month on from the dreadful display on Oxford City’s 3G pitch, there was plenty to like from a pleasant Saturday afternoon at Hungerford Town’s Bulpit Lane ground.
Of course, much has happened since that day in Oxford – we’ve got a couple of handy loanees in from Bristol City, we’ve dropped further down the table, and we’ve got ourselves what most would say is a “proper” manager. Gary Johnson’s first impression is a positive one – most importantly victory, a dominant performance, hard working displays throughout the team and suddenly some players seemingly bereft of confidence appear to have found belief.
We all know there is plenty of talent in the squad, at least based on being in the sixth tier of English football, and now we have a manager that clearly doesn’t belong this low either.
Today’s Torquay side had clearly been told to get on the front foot as soon as possible, and for the most part they did that and continued doing it for the 90 minutes. The sole disappointment was that the scoreline didn’t end up 4, 5, or more-Nil.
Jamie Reid had Torquay’s best early chance, which was saved by Jokull Andresson, but the oft-criticised striker had his revenge on 26 minutes when he swept the ball home at the far post after Jake Andrews’ corner had been missed by all and sundry. Reid almost had a second 10 minutes later, but his fierce half-volley came back off the post after being set up by some excellent work from Liam Davis.
Hungerford offered little in the first 45 minutes but, playing downhill in the second-half, they came close to an equaliser on the counter when Conor Lynch’s lob over Alex Bass was cleared off the line (sort of) by Ben Wynter.
The vital second goal came in the 62nd minute from another Andrews corner, with Asa Hall rising at the far post to head past Andresson, whose failure to command his area at set pieces often caused Hungerford problems. But Andresson proved a decent shot stopper, denying Reid a second and also stopping Opi Edwards from opening his Torquay account on a couple of occasions.
The dominance continued after Johnson made his substitutions, with Jason Banton smashing a 20-yarder off the bar and Brett Williams having a goal questionably ruled out for offside – Hungerford attempted to break while Torquay were celebrating, but even seven on three failed to get a shot on Bass.
And that really summed it up – victory and three points to lift us up towards the play-off spots and hopefully the start of something special under Mr Johnson.
Alex Bass – 7. Little to do, but what he had to do was done with little fuss.
Ben Wynter – 7. I’ve heard some criticism of him but thought he performed well in a different role.
George Essuman – 7. Nothing much got past him today.
Kyle Cameron – 8. Awful at Oxford, but this was the defender I expected. Superb performance.
Liam Davis – 6.5. Advanced role for much of game and struggled at times with the bumpy pitch.
Opi Edwards – 6.5. Some of his end product was lacking and took too much time with some decent chances to shoot.
Asa Hall – 7.5. Broke up Hungerford play regularly and got the reward with his goal.
Jake Andrews – 7. Two assists but his set pieces were inconsistent and sometimes dithered. Plenty of promise still.
Chris Regis – 8. First look at him and I was impressed. Very strong midfielder and not afraid to get a foot in.
Jamie Reid – 9. Unlucky not to get more than one goal. Like the link-up with Keating.
Ruairi Keating – 7.5. Won a surprising amount of balls in the air and worked his socks off as usual.
Jason Banton 7. Lively and so close to a great goal from outside the box.
Wright N/A. Looks powerful and almost set up a couple of chances. Where does he fit?
Williams N/A Cool finish for disallowed goal. Has to work hard to get back in.
Man of the Match: Jamie Reid
The man who polarises opinion more than any Torquay player I can remember in recent history. Anyone who criticises him after today’s performance is clearly never going to like him. He was all over the pitch, linked up well with Ruairi Keating, and produced a calm finish to give Torquay the lead…key in these low-scoring conditions we are trying to get away from.
After being so poor at Oxford City, I was really impressed with Kyle Cameron today. He looked at ease on the left side of George Essuman and the back-three communicated really well all match. Won just about everything in the air, as he should have, but his passing was excellent as well and he started off a couple of attacks that almost ended in goals.
This was also my first look at Chris Regis, who I know has received a great deal of criticism for some of his performances thus far. He’s a proper beast of a midfielder, who today played a little bit advanced of Hall and Andrews, and he was at the centre of winning the ball back an awful lot. If we can get him a little fitter, I think he will be an asset.
And just a word for Ben Wynter as well, who I heard some veiled criticism of after the game (really gents???). I thought he was excellent as our version of Kyle Walker in the back-three and showed plenty of composure.
Unexpected. I thought we would line up 4-4-2 for sure but we played a very attacking 3-5-2 with Davis and Edwards pushing a long way forward and basically lining up as wingers. Wynter played on the right of the back three with Regis the most advanced of three central midfielders most of the time. Gary Johnson had just supervised a move to 4-4-2 seconds before Hall scored our second goal. Davis dropped in to left-back with Wynter on the right and Andrews moving wide left.
Not very good. Barring young right-winger Alex Fragata there was little to get excited about from the Crusaders. Barely created a chance, and with a keeper struggling badly, it always looked like being a long afternoon for them. Difficult to see them staying up to be honest and their manager Ian Herring spent most of his afternoon berating officials.
Tom Bishop might not be on Mr Herring’s Christmas Card list but he seemed to do very little wrong and disappeared from the game for long spells, which is always a good sign for me. Herring was upset that Hungerford didn’t get a first-half penalty (it wasn’t even close to being a foul) but it seemed to me the officials got very little wrong. Don’t think there was a single booking either.
Not something that happened today – Gary Owers’ departure on Wednesday and Gary Johnson’s quick appointment. I was at work on Friday when three people said to me “The Gary Johnson” when we were talking about Torquay’s new manager. He’s got standing in the game and we have to get right behind him as we hopefully continue to improve and become a more exciting team to watch and support.
Player Spotlight: Jake Andrews
I want to take a little look at Jake Andrews here. The young Bristol City midfielder was being talked up after the game, and I can see why, but he does have a lot to learn about the game and how different conditions can affect him. The pitch at Hungerford is very uneven, nothing like Chris Ralph’s green heaven at Plainmoor, and that meant Andrews struggling with his control at times. He should really have been moving the ball on more quickly, but often allowed an opponent to close him down or make a tackle when he could have played in a team-mate. He’ll definitely learn from Gary Johnson and I am sure will be an exciting player for us if we can keep him for the entire season.
So much better, so thank you very much Torquay United! The new era at Plainmoor has dawned and early signs are that it will be a positive one. Gary Johnson’s team looked more organised, more positive and determined, and that seemed to spill on to the terraces where barely a negative word was uttered. Of course we will need to back this up against better opposition but hopefully this is the start of a move back up the table towards the play-offs and, dare we say it, a return to the National League… (baby steps, Andrew!).
FA Cup – Lymington Town (Away) 22nd September