Dom Roman – @DomRoman
Woking in the 1st Round proper = anti-climax for me on Monday and a typical TUFC-type cup draw. A very familiar foe from the same league and no money-spinner or frills attached, it’s the way we normally do it! But hold on, it’s not a bad draw either – a home tie at Plainmoor and a very good chance of reaching the FA 2nd round. So let’s cast aside our apathy and look forward to what will be an exciting open game V Woking in a few weeks’ time.
The 4th Qualifying Round win over Winchester City was a comfortable afternoon once the first goal went in. We never looked in danger of an upset, but there was also plenty for Gary Johnson to work on this week. Our distribution of the football and decision making will have to be better in the coming fixtures, starting with a tough looking trip to high-flying Wealdstone. The biggest away test that GJ has faced so far and one he will definitely not be taking likely.
What the afternoon did highlight once again, is the importance of these Bristol City Under-23s to the make-up and cohesion of Johnson’s team. Credit to Bristol City for the way these young guys have been brought up to play football and the professionalism they have instilled in them. By professionalism I mean their positive approach to games, their appreciation for team-mates, a strong work ethic and just an understanding of where to be on the pitch. The fab four of Jake, Opi, Saikou and CLE all have those qualities in abundance and we are happily profiting from their excellence.
I’ve spoken much about Jake Andrews, but this week I’d like to shine the spotlight on his mate Opi Edwards – a player who joined United at the same time. Edwards is a little star and his twinkle toes on the wing are a pleasure to watch. On Bristow’s you get a great view of just how hard this guy works for the team, and the way he has knuckled down and adapted to playing at wing-back is a feather in his cap.
Our first goal ended up being Kalvin’s (with the help of a wicked deflection), but the move started when Opi tracked back diligently to dispossess a Winchester player of the ball. Sure, tenacity and work-rate like that should come as standard, but it doesn’t. Numerous loan players have come to Plainmoor and failed to put in that kind of hustle and we shouldn’t take it for granted.
In possession of the ball Edwards is a constant danger and is so fleet of foot, stepping away from challenges and looking to make something happen. TUFC have often been one-paced in recent years, so having fast players such as Opi, Kalala, Reidy and Janneh stretching teams is making us a much harder prospect for opposing defences. Defences can no longer take a high line and expect to easily marshal our attackers – last season it was all too comfortable for them.
The only thing I’d like to see Opi do more of is just ‘have a go’ at the full backs, rather than looking for a pass. With his pace and skills he can cause them nightmares and I think sometimes he lets them off too easy! The young lad is learning all the time and is a fabulous prospect.
The squad has started to look a bit bare, but reinforcements could soon be on the way as I believe Samir Nabi, Ryan Dickson and Jakob Sokolik will return before too long. I had high hopes for Nabi, but he looked rusty and lacked match fitness earlier in the opening fixtures. It’s a long season though, so maybe we’ll see the best of Samir later in the campaign. Ryan had a frustrating start to 18-19 like the rest of the team; he’ll enjoy playing more under the stewardship of Gary Johnson and will be raring to go, if he can get a game!
The news from the HE that Saikou Janneh and Jake Andrews will be here for another 3 months is exactly what I wanted to hear as well. Jake’s quality was missed on Saturday, though Connor stepped in and did very well – giving Gary some selection decisions for Wealdstone. Meanwhile Saikou probably should already have 3 or 4 goals for United, but got the first with an easy header and will be focussed on adding to that total very soon.
Two games face the Gulls in the next week. For Saturday’s Wealdstone FC game I have already got an opposition interview in the bag with Roger Slater, someone who knows the club very well and has even had a stint as club secretary over the years. Look out for that Q&A later in the week. The Stones represents a sizeable banana skin that could derail some of our momentum. GJ may decide to pick a more conservative XI, as the holes picked through by Eastbourne a couple of weeks ago did cause alarm. The only thing that Gary hasn’t rectified is our slow start to games! We don’t seem to get going until half an hour has been played and I’m not sure why.
The next hurdle will be Weston Super Mare next Tuesday. No disrespect to WSM, but telling friends and family about playing them really illustrates how far we’ve dropped down the footballing pyramid. It used to be the kind of fixture pre-season brought, not regular season! Myself and Rich Heesem will be heading up to that one, and we could well be joined by plenty more – it is a nice short trip after all.
Indeed the home fans will most likely be dwarfed by the ‘Yellow Army’ and it could be a cracking atmosphere on Tuesday night. Let’s not beat around the bush, WSM are currently dead last as I write this and if United play well we should beat them easily – I just hope that’s the case. Another away match, another Q&A incoming – this time with young journalist Alex Crowther. You can’t say we’re not putting in the effort for you guys! If you see me at WSM feel free to say hello. I was very happy to get some praise for the site from another Bristow’s Bench warmer last Saturday; he had picked up on the site through the BPIR forum. I think word is spreading on what we do at TT, long may that continue.
FINAL WORD – It’s not all good news in the world of ‘Torquay United’, as TULFC are really struggling at the moment and need new players to fill their squad – see the below tweet from coach Jamie McInnes. They were trounced last weekend by Exeter City ladies and played with only nine players, which is a sad situation indeed. If you can help out TULFC, get in touch with them asap. The men’s team are making me smile at the moment and so much of that is down to Gary Johnson. We were forgetting how enjoyable football could be at Plainmoor and the atmosphere had become increasingly toxic, this man has changed everything and I now head through the rusty old turnstiles, not with anxiety but with increased optimism. Come On You Yellllows!