Marcus Arscott – @MarcusArscott
It’s fair to say that the Seagulls are struggling at the moment, with no wins this season and only 2 points from a possible 36, it looked to be an easy 3 points for the high-flying Gulls. Gary Johnson didn’t think so though, saying that they were ‘no mug team’ and that, unfortunately, turned out to be true.
United lined up with the same 3-5-2 shape and squad that faced Wealdstone on Saturday. Torquay had a couple of good chances in the first 20, moving the ball accurately up the pitch, creating some nice passing triangles only to be let down by the final ball. Our best chance of the half came when Jamie Reid met a drilled cross from Opi Edwards, but he didn’t get quite enough contact and it spilled just wide.
WSM enjoyed large spells of possession but rarely threatened in attack, that is until they won a free kick on the right wing. The kick is floated in, it misses a good few heads and Bower meets it with a stretched volley in to the roof of the net. 1-0. George Essuman went down with an injury at around the 40th minute and was replaced by Ben Wynter 5 minutes later.
Kalvin Kalala made way for Ruairi Keating at half time, and United switched to what looked like a 4-3-3. They instantly restarted with much more urgency and attacking intent, on the 51st minute they were rewarded when Saikou Janneh slotted in to the bottom corner on his 3rd attempt. 1-1.
This seemed to buoy United, who controlled possession for the next 10 minutes. Reid got away a cracking left footed shot from outside the box which rattled the bar, Lemonheigh-Evans pounced on a loose ball outside the box but fired over and Edwards was getting in a few good crosses, but it just wasn’t going our way. Weston’s defence was holding up well but you could feel it would only take one mistake from them and they’ll be punished. Sure enough, their centre back mis-hit a pass and Opi was there to make the interception, after a short run and beating his man, he fired in to the top corner from close range. 1-2.
The atmosphere was buzzing at this point and everyone, including myself, was thinking we might just get away with this. Weston didn’t give up though, they played the ball up field and got a shot away from outside the box which unfortunately met the hand of Samir Nabi. Nabi was sent off for a deliberate handball and the penalty was awarded. The ground went silent as the Weston man lined up for the kick, but Shaun Macdonald pulled off an amazing low diving save to deny him. Unfortunately, United failed to clear their lines and after a bit of a kerfuffle Brad Ash managed to get a powerful shot away on the 88th minute. 2-2.
It’s interesting that Johnson said that no one deserves more than a 5/10 for tonight. He may be right, but I’m a bit more generous. And I know much less about football.
Macdonald 8.5 – MOTM display from the keeper, more on him later.
Davis 6 – Fairly quiet night for Liam, not much forward action but for the most part did OK defensively. Would like to see more involvement from him on Saturday.
Cameron 5 – The centre backs did not have a good night, they looked shaky and loose. It’s frustrating because they’ve been so solid over the past few weeks, lets hope it’s just a one-off.
Niate 5 – As above
Essuman 6 – Didn’t do much wrong, could’ve done better with the free kick for their goal. Injured on the 40th minute.
Dickson 5 – Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of Dicko, but he just seemed lost tonight. He received a yellow card at 28’ which effectively nullified his game, shame.
Kalvin Kalala 5 – Not a good night for the Frenchman. I’ve seen what he’s capable of, he didn’t show it tonight.
Lemonheigh-Evans 7 – Connor was trying to make things happen going forward and we all know what he is capable of, final ball was lacking at times.
Opi Edwards 7 – Fairly good game from the youngster, did well to earn his goal.
Jamie Reid 6 – He was giving it a good go tonight, it just didn’t fall for him. Came close a couple of times, worked hard.
Saikou Janneh 6 – Struggled to get into the game, but did grab a goal (looked offside!) and showed some nice trickery in the 2nd half.
Ben Wynter 5 – Weak defensively, didn’t support Opi in attack and his crossing is still pretty dire.
Ruairi Keating 5 – Worked hard and his pressing was good, playing on the left does not suit his strengths.
Samir Nabi 3 – Didn’t offer much when he came on and gave away the handball for the penalty.
Man of the Match: Shaun MacDonald
It’s been a while since a goalkeeper has been awarded MOTM on here, which is good because that usually means they haven’t had much to do. With the defence not playing their part tonight, Shaun was forced to step in on a few occasions with some outstanding saves. Quite apart from the penalty, the best save for me was what seemed like an impossible stretch to the top right corner to deny a header. There’s no question that we would’ve lost that game without a keeper of Shaun’s calibre.
I thought Lemonheigh-Evans had a good game tonight, he is fantastic going forward and usually picks out a pass from a mile off, didn’t quite work out tonight but that wasn’t through lack of trying. Opi Edwards also did well, his pace is blistering and he made some fantastic runs down the right-wing. Unfortunately, the Seagulls’ defence soon grew wise to this and he often found himself running in to dead ends.
Started with a 3-5-2 and switched to a 4-3-3 at half time. The only issue I have with this formation is that the attacks are often lop-sided. With Liam Davis being more defensively minded we will often be relying on Opi for our width. Easy for opposition defences to suss out and counter.
Do not be fooled by Weston’s league position, I thought they played very well tonight. They insisted on playing some nice football, always playing out from the back and keeping it on the deck. I’ve seen some much worse teams this season and if they keep playing the way they are then they will start crawling out of the bottom places quite soon.
I had planned to write about how I was impressed with the standard of refereeing in the NLS compared to the NL. Mark Howes seems to be an exception however, with a few questionable decisions and his insistence on not letting things go and letting the game flow. I didn’t have a clear view of the Nabi handball, so I can’t comment on that.
Player Spotlight: Ben Wynter
I don’t like to be negative, but Ben Wynter just simply doesn’t seem to be up to it. He is weak defensively, often getting beaten by his man. He also offers little going forward, I could hear Opi screaming to him for support down the right wing in the second half but he was nowhere near where he needed to be. He really needs to pick his game up if he is to stay in this squad, time will tell.
Obviously this result is not good enough. Lets not take anything away from WSM though, as mentioned, they are not a bad side and I think they will surprise a fair few teams along their way. Our performance was simply not good enough. I don’t know whether it was complacency but the whole team was lacking urgency and quality. This is not the kind of performance we have become accustomed to but I have full faith that Johnson knows what to do in situations like these to turn them around. Saturday’s game against Billericay just got even bigger.
View from the Editor:
On the long and winding road to achieve success, there are always a few bumps – last night was one of them. United started slowly and lethargically (not waspish enough this time) and never really got going despite a better second half. Gary Johnson was clearly frustrated at the performance and so were we; was it two away games in four days taking its toll, some complacency at playing the bottom of the league team or just an off night? In truth it was probably a mixture of all three and Shaun MacDonald had to produce some splendid saves as the defence wobbled.
Credit must go to the busy and proactive home side. Always wanting to play the ball on the deck, they had more ability than you would expect and were not frightened to have a go at United. The point should give them a confidence boost for the rest of the season. What an amazing turn-out by the Yellow Army! It was a reminder of golden away days from years past, as we swarmed around the pitch and created plenty of noise. Back on the pitch it was a fair result and improvement is immediately required for the exciting challenges to come. Dom