Dom Roman – @DomRoman
“You won’t win anything with kids” was Alan Hansen’s famous appraisal of Manchester United first loss of the 1995-96 season to Aston Villa. United then proceeded to steamroll their way to the double, making the ex-Liverpool captain eat his words! Why do I mention that? Well the Torquay United XI on Tuesday night was probably one of the youngest we’ve ever fielded. It’s a stat that is just about impossible to prove even for the likes of Torquay Stats, but I doubt the average age has ever been much less.
Here’s the full run-down for you – Shaun MacDonald 22, Ben Wynter 20, Liam Davis 31 (old man!), Kyle Cameron 21, Jean-Yves Koue Niate 25, Jake Andrews 21, Connor Lemonheigh-Evans 21, Kalvin Lumbombo-Kalala 20, Ruairi Keating 23, Jamie Reid 24, Saikou Janneh 18, Average Age = 22. At the end Jamie Sendles-White 24, Brett Williams 30 (old man!) and Samir Nabi 21 came on to add a sprinkling of experience, but all in all the exuberance (and talent) of youth ruled the green grass of Plainmoor and it was too much for St Albans (and their 11 fans) to handle.
I didn’t actually go to Tuesday’s game and was penalised by missing 5 goals, electrifying play from the likes of Jake, CLE and KLK plus TT’s Sam Druiff banging the crossbar at half-time – “the best moment of his life” said Mr D on Twitter. I think he was joking (he did only win £25 after all) but I’m not so sure! Family Roman took priority over my seat at Bristow’s; but in my absence Marcus Arscott did a terrific job with the TT Twitter feed, keeping me up-to-date with events and capturing a fist pumping Gary Johnson in all his glory at the final whistle. Rachel Malloch also sent us some pics from Bristow’s, including her pre-game chips. Thanks for that Rach I could almost smell the Plainmoor atmosphere from home!
The post-match interviews with Gary Johnson are always worth a look and he’s very quick to give honest, but engaging views on the performance and result – something we haven’t seen since Nico was in charge. The Gary Owers one-to-ones with Patrick were so dull, eventually I just could not bear to watch them! Understandably GJ was a lot happier than the weekend, and I love his comment about wanting United to keep pushing for more goals right until the end (see below). There’s nothing the Yellow Army want more than free flowing, exciting football and Tuesday night was an evening to rejoice what the manager is bringing to Plainmoor.
One striker who was back with a bang is Jamie Reid. In reality he’s never gone away, and even when JR hasn’t been scoring recently, his admiral attitude and appreciation of colleagues has been there for all to see. Gary will still demand more out of Jamie, especially on afternoons like the Woking game when the top strikers dig you out of holes. Reidy had a few chances last Saturday but couldn’t make them count; however with a very offensive 4-4-2/4-2-4 in place and Janneh stationed as his partner once more, the St Albans defence suffered the consequences. That’s ten goals for the front man and he’s not far behind Jake Robinson in the goal-scoring charts. Is there an ‘NLS golden boot’?! I don’t know, but on this form Jamie has every chance of winning it.
Gary certainly went all out with attack, picking Ruairi and KLK on the wings and demanding that the team take the game to St Albans. It was no surprise therefore to see us concede a goal, but the risk was worth taking as the goals flowed at the other end. Tuesday’s squad indicated at the imbalance currently in the squad, with not much cover at full back and on the wings – making GJ’s options more limited than he would like. Asa, Opi and George should all return soon so the squad numbers will be fine, however only a fool would think that this squad won’t be tweaked as the season progresses and I’m sure the boss is on the look-out for players who can make a difference. That should be motivation for the current crop to up their game at least!
TT’s match verdict writer was Elliot Milner. Elliot’s a young man who was really keen to do some reports for us. After debuting in a rare Owers win over Hemel Hempstead, he did another stellar job this week describing the action. I love the fact that TT gives fans such as Elliot, Marcus Arscott et al a platform to write about the club, and their passion for TUFC always shines through. Sure there are plenty of forums, plus Facebook and Twitter to air your views – but the art of writing full articles is different and allows for more expression. The ‘Crossbar King’ Sam Druiff is back in the match verdict saddle on Saturday, so watch out for his thoughts and his player ratings (which I rarely agree on).
All roads lead to Plainmoor and we’re back there on Saturday to welcome Concord Rangers. With three TUFC home games in just over a week (big kudos to Chris Ralph again for making the pitch very playable), Tuesday’s fairly low crowd of less than 1600 was to be expected and I hope we can get closer to 2k at the weekend. I said to myself I’d only do pre-match opposition interviews for away games this season, but I’m breaking that rule as we go on! This week Rangers programme editor Alan Jessup-Peacock answers our questions on his club. Rangers had a good win on Tuesday night as well and are on the same points as us, so it could be a tricky 90 minutes for the Gulls. The interview will be up on Friday so watch out for that.
One thing I haven’t mentioned is that Woking loss (Tuesday was a brilliant way of solving the FA Cup hangover that lingered on during Sunday and Monday). I was very critical of the officiating on the day and it just seems to be something we’ll have to live with. I don’t think the standard has been much worse than last season, but the ongoing failure of these refs to control the game, let play flow where possible and be consistent will probably irk us numerous more times before the season is out. It’s up to us to rise above it, on and off the football pitch.
There was plenty of discussion regarding the post-match celebrations and posturing of the Woking team, who clearly felt like it was their cup final! But let’s be honest, we have all enjoyed big away day victories with the Gulls and rubbed the home team’s fans noses in it – it’s all part of the football banter isn’t it! If we’re going to dish out plenty of abuse to players like big Ben Gerring, then guess what, they might have the chance to reply with interest if the result goes their way. It’s unfortunate that a man with United in his heart like Gerring felt the need to confront the Popside at full time and I’m sure he’ll be expecting plenty of stick in the return fixture! Those big return matches at Billericay and Woking are already ones to savour and will quickly be marked in my 2019 diary come January.
FINAL WORD: TUFC cup draw alert…Basingstoke away! I didn’t go to the FA Cup 4th qualifying match at Basingstoke in 2015, but I think it still haunts those that did! Nicho had just taken over and I think we all expected a win and a pop at the 1st round proper. Instead the performance was tragic and we were as my dad would say “cuffed and stuffed”. This time around it’s the FA Trophy that takes centre stage and the question going around on our TT WhatsApp group was “Are we bovvered?” I think we all concurred that a cup run would be ok, as long as it doesn’t impact on our league form. It’s all about PROMOTION this season isn’t it, that has to be the priority and Gary Johnson’s starting XI at Basingstoke will illustrate how much priority the gaffer is giving it. We do not want a settling period in the National League South of more than one season, Conference football ASAP please Mr Johnson!
PS – Check out the Fan Zone this Saturday before the game – see below.