Matty Hayward – @MattyHayward96
A late goal and spell of pressure from Gloucester City wasn’t enough to break United’s now 8-match winning streak. After taking the lead early from an own goal and a scrappy poach from Jean-Yves Koue Niate, the Gulls became a touch complacent and will feel relieved that they didn’t throw the three points away.
The first goal game from a ball over the top. Reidy got on the end of it and lifted the ball in Janneh’s direction but – under pressure from the Gambian – Joe Hanks nodded past his own ‘keeper. Cue the apologetic celebrations expected of a team who know they’re lucky to take the lead.
The second goal was similarly unattractive. An Andrews corner somehow found its way to Niate who prodded home from close range. If that was Janneh, we’d be saying he was a born poacher.
After the two goals, United were dominant but relatively unthreatening. In truth, neither team looked hugely composed on the ball or created a great deal of chances, aside a pair of mishit Gloucester crosses that clipped the bar. There was an air of complacency both in the crowd and on the pitch, as if it was expected that Torquay would go on to win the game with ease…
It looked as if that would be the case until the last five minutes. A weak clearance from Olaf Koszela fell to a Gloucester attacker. Some decent feet and a neat finish from Odin Bailey ensured that the Gulls would have to wake up for the rest of the game.
Indeed, it looked as if they had woken up when Reidy went through on goal and his shot was well-saved but ended up in Koszela’s path for a tap in. It was only when Gloucester carried the ball over the halfway line that the youngster realised his goal had been chalked off for off-side.
Seconds later, Gloucester also had the ball in the net. However, a barge on McDonald was deemed to be a foul and that signalled the end of the game. Chris Todd’s men will feel aggrieved, but it looked like the right decision to me.
The game ended 2-1. For sure, if Torquay had been more clinical it could’ve been 5-1, but the Gulls will also feel slightly fortunate to still be top of the league.
McDonald 7 – Not much to do but his distribution was much improved today. Didn’t look troubled.
Wynter 7 – Played very well. Whipped in a couple of delicious balls and seemed to relish a more attacking role in the second half.
Koue Niate 8 – Got his goal and was generally very solid
Cameron 8 – Solid too. A good centre half pairing at this level.
Davis 8 – Again, played well. Simply a good left back.
Kalala 7 – Bright, but some of the blame for the team’s complacency has to be put on our usually lively players. I think he’s better on the right.
Sendles-White 5 – Sorry, he’s not a midfielder. We missed Lemonheigh-Evans a lot.
Hall 8 – Strong, commanding, loud in the last ten minutes when we needed him to be. Excellent passer of the ball. I like him.
Andrews 6 – See: every reference ever made to a midfielder playing on the wing – it doesn’t suit him. Tried a lot of long passes that didn’t come off. Just wasn’t his day.
Janneh 6 – Didn’t make much of a mark, had one good chance that he didn’t put away. Again, has to take some of the blame for the team’s sluggishness. Also, off-side way too often in the first half: Benyon-esque.
Reid 7 – Another goalless game for the Prince. That said, his hold up play and passing was superb. He’s becoming a real all-round centre forward. Still should have scored today.
Koszela 6 – Harsh but he was at least partly at fault for their goal. Looked lively though.
Man of the Match: Jean-Yves Koue Niate
I found it hard to find a MOTM today because everyone was…alright. Nobody impressed me, nobody really disappointed me. I understand that us Torquay fans are being treated to some delightful performances and results lately, so we’re a bit underwhelmed when everyone is averaging a 7/10. That said, Niate took his goal well and won everything he needed to win in the air.
Kyle Cameron would have been MOTM if Niate hadn’t scored: he was just as impressive at the back. Interesting that he’s lost the armband since his sending off at Boreham Wood. He seemed to be doing a good job with it but Asa Hall is an equally good leader and it doesn’t appear to be affecting either’s performance so…who cares?
Asa was also excellent in a much weaker midfield two. No screamers today, but an assured performance.
Started with the usual 4-4-2 with Sendles-White replacing Lemonheigh-Evans in midfield. Nabi will feel hard-done-by to miss out, especially considering Sendles-White is so obviously not a midfielder. Perhaps Johnson insists on having a double-barrelled player partner seven-lettered Hall?
In the second half, Wynter pushed forward onto the right of midfield, with Kalala swapping to the left and Andrews tucked inside. Sendles-White took up a (slightly) more familiar right back role.
Gloucester weren’t much cop, but they were ok. Their goalie had a good game, as did Jesus Christ impersonator Mawford (and a belated happy birthday to him!). Their best player was probably young Isaac Pearce who caused United’s relatively slow midfield some problems with his trickery.
Also, Andre Wright looks a lot fitter and a lot more like we had hoped he’d be at the start of this season. Shame he couldn’t be bothered in a Yellow shirt.
I think he got the big decision right, ruling Gloucester’s late equaliser out for a foul on McDonald. Chris Todd and his staff seemed unhappy with it but I’d put that more down to their lack of objectivity than a refereeing injustice.
I must also mention him being utterly duped by a dive from Pearce. The Forest Green loanee was rightly booed thereafter: it was a shocking piece of simulation.
The Gloucester goal brought a very drab game to life. Some will put it down to Chris Todd’s “inspired substitutions” (to quote Gloucester’s media man who interviewed the manager after the game). Realistically, Torquay were sloppy and deserved to concede. It woke the fans and both sets of players up and made for an exciting, if tense, last few minutes.
The player that Torquay fans left Plainmoor thinking about will be a man who they didn’t see today. I’m told Connor Lemonheigh-Evans’ loan had expired so he couldn’t feature today, but he should be back for January. It’s abundantly clear how important The Lemon is to our midfield, especially with Andrews on the wing and Dickson out injured. We lacked a drive and a creativity that he so effortlessly brings, and that is so obviously beyond Jamie Sendles-White.
We really need to make sure he’s tied down for the rest of the season. I think Andrews and Dickson can do his job but not to the same effect. It does concern me that there may be Football League clubs sniffing around the Johnson family dinner table in January, though you’d like to think Derek Adams wouldn’t be welcome there.
In the last game of the calendar year, Torquay have played a team from Gloucestershire three times out of the last four. We’ve won all three. Coincidence? Yes.
Gary Johnson is right when he says that Torquay fans have come to expect better performances than what we saw today. I’m pleased that the lads weren’t content in the dressing room after the game. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take beating everyone 2-1 and winning the league regardless of the performance, but we’re not a Gary Owers team and we should be sweeping sides like Gloucester City aside.
On to the Truro game, where the record for the biggest away following in this league is about to be shattered by the mighty, cocky, league-leading Yellows.
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Truro City – 1st January @ Plainmoor