“I said in our match verdict that this loss could turn out to be a wake-up call for all concerned – I’m confident that will be the case”.
Dom Roman – @DomRoman
It was only ONE game I keep telling myself, just ONE match and ONE loss. We were always going to lose ONE eventually and Bath away in hindsight was a more likely candidate than most. We’re also still top which is important isn’t it! That’s rational and reasonable thinking, something that doesn’t often rule in the chaotic world of football.
BUT IT WASN’T JUST A GAME WAS IT! The more people who snapped up tickets for Twerton Park, the bigger the occasion got, transforming the fixture from a standard league away day to an occasion. An occasion when it felt like everyone was there and expectation levels increased to fever point. Unfortunately it was an occasion where ‘the Gulls’ never really got going and trudging away from Twerton after seeing the lads snatch defeat from the jaws of victory felt momentarily like the end of the world.
Losing so rarely these days makes a loss feel tragic and much outcry of despondency filled the social media channels, thankfully doused down by common sense from the fans who can see the bigger picture. I said in our match verdict that this loss could turn out to be a wake-up call for all concerned, making Asa and the boys more determined than ever to push for promotion – I’m confident that will be the case.
Gary Johnson has brought so much to Plainmoor; a feel-good factor that has tempted fans back to the ground in their droves; sparkling football to make you jump for joy and most importantly wins. However one thing that he hasn’t quite achieved is triumphs in the biggest matches, and that will rankle with him considerably as him and Downesy plot the games ahead.
I’m talking about Woking at home in both the FA Cup and the league where dominant displays were not enough to bring home the bacon. Billericay (when they were still good) at Plainmoor, when we chucked away the 3 points with some calamitous errors. And last weekend with the game at our mercy, we contrive to fall under the Romans sword. It’s not the most worrying trend as we have won just about every other game, but we simply have to do better when these massive points are on the line.
In examining these games, I think we’ve lacked calm heads at key times. People who just make the right decisions at the right moments, and of course the penalty miss was one of those defining minutes when we lost our heads. United then got ragged and let Bath regain the momentum, giving them far too much space on their left and eventually being punished. Lessons to be learnt. 90 minutes will not always go swimmingly like they have in recent months and it was a bumpy pitch against a good team, in front of a vocal crowd. Keeping your cool at those times is the mark of champion teams. I trust in Gary as always to mould us into one.
Credit to Jake Andrews for taking to social media and apologising for his woeful Chris Waddle-like miss. It wasn’t really necessary as players make mistakes and it is a team game after all – he wanted to take responsibility and got carried away in the heat of the moment, but it happens. With all the assists and goals this talented young lad has contributed this season, he’s earned the credit to be given forgiveness by the Yellow Army after all. The main thing is these regrets of ‘what might have been’ don’t seep into the next game, and Gary Johnson’s aim this week will be to improve and learn from last Saturday to move forward.
I hope that last-minute sitter that Saikou Janneh endured doesn’t play on his mind either and I am sure it won’t. Saikou has had a frustrating few games by his high standards. He’s been involved as usual – always showing for the ball and linking up with team-mates. But the young lad’s touch and control around the penalty area has just lacked a certain something – plus he’s been offside far too frequently. This is his first proper season of football and (much like Jake) with his class I expect Janners to find the net again very soon. His partnership with Reidy is unlikely to be broken by Gary – it’s been far too prolific for any alterations.
The first XI is pretty much set now, but I would like to see a couple of additions to the squad. We haven’t got a lot of players in reserve, and very few game-changers who can turn a difficult game in our favour. Opi Edwards meets that criteria once fit. Ruairi Keating is a lively sub but doesn’t appear to be trusted as a striker and Ryan Dickson has the quality, but has struggled with fitness and remains on the periphery of first team action. Apart from that Samir Nabi is the forgotten man of Plainmoor, not loaned out but never played by GJ and Olaf Koszela has shown some glimpses of what he’s about – at 16 he’s one for the future though rather than the heat of a promotion battle.
The call for a target man went up after the Bath loss. It’s an unsurprising reaction to a game in which we struggled to keep hold of the ball upfront, but a massive physical target man just doesn’t seem to fit into the team ethos GJ is developing at Plainmoor. We’re all about pass and move, stretching teams to the limit with pace and ability – so any new striker would have to fulfil some of that criteria. A guy who has the strength to hold off defenders and link up play might work, as long as he’s not puffing too much after 20 minutes to be an asset! I’m thinking someone like Elliot Romain or even Tyler Harvey from Truro, not massive but winning headers and scoring goals – they could make the difference between finishing 1st or 2nd come April.
One change I’d make for Saturday is reinstating Niate into that back four. No offence to Sendles-White, but he’s no patch on Big Jean, who could have helped push away the resistance from Bath just by literally heading everything away as always! JSW is a decent option to have, a utility player with potential to become an important guy for us – at the moment he is a sub for me. The rest of the team pretty much picks itself, which is maybe another reason for adding to the squad – competition for places is always healthy at any level.
Onto Saturday and redemption, which sounds like too strong a word but I’ll run with it anyway! Oxford City are the sort of mid-table team we’ve been rolling over comfortably and assuming confidence hasn’t dipped too much, and the Yellow Army get behind the boys again – I’d hope for 3 points by 5pm to ease the Bath aches and pains. And why do I get the feeling we’ll get another penalty? Football just tends to be like that doesn’t it! (Marcus Arscott will be doing the TT honours with a match verdict from the Popside).
FINAL WORD: A few things to mop up from the week’s TUFC events. It’s nice to see TULFC seemingly back on track and back in action. After the momentum and excitement of their 2017-18 season, the ladies have had a turbulent few months. Check out their request for sponsorship below. Meanwhile talk resurfaced this week about the new stadium – you try to forget about it and along comes a reminder. This time there has been statements from the councillors about supporting new investors (all about nothing really) and the mayor giving up on Nightingale Park. Nothing to see here it seems! The Mayor and Clarke want to find a way to give TUFC supporters a new stadium that we clearly do not want and they won’t give up easily. As you were! Finally I hope you’ve all checked out my entertaining Q&A with Kevin Nicholson this week. Kevin is rightly a Gulls legend and what happened at United hasn’t dampened his belief in himself, he remains an inspiring character who is always a pleasure to talk to.