MarcusArscott – @MarcusArscott
In the aftermath of the Bath game last week, I heard and read a few people saying that the loss would be good for us at this stage of the season. Saying that it would give us a chance to reset, re-focus and re-evaluate, I think they may have been right.
Conditions on the day were pretty awful, with high winds and drizzle affecting the game throughout the first half. United won the toss and elected to kick with the wind towards the away end. After a fairly slow start as both teams got used to the conditions, Saikou Janneh opened his account for the day at 7 minutes after City’s keeper failed to deal with Reid’s low shot. Kalala went down after suffering from what appeared to be an ankle injury and was replaced by Ruairi Keating on the 19th minute. Keating then provided an assist with pretty much his first touch of the game as he cushioned and bought the ball down to Janneh who tapped in for his second of the game. It was just 2 minutes later when Lemonheigh-Evans intercepted a misplaced pass from an Oxford defender and sent a sweet through ball to Reid, who slotted it low and past the keeper for goal number 3.
At this point, the gulls were completely dominating City’s defence and they looked like they were going to score with every attack. Then came Jake Andrews’ first goal, as he whipped in a left footed, in-swinging corner which floated perfectly into the top left corner of the goal. It was probably helped by the wind but who cares, it was a thing of beauty. United weren’t done there, and in the 41st minute Reid made a skilful run down the right wing and fired in a cross with pinpoint accuracy to Andrews, and he volleyed it in off the post, cue madness in the Popside.
Now, 5-0 at half time is not bad at all. However, you could tell that there were no instructions to slow it down or ‘park the bus’ in the second half, as United continued to play relentless, fast paced attacking football. On the 58th minute, Lemonheigh-Evans played a smart low cross in from the left to meet Andrews, who back-heeled it into the back of the net to bag his hat-trick. About 5 minutes later Hall came off for Dickson, and we seemed to lose our shape and solidity somewhat.
Sure enough, just a few minutes later Oxford got their first with a lovely curled shot from inside the box, to which McDonald had no chance of saving. United failed to respond meaningfully to this and just 3 minutes later Tshimanga broke free from his man to a through ball, Sendles-white mistimed a sliding challenge to stop him and he slotted it home calmly past Macdonald.
It’s very difficult to be critical after your team has just scored 6 goals in the first hour of a game, but this really was a cheap goal to give away. Reid reinstated the 5-goal lead by tapping in from close range after a bit of a kerfuffle in City’s box. At no point in the game did either team shut down or stop pushing for goals, it made for a thoroughly entertaining afternoon and a hugely important 3 points.
Fantastic team performance all round, aside from a 10-minute blip in the second half.
Shaun Macdonald – 7: Not much he could’ve done for the 2 goals, made 2 or 3 decent saves but other than that a fairly quiet afternoon. As ever, a confident and assured performance.
Liam Davis – 8: Sterling performance once again, played some clever overlaps with Andrews and at one point made a crucial and perfectly timed sliding tackle in the box to prevent a certain goal.
Kyle Cameron – 8: Solid, vocal and dependable performance. If he’s not the best centre back in the league, then I’d like to know who is.
Jamie Sendles-White – 6: Made a few mistakes today, mistimed the sliding challenge to allow the City No.9 through on goal. I’d like to see Niate back if I’m honest.
Ben Wynter – 8: Made some brilliant runs down the right, his attacking play is improving exponentially. A completely different player to the one we were watching 3 months ago.
Asa Hall – 8.5: Held the midfield together, made some very important challenges and set up some excellent attacking moves. We never look as solid when he’s not in the side
Kalvin Kalala – N/A: Went off injured after less than 20 minutes, let’s hope it’s not anything serious.
Connor Lemonheigh-Evans – 7.5: After a frustrating first half hour where nothing seemed to be falling for him, Evans found his stride and played the playmaker role commendably.
Jake Andrews – 9: Sponsor’s MOTM and mine also, more on him below.
Jamie Reid – 9: Aside from the 2 goals, he does a lot of important attacking work which can sometimes go unnoticed. His positioning and hold up play was textbook today.
Saikou Janneh – 9: Has formed a fantastic partnership with Reid, and their cohesion is at an all-time high. He constantly punishes defenders with his pace and trickery and did well with his two goals.
Ruairi Keating – 8: Came on after 20 minutes, almost instantly provided an assist for Janneh and kept himself busy all afternoon.
Ryan Dickson – 7: More attack-minded than Hall, gets stuck in at every opportunity and went on some impressive runs, distribution was good.
Opi Edwards – 7: Opi was only on for 20 minutes or so but showcased why Bristol City think so highly of him, blistering pace and impressive skill.
Man of the Match: Jake Andrews
This was a hard decision for all the right reasons, but Jake gets it today for me. After the penalty miss at Bath, he was obviously crestfallen and even took to making a public apology on Twitter shortly after the game. Well, everyone has rallied around him and he responded today by putting in what has got to be one of the best performances of his career. His set-pieces are wonderful, his crossing is accurate, and he obviously has an eye for goal. He is a passionate and vocal player who tends to wear his heart on his sleeve, but he will always give 100% and his skill and ability shone through today. A thoroughly superb performance.
Yellow Army MOTM Vote:
Ummm… pretty much the whole team? Seriously, this was a team performance where everyone played the conditions perfectly and managed the game to a T. In particular though, I thought Jamie Reid, Saikou Janneh, Liam Davis and Kyle Cameron had exceptionally good games today. Play like this every week and we’ll beat anyone and everyone.
Unchanged 4-4-2, tried and tested. Davis and Wynter have the license to go forward and they use it effectively, with Hall usually sitting back whilst Lemonheigh-Evans pushes on to try and make something happen up front. The system looks fairly fluid, with players often drifting out of position to counter the play of the opposition. GJ tends to give the players freedom, and they are intelligent and tactically aware enough to use it to the team’s advantage.
Oxford City were… Okay. They look to be a fairly bog-standard side for this level and their defence looked shaky and disorganised. Their striker however, Kabongo Tshimanga, looks a tidy player with plenty of pace and a decent right foot. They’ll be a stable mid-table side for now.
Too many times over the last few seasons we have seen referees fail to adapt to the conditions. When it’s raining and the pitch is slippery, sliding challenges always look that little bit worse and you find that people around you wince when one of these challenges go in. Today’s ref though, adapted well and allowed the game to flow. No strange decisions of note and generally did well to control the game in, at times, difficult conditions.
Gary Johnson was understandably delighted with the result and performance, as was every Torquay fan in the ground. The importance of this result and the response from the team today cannot be understated. Yes, we slipped up last week, but we have picked ourselves back up and look ready to go on yet another record winning streak.
Woking lost 2-0 to Wealdstone which is fantastic, it puts us 4 points (5 points effectively with our goal difference) clear and the pressure is on Woking now to perform. We’re away to East Thurrock next week, expect a similar score line if we play like that again.
Social Media Reaction:
East Thurrock – 2nd February @ Rookery Hill – Andy Charles Reporting for TT