Ben Currie – @bencurrie8
Torquay looked to put last week’s disappointing defeat at Welling behind them as they welcomed Dulwich Hamlet to Plainmoor. The Gulls looking to do the double over their London opposition after a hard-fought win in the capital in December.
Recent defeats to Bath and Welling have raised questions over United’s push for top spot but their home form has been imperious; winning 8 in a row. Today offered an ideal opportunity to bounce back against an improving side who strengthened with 3 new loan signings in the week.
Yves-Niate came into defence in place of the suspended Kyle Cameron and Kalvin Kalala replaced Ruairi Keating on the wing as Torquay attacked the Family Stand in the first half on a mild February afternoon; perfect for football.
Home fans have become accustomed to Torquay starting fast and taking the game to their opposition and today was no difference with Janneh and Reid pressing high and defending from the front, Dulwich immediately pushed back and forced into conceding possession.
Torquay took the lead after 6 minutes when a quickly taken free-kick fed Davis in plenty of space on the overlap, his pull-back found Reid whose deflected shot squirmed past the rather tall goalkeeper at the near post. The perfect start.
Dulwich were not given a second to settle as the Yellows kept the ball moving quickly and accurately and throwing numbers forward on the counter-attack, on one such occasion Connor Lemomheigh-Evans beat the off-side and selflessly squared the ball past the keeper to allow Saikou one of the easiest goals he’ll ever score by tapping into an empty net.
Torquay were threatening to blow Dulwich off the park and wrack up a cricket score until an unusual stoppage stunted the momentum. The referee felt he was no longer able to continue and with no 4th officials in our league the call was made for a member of the crowd to run the line (a man from the Popside duly obliging) This Fiasco took 10 minutes to sort out and whilst Torquay remained firmly in control of proceedings they could not reach the peaks of that whirlwind 20 minute opening spell.
The Gulls did add more goals before half-time to make their superiority count though as a Torquay man (Asa Hall) once again won possession high up the field, passing to Kalala whose perfect through-ball gave Janneh the freedom of Plainmoor to round the goalkeeper and make it 3-0. Minutes later, Jamie Sendles-White was felled in the box and the stand-in referee had little hesitation in pointing to the spot. After a 2 minute wait of delaying tactics Reidy emphatically drove his penalty into the bottom corner. 4-0 at half-time and United had been magnificent.
The second half felt a little like ‘after the Lord Mayor’s Show’ as Dulwich tried wilfully to stem the bleeding and United understandably trying to conserve energy by walking it in and thus overplaying at times. It still felt like Torquay could score at any moment and after a quick-fire one-two between Davis and Kalala it was 5-0 when the latter’s tame effort trickled through the hapless keeper’s legs.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Torquay could and would turn this into an absolute hammering but Dulwich didn’t give up and added some respectability to the score-line although United were the architects of their two conceded goals. First, Liam Davis gave the referee a decision to make with a clumsy looking tackle in the box, Akinyemi making no mistake from the spot. Minutes later, more sloppy play in defence gave Green a shot on goal from the edge of the box and he too found the back of the net. It was a careless 5 minute spell from Torquay.
Dulwich looked revitalised and had chances to bridge the gap further, another goal would have made things interesting. At the other end The Gulls did have chances of their own on the counter-attack to add the gloss to the score-line but found the goalkeeper awoken from his slumber to keep the tally at 5. It ended 5-2 but it really could have been any score.
MacDonald 6. Spectator in the first half, handling assured apart from one second-half corner, no chance with either goal, distribution good.
Wynter 7. Generally solid in defence, got forward to add support to the attack.
Niate 6. A bit too relaxed on the ball, could have played himself into trouble in the first half, distribution mixed, very good in the air.
Sendles-White 6. has a habit of following the ball up the pitch, susceptible to ball over the top at times, good communication.
Davis 7. Consistently good, shouldn’t be playing at this level. Need to see penalty incident again but got himself into a bit of a tangle.
Kalala 8. A pleasure to watch, Dulwich could not get near him in the first half.
Hall 7. Does the muck and nettles brilliantly, binds it all together and allows the ball players to play. Notice his absence more than any other player in the team.
Lemonheigh-Evans. 7. Unselfish play for Janneh’s second. Lovely ability to glide across the pitch with the ball, perhaps delayed the killer pass a bit too long on one or two occasions.
Andrews 7 not a winger but doing a valiant job out wide. Lovely one touch passing, makes playing on the mud patch look far easier than it is.
Reid and Janneh 7. Not just quality goal-scorers but excellent link-up and hold-up play too. Ran their socks off defending from the front and pressing high. Both will be disappointed not to complete their hat-tricks but what a thrill it is to have such a devastating goal-scoring partnership. Neither are particularly selfish either.
Keating 6. Full of effort as always but unfortunate to enter the fray just as Dulwich galvanised. Not a winger but will do whatever is asked of him and I absolutely love that.
Vincent 7 Looks very comfortable on the ball and already looks to have a good understanding with team-mates, would like to see him from the start in order to properly judge him but not sure how he breaks into the starting line-up at this particular moment.
Man of the Match: Kalvin Kalala
Kalvin Kalala set the tone very early on with a surging run down the wing and he did not let up for the entire first half. Dulwich simply could not handle his direct, forceful running with the ball. Dangerous and comfortable on either wing I cannot remember a more exciting player to watch in a good many years. Worth the entrance money alone.
Janneh and Reidy must be a nightmare to defend against. Reid is increasingly using his physicality to good effect and Janneh’s off the ball movement is superb – always looking for the early ball to set him free as we saw for his two goals today. There is little point in trying to recruit another striker for the run in because how do you not give these two lads 90 minutes each, their goal-scoring speaks for itself. If we work the ball properly, either of them will finish it off. Janneh has a massive future in the game, out of all our loanees I think he will end up playing at the highest level. They set the tone today by defending from the front, like wasps at the picnic, they are never out of the game.
We pressed high early on: never allowing Dulwich to settle and winning the ball high up the pitch which led to numerous goal-scoring chances. With Kalala used as a constant outlet, and swapping wings midway through the half, we pushed the opposition so far back that we were camped on their 18 yard line for most of the first half and were really able to make our dominance count, the game was won after 20 minutes and after that it’s down to game management.
Few teams in the league could live with that breakneck opening, indeed Dulwich were forced into a tactical switch after 20 minutes in an attempt to stem the flow. The referee stoppage came at a good time because it looked like it could be a massacre and the body-language of half-time suggested a team that wanted to get back on that coach and go home.
Remarkably, Dulwich won the second half 2-1 and all credit to them for the spirit they showed when, at 5-0, they could have totally capitulated as plenty of other teams in that situation would have. Not only that but they spurned 3 or 4 very good chances to narrow the score-line further and it would have been no more than they deserved for a second half performance full of character when I was expecting them to be out on their feet. Nice to see a decent following in the away-end too and a good noise they made.
Nothing to report here….
The first referee was in total control of proceedings, I don’t think he put a foot wrong before his injury. I think he twisted his body somewhat painfully in order to avoid getting in the way of a midfield 50-50 and despite trying to run it off decided he was no longer fit to continue thus meaning the linesman became Referee no.2.
Referee no.2 tried his best to be as anonymous as he could, liberally allowing play to continue so to avoid having to make a decision. A more senior referee would have stopped the game far more regularly but I don’t think he got anything glaringly wrong although I need another look at Dulwich’s penalty decision.
Linesman no.2 was on a hiding to nothing being a fan running the line for the club he had paid to watch on that afternoon but I think he sensibly decided to solely focus on offside calls which, from my view, he got spot on.
This was not an ideal situation for a professional football match, with 2 of the officials in a position they were not expecting to be in at the start of play. It could easily have turned into a circus but they did not do too badly considering the circumstances.
Today was a good game for Kyle Cameron, and he wasn’t even playing. I wouldn’t normally advocate changing a winning team but Cameron will surely come straight back in when his suspension is up. Niate looked a little rusty, and on one occasion in the first half nearly played himself needlessly into trouble. Sendles-White has a habit of chasing the ball up the field and being caught out of position, a couple of times in the second half Dulwich got in behind.
It was a little bit hap-hazard in the second half and we won’t always have that cushion of a 4-0 lead to fall back on. They will certainly need to be at their best for a tricky looking trip to East Thurrock on Tuesday. Our defensive record speaks for itself and I’m happy that these guys (with big potential) have signed on for the next season, but I do feel we need better communication back there, Cameron is a step above both of them, for me.
It’s hard to be disappointed on a day when Torquay won 5-2 and regained top spot in the process but for that 30 minutes in the second half we let our standards slip and on another day we might get properly punished.
The first half was flawless and demonstrated that, when at our best, we are the best team in this league and no one can live with us and no team will be looking forward to the trip down to Plainmoor. The second half showed that if we don’t manage matches properly on the pitch then we can shoot ourselves in the foot just as easily as we gain an advantage.
At 5-0 it should be simple to see the game out without incident but we let Dulwich back into it. On another day, without a 5 goal cushion, we could easily have dropped 2 points, and that’s from a lowering of standards. We need to be better, we need to value our clean sheets, we need to see games out properly, we can’t afford to let teams get a sniff. It’s a bad precedent to set for future matches.
It’s ridiculous to be critical when the standard of football in the first half was so high, and it was unstoppable at times, but as we’ve seen in recent weeks we are not invincible and we need to keep our eye on the ball at all times and keep our standards as high as they can be if we are to keep hold of the top spot from now to the end of the season.
View from the Ed:
“I expected a tougher challenge from the away side. Don’t get me wrong ‘The Hamlet’ had a good go in the second half and deserve credit for that, but as a team they were far too open and narrow – against this United side that is a recipe for disaster. With the boys clearly galvanised for action; the goals flowed and the game was won by half-time. Reidy and all grabbed the space with glee and did the business – making the right passes and timing their runs to perfection. Dulwich couldn’t handle it. Some defensive deficiencies reared their ugly heads again, as Mac was denied a clean sheet – but in reality it was as comfortable an afternoon as the score-line suggests. Apart from the goals, the highlight has to be the heroic sub linesman trundling over from the popside to merrily grab a flag and ensure the match continued. All in all just another dull afternoon at fortress Plainmoor, as the Gulls regain their perch on top of the NLS! Football…you can’t beat it can you?” – Dom
Social Media Reaction:
East Thurrock – 26th February @ Rookery Hill