0 – 1
Andy Charles – @Capitalgull
Is this the turning point? News of Woking’s 1-0 deficit quickly spread through the Yellow Army at the Aspect Arena during the first-half. Although it took a while for things to head in our direction against a tough Concord Rangers side, this was undoubtedly a big day in the race for the National League South title.
Concord were backed by a tiny and almost silent home crowd, despite their excellent form since the turn of the year, but they still had little to celebrate in a very tight first 45 minutes. What excitement there was came for the Gulls, but chances were few and far between on a windy day, when the pitch proved bouncy but actually not too bad to play on.
Saikou Janneh, a constant threat in the opening period, and Connor Lemonhaigh-Evans had shots off target, but it took nearly half-an-hour for either ‘keeper to be tested. That test came for home keeper Sam Beasant, whose gloves must be the biggest I have seen outside the NHL. He was equal to a shot from Jamie Reid, which he pushed round the post.
Reid really should have opened the scoring just after the interval, when a through ball from the excellent Ben Wynter was misjudged by a Concord defender and allowed our top-scorer a clear run on goal. On this occasion it was a poor attempt from Reid, who seemed to be caught in two minds, and he chose was wrong option.
Corners had been largely wasted until the 71st minute when Lemonhaigh-Evans’ in-swinging delivery was ideal for Kyle Cameron. He ran onto it and headed it powerfully past Beasant, before celebrating with the massed Yellow Army behind the far goal.
Concord would not lie down though and came very close to an equaliser with 10 minutes left, hitting the post from a Danny Green free-kick and then Shaun MacDonald pulled off an incredible save from Sam Ashford as he looked to nod home the rebound.
Reid was again denied by Beasant – although a corner was somehow not given – after being put through for the second time. United were not troubled too much at the other end as the seconds ran down, with the only late concern a nasty tackle from Sam Blackman on Wynter which brought a yellow card. This also turned an apparent Dagenham fan in the crowd into a complete idiot who fancied taking a few of us on! (He was happy to tell us we will struggle in the National League next season…but BRING IT THE HELL ON!)
MacDonald 8 – Not a lot to do, but his save from Ashford was absolutely vital and gets him extra points!
Wynter 9 – Has proven doubters wrong. Kept danger man Joan Luque quiet and was imperious in defence.
Davis 6 – Not his best day. Dangerous a couple of times going forward but caused a couple of panicky moments at the back with his dithering.
Sendles-White 8 – Excellent on his chance to shine with Koue-Niate suspended.
Cameron 8 – JSW probably defended better but Kyle gets the bonus point for his goal.
Hall 8 – Bossed the midfield, covered well at the back and ran all day. Would have been MOTM but for Wynter’s excellent display.
Evans 6.5 – Thought he struggled at times today, especially after getting booked (deservedly so!). Too many passes off target but he’s been great this season so will give him a pass.
Kalala 6.5 – Another who didn’t have his best day and looked a bit tight when he came off. Couple of promising runs but little end product this time.
Keating 7 – Kept his place and made life tough for Concord’s full-backs, depending on what side of the pitch he was roaming.
Reid 7 – As ever worked his socks off, but just left his shooting boots in the dressing room.
Janneh 7 – Looked like being our star in the first-half when he was a constant threat but was quiet in the second.
Dickson (on for Kalala) 7 – Proving to be a vital player off the bench and sure he could step in to about six positions if we needed him.
Not used: Burton (GK), Koszela, Andrews, Vincent
Man of the Match: Ben Wynter
Remember when some wondered why Gary Owers had brought in this below-par right-back? I think that might have been Ben, but he’s proved everyone who doubted him wrong. I knew he would, having watched a lot of Hampton & Richmond games last season, and I am pleased for him. He was rock solid at the back today, given the threat of their left-winger, and produced some excellent clearances. Hope that nasty tackle he was on the end of late on didn’t leave any lasting effects.
Honourable Mention: Jamie Sendles-White
I told Dom he was wrong to doubt JSW earlier in the season, and then told Dom I was wrong to have doubted him about JSW being a “bit dodgy”. He’d not played well the last couple of times I had seen him, but I was impressed when he came on against Dartford last weekend and just as impressed today. I’ve loved Kyle Cameron for 90% of the season but JSW was the better of the two today. Asa Hall was excellent in midfield as well, but you almost just expect that now.
4-4-2, simples. JSW in for Niate, who sat out the game through suspension. Kalala played on the right, Keating on the left, with Ruairi moving to the right when Dickson came on in the second-half. Everyone else as you would expect by now.
Concord are a decent side, playing in a hovel of a ground that doesn’t go higher than three or four rows of seats or steps of terracing. Lovely clubhouse mind you, just a shame it is so inaccessible to most of the world, miles from the rail network and only served by the odd bus from Southend. Their results have been excellent in 2019 and we were the first team to beat them in NLS at home since November. Always been a big fan of their centre-back Connor Essam, and he was excellent again, as was Sam Ashford, who had also played against us for East Thurrock last month. But Sam Blackman – what a complete arsehole. Should have been booked on totting up in the first half and nearly cut Wynter in half at the end of the game. Lucky to stay on the park.
Elliott Swallow. Didn’t think he did a whole lot wrong to be honest, apart from his inexplicable decision to let Blackman escape with foul after foul after foul. His assistant on the clubhouse side was hopeless though – missed foul throws and an obvious corner from Reid’s shot saved by Beasant.
Shaun MacDonald’s save from Ashford was as important as the match-winning goal. Concord’s striker looked like he could have put the ball anywhere, but the Gulls stopper appeared from nowhere to claw the ball away on the line.
Player Spotlight: Asa Hall
I was excited when we were linked with him a number of years ago but not so sure when we did actually sign him last summer. Is he too old? Why drop to this level now? But I am happy to admit I was wrong…very wrong. His form over the last 10 games has been of an incredible level, he’s a superb leader and clearly the kind of player we need to marshal what is essentially a very young and inexperienced team.
It’s in our hands now. I would have snapped your hand off a couple of weeks ago if you had offered me nine points and three clean sheets against Billericay, Dartford and Concord. Of course, we have to thank Slough for putting us back on top of the table, but we’ve done our job efficiently over the last three games to make sure we could take full advantage of any slip-ups by Woking. I bumped into my work colleague who supports the Cards on the way home – he had tellingly been to watch Saracens play rugby instead – and he told me friends had informed him they are done. Not playing well, not playing like a team. I’m of course taking nothing for granted, because we are Torquay United after all, but this is undoubtedly a pivotal day and one we came out on the right side of for a change. Now to make the most of home advantage…
View from the Deputy-Editor:
Thank you Slough, I am sorry for everything bad I have ever said about you. The Rebels did us a huge favour today, but we still needed to take advantage. Unlike my last away game against Welling, we stuck with it when things were not going our way and didn’t lose our heads. It was a very professional performance, and Cameron’s header was fantastic. Was it the performance of Champions? Who knows, but we have now shown that we can grind out wins against good teams. This could be invaluable come the showdown with Woking, also known as the Ben Gerring derby. A win there, and we are surely up. COYY Sam
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Wealdstone (H) – 30th of March – 3pm KO.