“Given the right backing, GJ could make the dreams of League Two football into reality”
Dom Roman – @DomRoman
“Offense sells tickets. Defense wins championships” said legendary American Football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Three clean sheets in a row and United grip on the NLS crown has tightened week by week, as clichés go I think this one rings true. The narrow victory at Concord Rangers was a ‘roll your sleeves up and get the job done’ type of fixture, and it’s the TUFC defence that is stepping up to push us over the line.
At the rear of the United title chasing juggernaut is the increasingly confident Shaun MacDonald, and what a save Shaun pulled off in the second half at Concord. Even tight defences require help from their keeper occasionally, and Mac’s reflexes were lightning quick to ensure the score remained in our favour. A big moment in a game of very few chances, as a well-drilled Beach Boys team made like difficult for United (and curbed some of our fun, fun, fun…).
In the summer when Mac turned up with his gloves at Plainmoor, I think we all assumed he’d spend the season as back-up behind Alex Bass and I was initially sceptical on whether he had the stature to become a no.1 goalie. An early season injury to Bass saw the genial Geordie get his chance and he’s never really looked back. There have been the occasional error, but he’s comfortably exceeded all expectations and made the jersey his own. The keeper can often spend large parts of United games with little to do, but his concentrations levels appear to be spot-on and he has made numerous saves (especially at away matches) to bail out thankful team-mates. For a young guy who is only learning his trade, it’s been impressive stuff.
The rest of the defence also deserve the plaudits for the last three games. Young Ben Wynter is coming along very nicely. Wynts looked too nervous in early games to enjoy his football, but is now flying into tackles (see the pic below courtesy of Paul Raffety) and pushing forward with hunger and confidence. Meanwhile Jamie Sendles-White has been a different player since coming on against Dartford. He had a new determination about his game and was extremely focussed when the team needed him most – this is the player that GJ hoped he was signing a few months ago. If JSW keeps this up, then that ‘squad player’ tag will be forgotten and the very able Jean Niate could struggle to get back in the team.
Meanwhile, Kyle Cameron and Liam Davis have been pretty much consistent throughout the season – so consistent I think we can take their excellence for granted. It’s a big surprise that it’s taken big Kyle so long to get that first United goal! He missed a great chance versus Dartford, so he’ll be relived to finally hit the back of the net. Defensively all the attributes are there to turn KC into a league player, whether it’s down at Plainmoor remains to be seen. Davis is as close to unflappable as you’ll get at this level, anticipating danger quickly and dealing with it quietly and effectively. If them two aren’t in the NLS South Team of the Year then I’ll be demanding a re-count. No more ‘Mr Nice’ guys at the back, the defence has re-found it’s mojo and that championship could soon become a reality.
I have to talk about the gaffer next (any excuse). A few Yellow Army alarm bells were rung over the weekend when Yeovil Town sacked their manager and inevitably some supporters chucked ex-Glover legend GJ’s name into the (1+1=3) equation. So to hear Gary quash all speculation on Monday by declaring his love for the club and committing his immediate future to United was exactly what the doctor ordered. I was never worried to be honest, GJ has done it all at Yeovil and is clearly relishing the new challenge of trying to take Torquay United back to where we belong.
I can understand any panic though, as he’s brought so much to Plainmoor and losing him would be unbearable. United had become a morose defeatist place where enthusiasm and charisma were totally lacking, and nobody could lift morale. The removal of Kevin Nicholson had ripped a beating heart from the chest of the club and left us with a manager who had no idea of how to engage with fans or players. The incompetent GM hid in the background and our owners stayed away, how could we possibly rekindle the fire at Plainmoor and attract supporters back to NLS football? Hiring flippin Gary Johnson that’s how. A man who understands the passion of the supporters and how important we are to this football club, whilst preaching attacking football. What a difference. Given the right backing, GJ could make the dreams of League Two football into reality – then I would have to insist on a knight-hood!
Next up is Wealdstone on Saturday and with Woking facing an away trip to Bath City – it could be an afternoon when the title pendulum swings even more in our favour (no promises). Woking have been digging out results in recent months, but their seemingly continual parade of new signings hints at a team struggling to find a winning line-up and worried at seeing the 1st place slide from their grasp. The Cards have displayed a lot of character this season and may yet push us all the way. To do that though, they’ll probably may have to beat Bath, Chelmsford and TUFC in the run-in – a very tough task for Ben Gerring and his not so merry men.
Wealdstone man Roger Slater will be back in the metaphorical TT Q&A hot seat this week, following up his entertaining interview from a few months back. His team is fighting hard and could yet make the play-offs, so three points is not a sure thing (are we ever complacent as TUFC fans?!). After another super write-up from Andy Charles at the weekend, Marcus Arscott and Matty Hayward are in charge of the match verdict/TT twitter account for this one, so watch out for their opinions and updates.
Tickets have been snapped up for Chippenham (though surprisingly they have yet to sell out) and a very organised St Albans have already put theirs on sale for the last day of the season. I’d imagine these teams will be sad to see the backs of us if we’re promoted, such is the numbers visiting these grounds and spending money in their social clubs! Concord were very hospitable last weekend and pushed United all the way on the pitch. With an average of only 457 attending this season, they are having a great campaign and who knows, a play-off spot could yet be there’s. With Billericay on a nightmare run of form and only just clinging to 7th place at the moment, anything could happen.
Final Word – Firstly a ‘Get Well Soon’ to TUST chairman Michel Thomas, who has been in hospital recently after an operation. Michel would’ve been gutted to miss the Dartford win, so hopefully it won’t be long before he’s back at Plainmoor. Secondly, you may have noticed our TT match predictor article last week – well below is the scores from the first week of fixtures. Eight people tied for 1st at the moment as none of our experts believed we’d win 1-0, or that Slough Town could over-turn Woking! Looking at the predictions, it turns out we’re an optimistically agreeable lot – knowing them all fairly well I can assure you that’s not the case! But this one may come down to an exact score here or there. Don’t be alarmed, but I think everyone has predicted a comfortable win for United over Wealdstone – surely even we can’t stop this gathering momentum! See you on Saturday. COYY
Correct outcome = 1 point, correct result = 3 points