Marcus Arscott – @MarcusArscott
On a beautiful, sunny day in Devon, United and Wealdstone served up the sort of entertainment that would make any neutral drool. Going in to this game, the Yellow Army knew that Woking had a tough fixture ahead of them and that United needed to capitalise in order to minimise pressure for the big game on April 6th. The game started in the usual nervy, unsettled way with a high tempo being set early on. Wealdstone were at it from the word go and gave United a good workout throughout.
After twenty minutes of end-to-end stuff, United found a moment of brilliance in the form of Kalvin Kalala. United had a strong but fairly slow attack on goal, where Asa Hall found himself on the edge of the box unmarked. He unselfishly passed to his left to Ruairi Keating, who hit it high to find Kalala, again unmarked, on the right-hand edge of the box. As the ball fell, you could see him squaring up and he hit a very sweet volley into the bottom right corner. There really wasn’t much the keeper could do to prevent this, the shot was just so unexpected.
It was all United for the next 10 and they were rewarded again in the 37th minute, when Reid got on the end of a long ball from Keating. Reid used his pace and strength, lost his man and got himself in a 1-on-1 with the keeper and calmly slotted it home – 2-0. All credit to Wealdstone, they did not let this phase them, and they continued to press and attack with the same tempo. They duly won themselves a corner and, after a bit of a scrap, managed to bundle the ball in to make it 2-1.
It was a fairly even start to the second half and again, neither team let their tempo drop, but the game started to get much more physical. Multiple yellow cards ensued as the teams struggled to fully break each other down. Finally after much battling, United were able to get a third after Niate managed to connect with a corner at the near-post. Almost immediately after the restart, Reid found himself in acres of space running into the box and was bundled down by a Wealdstone defender. The ref blew immediately for a penalty. Huge cheers of relief filled the ground as Reid stepped up, but the keeper dived low to his right and made the save. Now this probably would have killed the game, but Reid was not at fault here. The shot was good, the save was better.
After more toing and froing, the Stones managed to get a second from a corner in the 75th minute. By this point the Yellow Army had twigged that Bath had equalised and prayed that United could hold on for a win. A very tense but exciting 15 minutes followed as both teams became desperate and CLE almost put the icing on the cake with his low shot hitting the post. Luckily, United managed to negate the Stones’ attacking threat and were able to see the game out for a hugely important 3 points. Phew!
Macdonald 8 – Made a couple of important saves including an athletic low dive to his left to save a shot that looked nailed on to hit the side netting. Impressive display once again.
Davis 7 – Dealt with the pace of Wealdstone’s attack well and was useful in attack as always.
Cameron 8 – Assured, vocal performance once again.
Sendles-White 8 – Same as Cameron. Notably, he found himself on the end of some off-the-ball aggression from Wealdstone’s no. 11 and dealt with it in a calm and professional manner.
Wynter 9 – Impressive performance from the ever-improving defender. Made a couple of hugely important last-ditch tackles and was never outpaced in defence or attack.
Kalvin Kalala 7 – Probably our most potent attacking threat for the first 45 and he showed great skill for his goal. However, he seemed to drop off in the second half and found himself making silly mistakes. Probably needs a rest.
Hall 9 – MOTM performance for me, more below.
Lemonheigh-Evans 8 – Did very well to hold his own in a very scrappy middle of the park. His passing is excellent and the majority of his set-pieces were decent.
Keating 8 – He is exactly the sort of character you need in games like this. He gets stuck in, gets in the opponents faces and is never bullied off the ball. Got himself two assists today.
Janneh 8 – Isn’t he good? He did pretty much everything but score today. His defensive back tracking is useful and he never seems to run out of energy.
Reid 8 – Got a goal, displayed a solid, strong performance and showed why he is the top scorer in the league. Unlucky with the penalty but did well to win it.
Niate 8 – Big Jean got another goal! He is a serious aerial threat for attacking set plays and a solid, strong asset to have in defence for when things get physical.
Dickson 7 – Didn’t get the opportunity to fully shine today as United were playing defensively, but he did well to steady the ship and provided a solid, assured performance.
Vincent N/A – Not on for long but showed brief glimpses of brilliance. Watch this space.
Man of the Match: Asa Hall
Tough one as Wynter came pretty close for me, but Asa showed just why he is captain and he provided a calm, assured head in the middle of the park. Whenever the going got tough and when the game got scrappy, Asa always seemed to be there to put a foot on the ball, calm it down and to distribute it smartly. When I first saw Asa play in pre-season, I thought that he’d be an important player for us and, unfortunately, he didn’t quite get the start to the season that he was looking for. However, he really has come in to his own and now bosses the midfield with a side servings of intelligence and experience.
As mentioned, Ben Wynter came very close to MOTM for me and he showed again today why he is so trusted by GJ. Ben will probably confess that he wasn’t playing to his full potential for the first couple of months of the season, however he has come on leaps and bounds and has shown such massive personal improvement. It’s very easy to forget that he’s only 21 and that we probably haven’t seen the best of him yet, very exciting indeed.
We started with the tried and tested 4-4-2, with Kalala on the right and Keating on the left – but Gary changed it to, what appeared to be a 5-3-2 in the closing stages of the match to fortify the defence a little bit. I’m not sure if Janneh is instructed to track back and chase any stray runners, but he does it anyway and he does it well.
Probably the best side that I’ve seen at Plainmoor this season. They had everything that a promotion-chasing side could ask for and they insisted on playing some decent, proper football even when they were getting desperate for a goal. They were an incredibly fit side and, as mentioned in the summary, they set a very high tempo from the start and they managed to maintain it for the duration. I truly hope that they can make the play-offs and I fancy their chances from then on. A word for their fans, they bought nearly 200 with them who did not stop singing and made plenty of noise. It was easily the best away support that we’ve seen for a while and it all made for an almost league-like atmosphere.
The referee actually did reasonably well I think, proving a step up from most we’ve seen this season. The penalty wasn’t exactly clear-cut, but the ref was very quick to point to the spot – apart from that, generally he tried to keep the game flowing and didn’t lose control in a frantic second half. Decent.
Jean’s goal. It lifted the mood of the crowd who were feeling tense and nervous after a period of sustained pressure. Everyone got the news of Bath’s equaliser about 30 seconds after it went in, which drew a secondary cheer.
Not the best performance that we’ve seen by far but the level of quality in our squad will always shine through. This was a massive result and stands us in good stead for Tuesday’s game against Chelmsford. A few days ago, Asa Hall described the oncoming fixture as ‘a free hit’ which it surely has now become. You don’t need me to tell you this, but if we win against Chelmsford then we go to Woking with a 7 point advantage, as well as a vastly superior goal difference. It’s looking good for us; the league is looking yellow.
View from the Ed:
Firstly, credit to Wealdstone FC. The manager was true to his word and set up the Stones to have a real go at United. They were well-drilled, full of desire and energy – and looked like a dangerous team who could beat anyone if they manage to reach the play-offs. Meanwhile their fans turned up in numbers and had songs to sing – adding vital ingredients to a vibrant atmosphere. But, we are the top team in the NLS for a reason and that reason is we know how to win games! In the main it wasn’t pretty from the lads; the Stones won far too many 50-50 balls for my liking and we lost control of the game in a wildly frenetic second half. However, the quality is always there to find a killer-ball and most importantly the back of the net. Kalala again illuminated proceedings and Reidy was assured with the 2nd (if not the pen). With Woking again stuttering and feeling their grip loosen even more on automatic promotion, everything remains rosy in the Torquay United garden. Bring on Chelmsford and the Cards, we are ready for you. COYY Dom
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Chelmsford City – 2nd April @ Plainmoor