MattyHayward – @MattyHayward96
On a damp, tense evening, an impressive and combative Chelmsford side saw themselves defeated by three moments of attacking brilliance from Gary Johnson’s Yellows. Another missed penalty from Reidy ended up being academic, as the Gulls pulled away in the second half thanks to two excellent crosses from United’s rejuvenated forward Ruairi Keating.
The first quarter of the game was flaccid, only notable for the referee appearing to give Torquay a penalty, only to change his mind (or maybe half the Popside just mis-read his signal) and award a free kick on the edge of the box, from which Connor Lemonheigh-Evans struck the crossbar. This limp start was brought to an end with a superbly jinking run from The Lemon, who beat at least three men in Claret and found himself on the edge of the box – his drilled finish was too good for Chelmsford’s ‘keeper.
It didn’t take too long for Chelmsford to respond: a delicious through-ball dissected Torquay’s defence and Lamar Reynolds dinked the ball past Shaun MacDonald, prompting applause of admiration from the Popside (until Jazzi Barnum-Bobb decided it would be wise to shush the home fans and the admiration turned quickly to rage). Both teams will have finished the first half fancying themselves to come away with three points.
The second half started quickly: within three minutes Kalala had skipped between two enclosing Chelmsford defenders and gone down in the 18-yard box. Penalty given. Reidy’s well-struck penalty clattered against the post. I’ve read people saying (although I can’t say for sure) that the goalkeeper got a touch, in which case it was a good pen and a brilliant save.
Perhaps United heads dropped for a while after that, but when a lively Ruairi Keating intercepted a Chelmsford past and fizzed a cross to Jamie Reid, it was far harder for the Gulls’ top scorer to miss. 2-1. Pandemonium.
The game was all but sealed ten minutes later. A wild pass forward from Kalala was controlled beautifully by Keating who bombed on and fizzed in another wonderful cross onto the diving head of substitute Jake Andrews, topping off a clinical counter-attack.
And that was it. The end of an exhilarating second-half. 3-1. United capitalise on their game in hand and go 7 (SEVEN) points clear.
MacDonald 8 – Can’t think of any mistakes. Nothing he could’ve done for their goal. Only hasn’t got a higher score because he didn’t do anything spectacular. Just a good, reliable, stable performance.
Wynter 8 – See: most other reviews of Wynter performances. Barely noticeable, which is probably a good thing. Solid.
Koue Niate 7 – Not 100% convincing at times but he dealt well with a head injury and won plenty of headers.
Cameron 8 – Superb as always. Commanding centre back’s performance.
Davis 7 – Standard from him too. Didn’t really threaten going forward as much as usual but was perfectly solid at the back.
Kalala 9 – Brilliant from him today. He has unbelievably quick feet and made a muggery of Chelmsford defenders at times.
Lemonheigh-Evans 9 – Brilliant too. Fantastic bit of skill to break the deadlock and a dominating midfield performance. After a few mediocre games: he’s back.
Hall 6 – Not his day today. Lots of misplaced passes. Missed a number of headed chances. Didn’t look fully fit to me. Worrying to see him go off injured late on. Landed awkwardly following an aerial clash. Looked fairly serious, wouldn’t be surprised if he misses out on Saturday.
Dickson 6 – Didn’t look hugely fit either. Good feet, but I had hoped for slightly more from him after some impactful substitute appearances recently.
Keating 9 – A huge performance from the Westlife Sceptic. I love him and he loves me. More below.
Reid 7 – He’ll have plenty of better days. Unlucky with the penalty. Got his goal. Just didn’t look as sharp as usual. Hold up play was decent, possibly missed Janneh and their usual link ups. Still a shagger.
Andrews 8 – Did very well when he came on. His energy was needed. Got a goal within ten minutes of entering the fray. Surely he’ll start at Woking?
Vincent 6 – Replaced Hall and got stuck in. No real impact.
Olaf Koszela N/A – Played less than 5 minutes. Only contribution was to be off-side on the left-hand side. Let It Go.
Man of the Match: Ruairi Keating
It was a huge game for Ruairi (that’s R-U-A-I-R-I) today. He’s clearly better suited to playing upfront, but a bad game today and he’d probably have never have played as a striker under Johnson again. However, he was fantastic. We’re very much used to him putting in energetic, battling performances, but – just like on Saturday – the Irishman came up with (at least) two assists and led the line as well as he’s ever done before. If Janneh’s fit at the weekend, I can’t see him getting his place back. Keating has given Johnson a very hard decision to make. Life is a rollercoaster.
Two usual suspects ran Keating close for MOTM tonight. Connor Lemonheigh-Evans put in an excellent performance: striking the bar, opening the scoring, and generally being dominant in the midfield battle. I’ve been critical of Kalvin Kalala in the past, but he really earned his applause when he was subbed off this evening. He’s better on the right, and I doubt Chelmsford’s left-back will be getting much sleep tonight.
The tried and tested 4-4-2. Janneh missing out (through injury, I assume) left a gap for Keating to fill up front. This meant Dickson could come in on the left of midfield. Niate came in at centre-back to replace Jamie Sendles-InHisTracksuitTonight.
You can see why Chelmsford are fighting for a play-off place. They’ve clearly got a lot of quality, their goal was testament to that. Defenders were a wee bit elbowy on occasion, but generally solid. Jazzi Barnum-Bobb will be feeling a bit silly tonight, mind.
A strange performance. I don’t think the penalty decision was right – Kalala bought it somewhat – but that didn’t matter. Seemed to miss a few wild elbows and arms: it turned out that didn’t matter either. He also made some strange decisions on a smaller scale, but they were irrelevant in the end as well. A proper National League South refereeing display.
Player Spotlight: Jake Andrews
Jake made a strong contribution from the bench tonight. I don’t think anyone’s really sure as to why he’s been missing out lately and – while I’m not his biggest fan – I feel we may have missed his energy and creativity at times. I look forward to seeing more of him in the run in.
I really, really enjoyed the game tonight. To sweep aside a play-off team to win our game in hand is an enormous result. The period between their goal and Reidy’s finish was frustrating and concerning, but that tension made it all the more enjoyable when the Gulls tied the game up.
We’ve won nothing yet but being 7 (SEVEN) points clear with a vastly superior goal difference makes Woking (a) less of a huge, scary clash and more of a chance to all but seal the title and annoy (I use the word “annoy” in a jokingly under-stated way) our Mercedes-selling, freakishly tall, basketball-loving, Torquay-residing, Torquay-hating, apology-lacking former centre-back. We must, however, keep in mind that Woking FC just happen to be near the top of the league that we are winning: they’re not our rivals and we may never play them again.
Let’s topple the Cards, see you there.
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Woking FC – 6th April @ Kingfield Stadium