Sam Jones – @samuellejones
It was here. All the talk was over, and the game was finally here. The game that everything had been building up too. In a small corner of Surrey, in a town known for Martin Tyler, Delia Smith and Harry Hill, the Yellow Army descended in their droves to see if the Gulls could move a step closer to the National League South Title. It was never going to be an easy game, but my word what a spectacle we were treated too. 6 goals, lots of chances, about four penalty shouts, one red card and a result that definitely left the Yellow Army happier.
The Gulls started brightly. Some good build up play from Torquay led to Keating being free on the right. His fizzed cross was met by Reidy who turned it on to the near post when he should have scored.
So of course, Woking went down the other end and took the lead. Niate was caught out of position after possibly being fouled, and the very dangerous Greg Luer was played through who fired it across MacDonald into the far corner. Our Geordie keeper should’ve done better as the ball seemed to go under his hands. But as quick as you could say National League South, the Gulls were back level. A beautiful through ball from Keating split open the two centre backs. Reidy latched onto it and finished well past Craig Ross in goal for the Cards. Cue pandemonium and flares from the yellow army.
The game was very open and after twenty minutes Ben Gerring got his first booking. A heavy challenge on Keating left everyone’s favourite Boyzone nephew on the ground as the big centre back received a yellow card, even if the Gulls were asking for red. Not long after that Woking went ahead for the second time as Luer managed to do his best Moses impression and part the yellow sea, putting the ball into the back of the net. Not sure what happened to our defence, but the Cards went 2-1 up.
Torquay soon lost two players to injury as Gary was forced into two subs before half time. Hall was still being troubled by the knee in the coccyx and Keating got wiped out in a nasty aerial challenge from Diarra. On came Andrews and Dickson. Woking dominated the rest of the half and should’ve scored again but for some brilliant defending from Davis who cleared a goal bound header off the line. Half time couldn’t have come soon enough for Torquay, who needed a good kicking up the backside from Gary and Downesy.
Whatever was said in the dressing room, obviously didn’t seem to work. The Gulls were somehow even further from the races and Woking should have doubled or even tripled their lead. Woking found themselves in a 3 on 1 situation, but somehow didn’t score as MacDonald manage to recover and Cameron cleared it off the line.
The Gulls started to build some momentum but couldn’t create an opening to test Ross. They’d either hold on to the ball for too long or give away a silly foul and the momentum was lost. Woking’s’ third goal came from a spell of Torquay pressure, as the Cards broke from a corner. Cadogan led the charge as Davis found himself completely outnumbered. Some nice interplay between Cadogan and Luer gave the former an open goal and he made no mistake. 3-1 Woking and it was completely deserved.
Torquay had more of the ball without threatening, as Woking looked incredibly dangerous on the break. Every set piece came to nothing and the key passes were still not finding their target. Vincent came on for Kalala, and Dicko moved into the centre of the park.
With ten minutes to go the Gulls suddenly found themselves only one behind. A Yellows corner was headed back across goal by Cameron. The ball found Janneh free in the centre, who headed it into the back of the net. 3-2 was the score and suddenly there was a ripple of belief amongst the yellow army.
Then of course, the inevitable happened. Reidy beat Gerring to the ball on the left-hand side and the former Gull slid in. He was late, high and just completely daft, as per usual. It was a stonewall second yellow as Ben marched off to chants of Cheerio from the away support (not sure why, maybe he just prefers a fry up for breakfast).
Torquay equalised from the resulting free kick. After some pin ball in and around the box, the ball was swung in by Vincent. Wynter met it about ten yards out on his left foot and rifled it into the back of the net. Wynter went crazy, the players went crazy, the Yellow Army went crazy and some idiots stormed the pitch. But who cares, we were level. There was still one more chance for Woking as Cadogan broke free, but fortunately dragged it wide of the far post. The referee blew the final whistle, and everyone celebrated like we had just won the league. The boys showed tremendous character to come back from two goals down and snatch a point. Still seven points clear at the top, with only 4 games left. Love it.
Macdonald – 5.5: Should have done better for the first goal but couldn’t do much about the others. Was confident under the cross but distribution poor.
Wynter – 5.5: Really struggled against Little on the left and was non-descript going forward. Extra points for the equaliser and the celebration.
Cameron – 5: Struggled with Woking’s front three, but still won his fair share in the air. Good assist for the second.
Niate – 4: Poor today from the man with the Terry Butcher band. Went walkabout too many times and never looked comfortable. Had better games, that’s for sure.
Davis – 5: Reckon he’s played every game this season, and it shows. Looked very leggy but still managed a phenomenal goal line clearance.
Keating – 6.5: Industrial performance for the 30 minutes, including a delightful assist for Reid’s goal. Took a heavy blow to the head and went sparko.
CLE – 5.5: Started very poorly, misplacing pass after pass. Improved after the break as he tried to make something happen.
Hall – 5: Never looked right and was hoiked off after 30 minutes. Knee in the coccyx still affecting him.
Kalala – 4: His rating is about the amount of times he touched the ball. More about him later.
Janneh – 5.5: Ran hard and put a good shift, but not much came off. Took his goal nicely too.
Reid – 6.5: My Man of the Match, more below.
Andrews – 5.5: Did alright when he came on. Was probably more effective when moved out wide.
Dickson – 6: Ran his socks off on the wing, but nothing came off. Looked better when moved centrally and should probably start if Hall’s struggling.
Vincent – 6: Some very nice footwork and ideas. Surprised we haven’t seen more of him.
Man of the Match: Jamie Reid
No one played brilliantly today, but the only Torquay player switched on in the first half, who didn’t go off injured. He was a real threat with his running and hold up play, even if everyone else was off the pace. Took his goal nicely too and got Gerring sent off. Reckon we should start on that statue of him soon.
Ryan Dickson put in a shift on the left when he came on for Ruairi, just lacks a yard of pace. Was also good when moved into midfield and used the ball nicely.
Frank Vincent only played 20 minutes, but he looked good. Some nice little touches, and clever passes. Expect to see more of him if Hall and Ruairi are struggling.
It was a bit of an unusual game from Gary Johnsons men, as the playing style sometimes resembled that of his predecessor. We lined up in the 4-4-2 we all know and love, the only change being Janneh back in for Dickson, meaning Keating went back to the wing. Despite this, we were hitting hopeless long balls over the top, hoping our front two could latch onto them and beat the colossal Woking back line for pace. They were either too short, or too long and running harmlessly through to the keeper. When Hall went off injured, it was obvious how much we missed him with Andrews and CLE not natural leaders or enforcers and really struggled to control the middle of the park. If we go up, this is an area we really need to look at.
Hate to say it, but I see exactly why Woking are our title rivals. They have a bunch of big lumps at the back, but the front three of Little, Luer and Kretzschmar are a real handful. If they don’t go up, I wouldn’t mind signing a couple of them. With us playing such a high line, and no Hall, they found so much space in behind us and on another day would have scored two or three more. They were also solid at the back with Gerring and Durojaiye looking an effective partnership. They over ran us in midfield the whole game, looking to counter, which worked time and time again. They’ll be kicking themselves that they didn’t win the game.
James Durkin had an inconsistent game. On one hand, most of the yellow cards for both teams were fair, and Gerring did deserve to be sent off. On the other hand, he missed quite a few obvious fouls that really should have been called. He tried to let the game flow, which was the right thing to do but there gets to a point where non calls are just wrong. In the build up to the first two Woking goals, there were fouls on the Gulls that should’ve been called on Niate and Reidy, but that doesn’t excuse some dreadful defending.
Player Spotlight: Kalvin Lumbombo-Kalala
Kalvin is one of the most naturally talented players I’ve seen at Plainmoor in years, but he was dreadful today. He rarely touched the ball, but when he did, he ran down blind alleys and lost it too easily. He hangs on to the ball for too long, which is incredibly frustrating as we all know how good he can be. If he could just decide when to pass and when to dribble, he’d be a lower league world beater. I can see why he’s bounced around a bit, as his ability is without question but his work rate and decision-making is so erratic.
Ben Gerring, what an idiot. Woking had three points in the palm of their hand, but had it snatched away from them thanks to their centre back. After being booked for a nasty challenge on Keating in the first half, he dived in when well beaten by Reid on the left. He was late and had absolutely no chance of winning the ball. That seemed to give Torquay the bit of motivation they needed to snatch the equaliser, as it came from the resulting free kick. Thanks Ben, cheque is in the post.
Away Day Overview:
You can tell that Woking had been a National League team for a while. Compared to a number of stadiums around the division, the Laithwaite Community Stadium was among the least tin pot. One huge stand wouldn’t have looked out of place in a League One ground. However, each other stand looked like it had of been plucked out of a different time period, with a couple definitely looking as if they were about to fall over. Where the Yellow Army was standing was fine, a proper old terraced stand which served our purpose nicely. The pitch was very smooth, and the stewards perfectly friendly. Overall an excellent day out.
Wow. What a day that was. We were not at the races for 85 minutes, but somehow, we came away with a point. Three great finishes from our boys meant that we stay top of the league, seven points ahead of Woking with only four games left. There is a very real chance that we could win the League next weekend, or certainly have it wrapped up by Chippenham away.
We were outplayed for 85 minutes by Woking, but still managed to find an equaliser. We had bottled big games this season, but we survived this one and came out with what felt like a win. This was not the side that fell to Bath or Welling, but a side ready to clinch promotion and didn’t want to give in. This is a special team, a generational team. Despite the division, I reckon this is the best United team I have seen in my life, and that’s all down to Gary Johnson. Bring on Eastbourne next weekend and let’s get this wrapped up!
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Eastbourne Borough- 13th April @ Plainmoor