“Late equalisers and winners have been such a common occurrence against the Gulls over the years, but this team of heroes has shifted that trend”
Dom Roman – @DomRoman
“And now you’re gonna believe us…the Gulls are going up”. What an emotional afternoon it was in Surry on Saturday, tell me there is better sport than Football and I won’t believe you. It had been the game everybody was waiting for and for 85 minutes it looked like only one set of fans would be celebrating, and it wasn’t the ones in yellow.
Let’s get the BAD out of the way first shall we. United were just not at the races. Second to loose balls around the park, constantly indecisive at the back and squandering possession again and again. It was not pretty to watch. Whether it was tiredness creeping in from Tuesday’s victory over or Chelmsford or just a Woking team more desperate for three points was unclear – probably a mixture of both, but this wasn’t the performance I had hoped for on our drive up from Devon.
Even (Sir) Gary Johnson made a rare mistake, picking the visibly unfit Asa Hall in midfield and allowing the Cards too much room to exploit as they pushed forward. I was impressed with the Cards energy and pace up the wings, if not their challenges on Ruairi which took the Irishman out of the equation. I don’t buy into this being a plan from Alan Dowson to put our lads out of action, more likely he had told them to be physical, upset our rhythm and win the 50 50s. Until the final (glorious) minutes it had worked. We just could not handle their intensity (or their set pieces) and at 3-1 down it was hard to see a way back.
Hard but not impossible. There is always a glimmer of opportunity with our lads about and the terrific set piece goal from Saikou arrived just in time. Then Gerring’s final moment of the game and one that had been widely predicted amongst the Yellow Army. Hands up I never rated Big Ben when he was at United. A big guy, strong and committed centre back who could always grab a goal, but temperamentally not good enough for my team and always likely to make a rash decision that could cost us. Reidy knew the challenge was coming and Ben couldn’t resist making it. Against ten men, suddenly an equaliser looked inevitable rather than unlikely.
That takes me to the GOOD (I’ll let you decide on the UGLY!). Late equalisers and winners have been such a common occurrence against the Gulls over the years, but this team of heroes has shifted that trend (and numerous others). With subs Frankie Vincent and Ryan Dickson busy in midfield and CLE finally seizing control, the Cards were creaking. And what a moment it was as Ben Wynter steadied himself, took aim and made no mistake (with a slight deflection). Pandemonium all round on the Yellows side! The best football supporting moments for me are when your team grabs a win or draw out of the fire, and it was hugs all round with people I did know and some I didn’t. A special moment which made the trip all worthwhile, and jubilant scenes that clearly suggested this was the moment of the season. I think it was.
I don’t know about you but I could think of little else the next day. The incidents that packed the afternoon; from defensive errors, to free kicks not given, missed chances, the atmosphere amongst the Yellow Army – optimism, gloom, followed by wild celebrations. It was a crazy couple of hours. I tried to readjust to family life and listen to my wife discuss matters regarding work and the kids, but it was bliming difficult – all I wanted to do was read Sam’s well-written TT match verdict and relive the day with the TT boys. Luckily with some well-judged head nodding and general agreement I think I got away with it. Maybe it’s best we’re nearing the end of the season…
In the aftermath of the game, the Woking and TUFC supporters banter has been ongoing. This was always going to be the case wasn’t it, whatever the outcome (I haven’t got the time or inclination to delve into the Cards forums though, I’m not that interested!). Plenty of complaints about the ref from the Cards supporters, which seems strange to me – losing a two goal lead late on and throwing away any chance of the title is always going provoke scapegoats I guess. Don’t get me wrong the ref was far from perfect, but if anything the decisions went against United rather than for us. If the Cards continue to play at the same level as Saturday, then we’ll probably see them again next season – our fortunes just seem to be entwined. The play-offs could yet see a surprise though – the likes of Welling, Bath City, Dartford and Chelmsford are all capable on their day (not to mention Wealdstone).
A win for us this Saturday against Easbourne Borough would hand us the title if Woking lose away to the Chelmsford Clarets, whilst a Yellows win and a Cards draw would all but seal it due to our superior goal difference. Now let’s not get complacent about the win for a start, our squad is a bit bashed up and we may be struggling to field four subs if Asa is out. The smallish United group has done brilliantly this season to take us to the brink of glory. My main (only) concern since GJ took over has been injuries and suspensions taking their tole – thankfully the close-knit group has stayed strong and rewarded the boss for his loyalty. We’re close enough to the line now not to need reinforcements and surely we can push over that 3k attendance barrier this weekend. The occasion demands it people! They’ll be another opposition Q&A this week with Eastbourne’s media rep Kevin Anderson. Borough are in relegation difficulties, with a loss last week against Gloucester compounding their troubles and will be scrapping for everything, so Gary Johnson will surely remind the boys to keep on their toes.
Apart from Asa, one other man who won’t be there (on the pitch at least) is Ruairi Keating. Typical really, after probably his finest performance for the club last Tuesday – the Irishman is now out of action. RK has long since won the hearts of the Yellow Army with his all action style and lung busting sincerity – but there’s also been top quality in his play over recent months. Numerous assists, including that wonderful pass to Reidy at the Kingfield – inch perfect for the main man to run onto. Ruairi has proved a lot to himself and the boss, and I’m sure he’ll be a big part of our plans next season.
Meanwhile Reidy was the one Yellow who looked razor sharp, a constant danger to the Woking back line and a magnet to the ball in and around the box. 31 goals now for JR. I know it may only be the NLS and bigger tests are around the corner – however it’s still a glorious striking season to savour, even if he has yet to nod one in with his head! The striker has played every game this season and this just illustrates the fitness he possesses, facing big physical centre backs week after week and remaining in top shape is not easy.
With the National League tantalising close, the boss will start eyeing up new recruits for 19-20 and a partner for Reidy could be first on his hit-list. A return for Saikou Janneh to Plainmoor is a possibility. The 19 year-old would be unlikely to feature for Bristol City yet, and the promise of regular National League football could sway Lee Johnson into a deal. Otherwise we’ll need strengthening around the park. Not total rebuilding like every summer for the previous 5 or 6, but suitably strong characters who can make a difference. Some experience wouldn’t go amiss, especially in central defence, whilst CLE departing back to Ashton Gate will leave a creative hole that needs replacing. But where recruitment was regularly a desperate lunge into the transfer market, now we have experience, knowhow and contacts. If anyone can transform TUFC into a NL force to be reckoned with its GJ. First things first though, settling this 1st place once and for all.
FINAL WORD: Jamie McInnes and the Torquay United Ladies team have had a very tough season after a complete squad overhaul, and the ladies are looking to stave off relegation from the South West Women’s Football League, so good luck to them. Meanwhile the TUST return with another FanZone on Saturday, pop along to that if you can. The TT Prediction competition continues to bubble along, with this one going to the wire (see below). Everyone has predicted a home win for Saturday, don’t let us down Yellows! Make more noise on Saturday people and let’s have loads in that away end to enhance the Plainmoor atmosphere further. The National League beckons. COYY