Matt Parkman – @ferrarif50lover
Way down in Chile, on a strip of land, sandwiched precariously between the endless blue of the Pacific and the frozen caps of the Andes, there stands a village called Sierra Gorda. It is said of Sierra Gorda that it is the driest place on Earth. Well, folks, I’m afraid the good people of Chile have just lost their crown to, of all places, Chippenham. Today’s pitch was drier than an hour of Jack Dee stand up and I’m very much afraid that it was the pitch that dictated pretty much everything about the match
Time and again, Torquay tried and failed to get a flow to their game. While we were untroubled defensively by a deeply limited Chippenham Town side who are, on this viewing, perhaps fortunate not to be looking more anxiously over their shoulders here at the sharp end of the season, we never managed to carry a tremendous threat ourselves. The story of the match can be told by the fact that we had more than a dozen corners and managed to make a decent fist of absolutely none of them. Our play was fine enough in the ‘easy’ bit of the pitch, but come the final third, where precision, finesse, and timing are all crucial, we were found desperately lacking today.
The goals, when they came, were headers, and that too is an indication of exactly how this match played out. Too often we tried to play in our usual style and equally as often it simply didn’t work. This was a not a day for The Beautiful Game.
By the time Evans made an unchecked run and powered a near-post header past MacDonald from a wide free kick in the 24th minute to open the scoring, Torquay had already had a decent chance, with Reidy being sent through by a simple straight ball, but he was, unusually this season, not sure of his touch and the chance passed by without the home keeper being tested.
More Torquay pressure followed and although it was sustained, it was never truly threatening. Corner after corner came and went in a blur of mishit crosses and misdirected defensive headers. The match wore on, with Torquay the better of two poor sides and neither keeper really making any saves. Half time came and it was a chance for Johnson to earn his corn.
To his credit, GJ was brave and removed the ineffective Kalala for the inexperienced Koszela. The impact was immediate, with Torquay looking more threatening from the off. It can’t have been much beyond the 50th minute when the ball was slipped through to Reidy who, unmarked and just 12 yards out at an angle, managed to drag his shot agonisingly wide of the far post with the keeper stranded and praying. In the 57th minute, Johnson’s faith was rewarded. Yet more Torquay corners finally came with some end product. A ball only half cleared was hooked back into the mix and it was the 17-year old who reacted quickest to slip his man at the far post and head the ball back from whence it came, giving the goalie no chance and getting Torquay back on level terms.
From there, it looked as though the Champions might rally and go on to win the match. No such luck. It was a long ball down the line that was to be Torquay’s undoing. In a goal reminiscent of the third for Bath at Twerton Park, not enough was done either by the United full back in stopping the cross, nor by the centre half in defending the subsequent header. The end result was the ball nestling in the corner of the visitor’s net and the Chippenham crowd and players starting to believe they could become the only side to take maximum points from us all year.
The rest of the match followed the same laborious pattern, with the bounce and roll of the ball seemingly being decided at random, Torquay simply were not able to concoct enough chances to seriously press for an equaliser.
When full time came, it was the Chippenham fans who were celebrating, while those in yellow were left ruing a wasted afternoon in the sun.
MacDonald – 7. Distribution better, occasionally good. Nothing he could do about either goal and otherwise completely untroubled.
Wynter – 6. Broadly fine. I think it was he who needed to do more to stop the cross for the second Chippenham goal, but nothing much to report aside from that.
Niate – 5. Only gets a lower score than Wynts because he had two good chances late on to get a goal and fluffed them both. Defensively untroubled.
Cameron – 6. I think it was Cam’s man for the first goal, hence he gets the same score as Wynts.
Davis – 6. Not his day today. Completely anonymous. Needs a decent surface to be at his ‘wing-back’ best.
Andrews – 4. Set pieces woeful on a day/pitch when they were always going to be so vital. Hit the first man several times, eventually drawing a cry of anguish from Cameron.
Evans – 6. Tried, but couldn’t do much on that surface.
Vincent – 8. Tried, and could do plenty on that surface.
Sendles-White – 6. Jamie Sendles-not-Quite, today.
Kalala – 5. Not for him today. Like so many others, relies on at least a true surface to be effective. Wasn’t.
Reidy – 5. Had our two best chances and fluffed them both. Looked maybe a little lost without his mate Janneh beside him and Keats behind him. Shame.
Koszela – 7. Real energy when he came on. Tried hard to create for others and managed to snag a goal to boot. Didn’t stand out as being a boy in a team of men. The future really could be bright for him.
Edwards – 8. Just how soon would we have won the title if he’d been fit all season? Chased everything. Won everything. NEVER gives up on anything. Pace, power, determination, control, skill, he’s going to be an unbelievable player in years to come and we should all be grateful to have witnessed the early days.
Dickson – 6. Didn’t do much for the half an hour he was on in place of Davies, so gets the same score. He’ll have better days and he’ll have worse.
Man of the Match: Frank Vincent
Vincent, for the second match running. Dealt with the appalling pitch like it was a bowling green. The very best thing about Frankie is that he follows every pass he makes, so he’s always making himself available. Opponents at this level (and that above, if we’re lucky enough to have him again) simply cannot deal with a midfielder who passes the ball, then keeps on moving. His touch is assured, his vision top notch, his ability unquestionable. The only concern for the future is his size, but then, Bernardo Silva isn’t exactly second cousin to The Incredible Hulk either, and he does alright for himself.
How can we leave without mentioning Olaf once again? Bagged his first senior goal just a few days past his 17th birthday and what a nice goal it was too. There really was only one place he could put the header, but that doesn’t mean it was a simple task. This was no gimmie. It was a real and genuine goal of quality.
Other mentions must go to the lads who didn’t play today. Hall, Keating, and Janneh were all conspicuous today by their absence. We missed Hall’s poise and control, we missed Keating’s energy (until Edwards came on) and we missed Janneh’s movement. I’d have swapped all that for a flat surface fit for football, mind.
A bit of a reshuffle for Johnson with three starters missing. We clearly identified a weakness for near-post crosses, but we couldn’t quite find the killer ball to properly exploit that. Johnson said pre-match that he was aware of the state of the pitch, but short of simply whacking it up to the big man (something we can’t do at present; remedying that MUST be Johnson’s primary aim for the summer), there’s not a lot you can do when the bounce and roll are more unpredictable than Donald Trump’s Twitter feed.
Chippenham are not a particularly good side. I wasn’t there for the match at Plainmoor, but since that was conducted under our previous “management”, it’s hardly a fair benchmark for today. Truro offered much more going forward and Dulwich were more robust defensively. Quite how both of those sides are miles behind Chip Town is a bit of a mystery. Like Accrington, I suspect the plan is to make it impossible to play them at home by ruining the surface, then pick up as many ‘bonus’ points as possible on the road. It’ll keep them in the NLS, sure, but it’s hardly inspiring.
Maybe a little fussy, but otherwise completely inoffensive. I’m not sure why he booked their number 5 in the aftermath of our goal, but he did.
Chip’s second goal. We were on top, looked good for the win, then conceded a goal out of absolutely nothing and it was an impossible task from that moment on.
Player Spotlight: Olaf Koszela
Koszela is going to be a very, very good footballer. The NLS is an agricultural division full of clodding part-timers and young, inexperienced guys can get swallowed whole by some of the bigger, worldlier opponents. No danger of that with Olaf. He is a man at 17, tall and strong and hugely composed. Personally, I’m not 100% convinced he’s a striker. My impression is that he will develop further into a rangy attacking midfielder in the mould of Vieira. Yes, he knows where the back of the net is, but football has moved on since the days of the Charton-esque centre forward and so Olaf will become a more cultured player, seeking to drop deeper in search of more touches of the ball. I hope Johnson agrees, because I think the potential is there for him to be worth a lot of money to us.
Away Day Overview:
Nothing untoward to report. A nice enough ground for this level. Food from the tea bar was delicious and not overly costly. Seemed to handle a big crowd without too much trouble. I probably wouldn’t head along as a neutral, not if the crowd was likely to be a few hundred, but for the day we had, yeah, fine.
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