The Return of Mr Assists by Dom Roman

“Jake’s found the ideal place at Plainmoor to showcase his skills and has the right character to help push us forward”

Rich

Dom Roman – @DomRoman

It’s the 13th April at Plainmoor and a slightly lethargic looking United team are beating a spirited Eastbourne outfit 1-0. The men in yellow are closing in on a first league title win since the dark ages (or something like that!) as news of Woking’s struggles at Chelmsford spreads around the ground. Mid-way through the second half, the usual clamour goes up amongst the Yellow Army for substitutions to spice things up and finish this game once and for all. The most likely candidate to leave the field is Jake Andrews, who has had a mixed performance on the left wing. Gary Johnson ignores this and leaves the Bristol City youngster on.

On 83 minutes, a left wing cross ricochets across the penalty area and falls nicely for Andrews. With poise and confidence in his ability, Jake takes aim and drill the ball sweetly into the back of the net. I jump up, arms aloft in celebration; meanwhile the midfielder loves the moment and somersaults acrobatically to send the Popside into raptures, whilst Shaun Mac races the length of the field to join his team-mates. It’s a golden moment and the title is within our grasp. ‘WE ARE GOING UP, SAY WE ARE GOING UP’.

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Cometh the hour, cometh the (young) man. It’s been a 90 minutes characteristic of Jake’s season at Plainmoor. Sometimes wayward, sometimes wasteful and sometimes berated by Gary Johnson for not following his orders to the letter – but always in the action, always looking to influence play and almost certainly providing a goal or assist to help ease the team to yet another victory. Job very much done, trophy to be presented in the near future, happy days at TQ1.

Rewind nearly 10 months to the 30th August 2018 and Jake – along with fellow Bristol City U-23 compatriot Opi Edwards – had arrived to a totally different TUFC landscape. After a fairly disastrous start to the season, with a dreadfully toothless United side heading into the abyss of NLS mid-table mediocrity, the two had been brought in by Gary Owers to add some urgency and creativity to his one-paced Gulls XI. In their debuts at home to Hemel it worked. Andrews immediately looked to make an impact and take charge of possession, both in open play and set pieces. He ended the game with two assists, and it would be a taste of what’s to come. This was a youngster who had come to express himself and wasn’t afraid to run the United midfield.

One week later and the team could not follow up the victory, with both Andrews and Edwards struggling to break down a stubborn Chippenham team in a horribly poor 1-0 loss. It appeared like one week of training with Owers had sucked the life out of these exciting youngsters, not surprising considering his cautious and negative approach. Thankfully this low-point for TUFC was to be Gary O’s last hurrah in the job. It was time for change and we all knew it.

Within a few days it was time for a new king to enter the fray and take charge of a beleaguered United team. In Gary Johnson the Yellow Army had at last got the right man to restore pride to the bay. The brakes were taken off the team and it was clear that Jake’s swagger would fit neatly with GJ’s attacking style of play. Get on the ball and make things happen was the order of the day, and the City youngster was more than happy to oblige.

When a rejuvenated United rolled into Lymington for an FA Cup tie a few weeks later for a game to be shown on the Beeb Red Button, there was goals galore and Andrews was involved in pretty much everything. Spraying passes across the pitch to grateful colleagues and also bagging a late goal – the assists and goals started totting up, and those figures kept rising as the season continued joyously on. He had, as Gary Johnson would later reveal, become ‘Torquayfied’.

It wasn’t long before Jake was joined in the team by the likes of Saikou Janneh, Connor Lemonheigh-Evans and Kalvin Kalala – transforming the team with their talent. Jake soon had the chance to partner CLE in midfield, as the skipper Asa Hall suffered an injury that would keep him out for a while. In Asa’s absence the Bristol boys partnership instantly clicked into gear, with the midfield maestros showing not only their class on the ball but also the hunger and desire to work hard, compete for possession and switch defence into attack. This included two back-to-back 4-1 wins against Concord and St Albans in November at Plainmoor. Jake providing an emphatic finish for the fourth against St Albans, whilst three weeks later he bagged another to open the scoring versus Welling in a top of the table clash.

Captain Fantastic’ Asa was always going to be re-introduced at some stage and Gary Johnson brought him back for the Xmas fixtures – meaning a shift for Andrews to the wing, where he would mostly remain for the rest of the season. I think Jake would admit if asked, that he’d prefer to be dictating play centrally and be allowed the freedom to roam the midfield. The move therefore, presented a real challenge to the midfielder’s versatility and adaptability. 

The Xmas and New Year brought some uneven performances from the young man, and his frustration at being placed on the wing bubbled over at times, as he struggled to make his usual mark in games. Less space to play with and having to track back to aid the full back was making life difficult for Jake, but he did find the net with a trademark free-kick against Slough Town. Low and directed perfectly, it was another example of his ability to make a contribution when it matters and was a superb response to some criticism from the Yellow Army.

This was followed by what was undeniably Jake’s low-point of the season – the Bath game and the crucial penalty miss, as the side’s unbeaten run came to an end at Twerton Park. It was a brash moment from the 21 year-old, insisting he take the pen instead of Reidy and afterwards he was unequivocally apologetic, whilst Gary Johnson was unimpressed (and rightly so). Was this moment of over-confidence, the moment when Andrews lost his place in the Gulls line-up?

Gary Johnson knew his young player would be doubly determined to show his worth and put his faith in Jake for the next match at Plainmoor – as usual the gaffer’s judgement was spot-on! In awful weather conditions United’s cohesive attack put Oxford City to the sword and Jake was on fire – grabbing his first ever hat-trick (see below) in 23 minutes of the match, with a very cute back-heel for the third included! An afternoon to remember for Jake and quite some riposte to calls for him to be dropped after the Bath game. ‘I am in this team to stay’ was the message, and this just showed the character that JA possesses – a big reason I’m sure why GJ has brought him back to Plainmoor.

As TUFC romped to the NLS title, Jake was never dislodged from the line-up and continued to provide assists and goals – including an important one in the home win versus Chelmsford, as promotion edged closer and closer. In the end the skilful midfielder finished with 12 goals and 14 assists overall, impressive stats even in the NLS. Jake played an important part in the title win and judging by his enthusiastic (and drunken celebrations) loved every minute of it (and his team-mates)! Along with the rest of the Bristol City youngsters, he had thrived at the opportunity of first team football and knuckled down under the expert tutelage of GJ to bring good times back to Plainmoor.

And so on 21st June after weeks of speculation, a permanent deal has been done to bring Jake back to Plainmoor. The deal has been met with universal acclaim, which I’m sure means a lot to the player. This is a young man after all who loves to entertain the fans and bring smiles to our faces – which he did plenty of last season.

As a player Jake is still very much work-in-progress (much like any 21 year-old). If he is to remain on the wing (assuming GJ sticks with 4-4-2), he’ll need to improve his movement off the ball and try not to drift into midfield so often, however tempting it may be! A good player should be able to influence games wherever he plays. On the ball, Andrews will find less space and stronger players in the National League – so working on his strength and decision-making with the ball at his feet can only enhance what he brings to TUFC 19-20. I think he’s got the right attitude to improve and take his game to the next level, plus with Gary Johnson he’s got exactly the right manager to do it.

I also think he’s found the ideal place at Plainmoor to showcase his skills and with the fabulous grounding given to young players at Bristol City, he’s got the right character to help push us forward. Overall I’m happy with the signing of course, potentially the attacking blend of Jake, Armani, Reidy and Kalala can give the opposition all sorts of trouble next season – and with the dangerous Little/Andrews combination we may even score some more from set pieces! ‘Mr Assists’ is back in town – let the good times keep rolling.

JAKE ANDREWS STATS 18-19 (All Comps)

PLAYED: 32 (2), GOALS: 12, ASSISTS: 14, YELLOW CARDS: 7

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torquaytalk.com – @TORQUAYTALK – Away Sponsor of Kyle Cameron


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