Matty Hayward – @MattyHayward96
What’s the difference between Magpies and Gulls? I’m no ornithologist, but Magpies take chances in front of goal.
Alan Devonshire’s men leave Devon tonight with three points. Not because they deserved them, not because they were the better team, but because they created two (and a half, maybe) chances and scored them and Torquay created upwards of half a dozen and scored none. It really is as simple as that: the only stat that matters is goals scored.
The game started quietly, with Torquay seeing most of the ball. A good Reidy strike forced a strong save and the following corner created mayhem in the box. Cameron’s header looked to beat everyone but seemingly didn’t cross the line.
Reid chances were a theme of this game, unfortunately they were all missed. Some great skill from The Lemon gave him a huge opportunity after 20 minutes or so, but he dragged the ball wide.
Not long later, a high ball went forward which Cameron failed to win. The ball fell to the Maidenhead forward in oceans of space (Vincent out of position). His shot wasn’t much good, but MacDonald failed to hold onto it. Kelly reacted a few weeks before any of our back four to score. One nil.
That killed us for the rest of the first half. Our good passing play replaced with hoofs. We needed half time.
The Gulls flew out of the blocks. Another decent chance fell to Reid. He probably should have scored but it was another good save from Ashby-Hammond.
From then on, though, chances were scarce. We saw approximately 99.9% of the ball but created little. Kalala had a good opportunity on about 80 minutes but his first touch was appalling and the keeper snaffled it with ease.
In injury time, the Popside erupted at the award of a corner. The corner was poor. A brilliant pass from a Maidenhead midfielder saw Shamir Fenelon – A Gull who became a Magpie, not that that’s anatomically possible – tucked home after sitting MacDonald down on his backside.
And that was it. Like Theresa May’s majority in 2017, the game was snatched away from the dominant party, who were left feeling powerless and dejected by their underdog opponents.
Shaun MacDonald 5 – Simply must do better for the first goal. Had little to do until they scored again, but another poor game and question marks have to hang over him now. I’d stick with him, but the argument for change can only be fuelled by a goal-conceding error.
Ben Wynter 6 – Made one really good saving tackle early on. Saw a lot of the ball second half and struggled to find a dangerous ball because Kalala was so stationary in front of him.
Jean-Yves Koue Niate 6 – Simply nowhere near as bad as the abuse he got today. Won a lot in the air. That said, he doesn’t look comfortable on the ball and was caught flat footed at times.
Kyle Cameron 6 – See above, really. Went long with his passes too often but that was because we got desperate towards the end and we’d brought our “target man” on. To the bloke who said he’d never seen two worse defenders play for Torquay, have you ever seen Torquay United play football before tonight? I can think of a dozen worse defenders from the last three seasons. Shut up.
Frank Vincent 6 – Really dangerous going forward. He’s a really good midfielder. He isn’t a good defender. Has to be responsible in part for their first goal.
Kalvin Kalala 6 – Difficult one to judge. He had two or three excellent moments, displaying his brilliant feet. He was the best player on the pitch for ten seconds at a time. But he spent more of the time doing very little. More on him later.
Armani Little 7 – At times tonight it felt like one of those games under Nicho where we dominated for long periods and Luke Young was bloody everywhere, pulling the strings and starting every attack, but mostly in vain. That was Little, today. Final ball sometimes lacking but he was probably our best player.
Asa Hall 6 – Not his best game. Weird one. He might not be good enough to be in a team that has our ambitions, but he is crucial to our side. As soon as he went off we lost all shape and organisation. That might have been because it was getting late and we got increasingly desperate, but I think it’s because we missed Hall’s experience. We also have no aerial presence in midfield without him.
Jake Andrews 7 – Lots of huff and puff. Did a decent job. No end-product.
Connor Lemonheigh-Evans 7 – I like him as a ten. He’s a brilliant player, obviously. Some great flashes of skill but, again, nothing in the final third.
Jamie Reid 6 – Sorry. I say this because I (we?) have come to have such high expectations of him. He had enough chances to put the game to bed and, unfortunately, he failed to do so tonight. It would be harsh and unfair, but ultimately quite funny, to say “Less Prince of Park Lane, more Jester of Green Ginger.” He’ll score at Dover.
Duku 5 – I’ll reserve judgement on him until he’s had a good run. Got very little service tonight but he won about 2% of his headers which simply isn’t good enough for a 6ft3 striker. Him coming on meant the defenders felt more comfortable lumping it long – that was the wrong idea. Offered nothing in the thirty or so minutes he played. I’d like to see Touray given a chance, or even Keating up top.
Keating 5 – Barely noticed him, if I’m honest. Good energy, obviously.
Lewis 5 – Assume Niate was injured, otherwise seems a pointless waste of a sub. Did little. Only memorable for putting a five-yard pass out of play. Reserving judgement on whether he’s any good.
Man of the Match: Armani Little
Pulled the strings for us, really. Despite creating not that much as a team, Little did a lot of running and was often starved of options. He’s a good player, though it’s hard to wax lyrical about anyone tonight.
Shithousery: the concept thereof. Today’s real winner. Some classic time wasting from their ‘keeper, some textbook slow-walking-off-when-subbed despite the new rule and, most notably, The Lemon’s appalling dive towards the start of the second half. Deserved a red for simulation, that.
4-4-1-1, again. The Lemon in behind Reidy. Dearly missing Davis at left back, despite Vincent’s valiant efforts. Shape went out of the window when Hall went off.
Poor. They’ll be near the bottom of the league come May, but they were far better than most of last season’s opponents. Second goal was top drawer, the assist especially. Clinical and relatively composed, but generally not very good. Defended well, though. Respect to their fans, too. Great noise:numbers ratio.
The ref probably allowed too much time wasting but got the one big decision – the penalty shout on Lemonheigh-Evans – spot on.
Player Spotlight: Kalvin Kalala
I properly love Kalvin. He’s so brilliant. Our most exciting player. He’ll play at a very high level. But he’s far from perfect. Aside from a couple of moments that were absolute genius, the Frenchman had a poor game today. It was so frustrating to see Wynter galloping forward with the ball in the right back position and Kalala come short again, and again, and again. He’d either get passed the ball and lay it off elsewhere (fair play), or – more often – get marked and just stand there like he was waiting for a taxi, staring vacantly into Ben Wynter’s eyes. I’m sure that’s a delight in itself, but should be saved for after the match. He gave the ball away too much too and his head dropped. Also missed a huge chance. I’d drop him for Keating on Saturday. Ruairi will add aerial presence and a much better work-rate, as well as giving Kalala a kick up the backside that he may well need.
Maidenhead is Theresa May’s constituency. I am, thus, assuming that she is a huge fan of the Magpies. That’s important context for this next bit, ok? You with me?
As she sits at home in Maidenhead tonight, Theresa May will be thinking a few things:
- Why on earth did I call an early general election?
- Will my hostile environment and harsh austerity policies, combined with my failure to deliver Brexit, put me down as one of the worst Prime Ministers in history?
- How on earth have our boys got away with that? What an absolute steal. I love Alan Devonshire, Alan Devonshire loves me. Finally got the better of Cameron. Get in. Up the Magpies.
I must be boring to finish. We were the better team tonight and we’ve missed out on three fairly simple points. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Torquay team dominate the ball for forty-five minutes like that before. But it is not time to panic. Those players are good players and they’ll do alright this year. We’ve got the best manager in the league and he’s going nowhere. Relax.