2 – 2
Sam Jones – @samuellejones
They say that football is a game of two halves. Literally it is, as the regulations state that the game must comprise of two periods of 45 minutes (Law 7 – IFAB, 2019). But today, it lived up to the hype of the oldest cliche in the book. The two halves were completely different as the birds and the bees played out an exciting, but ultimately frustrating, 2-2 draw.
The game started in the best way possible. The Gulls were dominant from the first minute and were rewarded for their pressure. The constant harassing of the opposition won them a free kick on the right of the box. Little took the shot and home keeper Loach could only parry it into Niate, who bundled the ball home from a yard out.
Barnet responded strongly, with Josh Walker looking very dangerous through the middle, but struggled to create any real chances. Defensively we were very solid and up front, the high press was causing Barnet all sort of problems. The Gulls really should’ve doubled their lead. The Lemon, Wynter and Little all won the ball high up the pitch, but failed to make anything of it.
The second goal did come, and what a strike it was. Again the ball was won high up the pitch by Evans. Some neat interplay between him, Kalala and Little gave the former Woking man some space on the edge of the box. He took his time and curled an absolute worldie into the top left corner. 2-0 to the away side, and it was completely deserved. The next 15 minutes were all Torquay, as Reid and Kalala came closest, but a third goal couldn’t be found. The half-time whistle was blown and the Gulls were on top.
The only change at half-time was Keating on for Kalala, who may have been struggling with a knock and/or the heat.
I said football was a game of two halves didn’t I? And well, the second half was completely different. The Bees came out with a sting in their tail and forced some early pressure, which led to the one thing the Gulls didn’t want to happen. Kyle was caught on the ball in the corner by Walker, who passed it across to Mason-Clark and he finished into an empty net.
The Gulls never recovered from this and spent the rest of the game on the back foot. Barnet had all the ball, and created all the chances, but couldn’t find the equaliser. They were guilty of missing a couple of glorious chances too. Jack Taylor could only find Covolan when five yards out after a sumptuous Sparkes cross and Mason-Clark flicked a header over from a corner when he really should have scored.
Then, with 3 minutes left on the clock, the exhausted Gulls were stung by the home side. The very dangerous Mason-Clark found Taylor on the edge of the box. He twisted and turned placed a daisy cutter into the bottom left corner, out of the reach of the despairing Covolan. Heartbreak, as the Gulls had worked so hard to preserve the lead.
Six minutes were added on, and all 22 players huffed and puffed but couldn’t find a winner. Both teams had free kicks or corners that were dealt with easily and the game finished 2-2. The players collapsed at the full time whistle, as two games in three days and a temperature of 33 Celsius took their toll. It is a point that most would’ve taken before the game, but frustrating under the circumstances.
Lucas Covolan – 7.5: Handling was excellent again, and his shot-stopping wasn’t really tested. Loses some marks as his distribution was a bit dodgy.
Liam Davis – 7: Good defensively but little impact going forward. Was booked early on in the second half and was taken off for Vincent with 20 to play.
Kyle Cameron – 6.5: Was excellent in the first half, but was at fault for Barnet’s first. Recovered well and didn’t put a foot wrong for the rest of the game.
Jean-Yves Koue Niate – 8.5: Brilliant, my Man of the Match.
Ben Wynter – 6.5: Very solid defensively, but was wayward with his crossing again.
Jake Andrews – 7.5: Energy levels were excellent and set pieces very good. Solid performance from the youngster.
Asa Hall – 7.5: So disruptive in the middle of the park, and a very good return to the side. Passing was erratic, but good to have him back.
Armani Little – 8: So this is the performance we were all waiting for! Buzzed about the pitch, used the ball well and scored a peach of a goal.
Kalala – 6.5: Energy levels excellent, and we missed him in the second half. More on him later.
Connor Lemonhaigh-Evans – 7.5: The Welshman was very good, very silky and used the ball purposefully. Love watching him play.
Jamie Reid – 6.5: Ran his socks off but was starved of service today. Was tidy enough when on the ball but felt the effects of the heat.
Ruairi Keating – 5: Worked his socks off, but did nothing of note. Gave Sparkes the freedom of the park and wasted the ball every time he had it.
Frank Vincent – 6: Provided a burst of energy in at left back, but couldn’t affect proceedings going forward.
Manny Duku – N/A: He was on for 10 minutes, but did nothing. May have won one header.
Man of the Match: Jean-Yves Koue Niate
The much maligned Frenchman continued his strong start to the season with another very good performance. He never missed a header, won every challenge and managed to score his first goal of the season. Even as the Gulls tired he was still very solid, showing why Gary has put so much faith in him. As the senior centre-back partner, he could do with showing a bit more leadership, but that’s being picky.
The midfield trio of Andrews, Little and Hall ran the show in the first half. Little showed his slick passing and his ability to strike a ball by opening his account for the Gulls. Andrews was his usual lung busting self, snapping into challenges and storming around the pitch. And Asa put in a captains shift, by being his usual powerhouse self. I reckon it’s the best midfield in the league, and having Evans in front of them isn’t too bad.
Torquay lined up in the 4-4-1-1 we have seen most this season, with the only change from the Aldershot game being Hall in for Opi. Despite the searing hot temperatures the Gulls played started at a very high tempo. They wanted to unsettle Barnet, and really press their back line. In the first half, the Gulls were doing this brilliantly with both goals coming from Barnet mistakes caused by Yellow pressure. However, in the second half the game plan seemed to be forgotten. United were shattered and kept hitting the ball long, hoping that either Reidy or Keating would get on the end of it. Could be argued that maybe they worked too hard in the first half, but Gary had a plan and it almost worked out.
Barnet were appalling in the first half, being bullied off the ball by Torquay and offering nothing going forward. In the second half, they were a different outfit. They showed all the energy we had lost and were able to keep us camped in our own half. Ephron Mason-Clark and Dan Sparkes out wide were real handfuls, delivering some quality crosses into the box. Josh Walker upfront also showed some great touches, and they tried to push and pull us around. They played some good football at times, and stuck with it well to find the equaliser. Will definitely be top half this season.
The referee was par for the course at this level. He got most of the calls right, got some wrong and didn’t dish out too many cards. He didn’t really affect the game too much either, which is always nice to say.
Key moment: Barnet’s first goal
The Gulls were cruising at half-time, and should have been more up. They should have also expected the Bees to come out with the bit between their teeth (do bees have teeth?). But for some reason they didn’t, as Barnet pulled one back after only 4 minutes. Cameron switched off, was knocked over far too easily and they scored. It was a daft goal to concede, and gave the home side some hope that they could pull off a comeback. If we’d been able to hold out for another 10 minutes, who knows what would’ve happened.
Player Spotlight: Kalvin Lumbombo-Kalala
Oh Kalvin, we love you. We really do. But the exciting young winger just looks bereft of confidence at the moment. Last year he used to go all spaghetti legs and drift passed players like they weren’t even there, forgetting at times that they had families. But this season so far, he seems to get the ball, fake to go past them and then lays it off to a team mate. I’d keep him in the squad for his work rate, as it was noticeable what we lost when he went off, but we need him to start producing the brilliance we know he has.
Away Day Overview:
The Hive is tucked away in a corner of Northwest London that no one would really ever go to unless you lived there. I’m not even sure it is technically in Barnet, but they have a nice ground. Built in 2013, it has four very modern stands, a beautiful pitch and all the mod-cons of a higher League team. Despite this, it still feels soulless, it was probably less than half-full and the home fans hardly make a squeak. It is just off the Jubilee line, which was nice and meant I could get home easily. £20 for entry was steep, and the pint’s were alright but at least the bar had air conditioning.
If I could replicate the noise I made at full time in words, then that would sum up this game perfectly (it was sort of an elongated blegh noise with a bit of flem at the end, for those wondering). The Gulls were outstanding in the first half, completely dominate and showing real class. But in the second, it was like Gravy Gary had returned from the North to take us over for one half of football. A point was probably fair, but no one likes throwing away a 2 goal lead.
But there is room for optimism. Since the shocking defeat against Maidenhead, we have 7 points from 3 games, with 2 of those being away. Now Davis is back, we look so much better defensively and are scoring goals from all areas of the pitch. We have 11 points from 7 games, which is a steady start and we now have a few days rest before the visit of Hartlepool. Woking are top, which is annoying, but won’t it feel great when we beat them next week?
Hartlepool (H) – 31st August, 3pm KO – Plainmoor