Sam Druiff – @samdruiff
A very frustrating afternoon rounded off a very mixed August. This was an education for the Gulls. Hartlepool are a team that have settled into the Conference and have a built a team to combat the league, a mixture of experience, height, and a little bit of ‘b*stardary’.
For the first half an hour Torquay, lining up in the familiar 4411 line-up, just could not break down Hartlepool. Hartlepool with all their experience, could deal with everything Torquay tried to throw at them, frustratingly, that’s when the long ball came out! Much like the Maidenhead game, we couldn’t create anything with it.
Hartlepool took a deserved lead in the 16th minute, when the vastly experienced Jason Kennedy got on the end of a flick on from a corner. 1-0, and it was the least the Pools deserved, after being denied by some good goalkeeping from the inspired Lucas Covolan. Torquay did slightly liven up towards the back end of the first half, Reid having a couple of good chances, and United winning a free kick in peak Armani distance, only for a daft routine to waste it.
None of our subs warmed up at half time, so I suspect a Gary Johnson ‘rollocking’ came their way! And in fairness, something worked. Manny Duku came off for the anonymous Kalvin Kalala, and Torquay looked bright. Only six minutes in, good link-up between Liam Davis and the tireless Reidy saw Reid fire one into the top bracket from just outside the area – goal! 1-1, and Jamie once again proving he is more than capable at this level.
Neither team really did much for the next 15 minutes or so. I think Torquay were crying out for some inspiration, and with Frankie Vincent and Ruairi Keating waiting in the wings, I’m surprised we didn’t see a change earlier.
In the later stages of the game, Hartlepool turned it on again, Liam Noble whipped in a brilliant free kick, a Pools head got on it but Covolan got down fantastically at the near post to keep it out – outstanding goalkeeping! Jason Kennedy found himself one-on-one, but again Covolan came out on top, making himself look big and denying the experienced number 28.
On the 73rd minute, Hartlepool brought on the talented Ryan Donaldson, and as I thought, he changed the game for the visitors. In the 80th minute, Hartlepool got the least that they deserved and Kioso scored from a Donaldson flick-on to make it 2-1. Frustrating, United had done well to get back into the game, but Hartlepool with all their experience and knowhow at this level found themselves ahead. Donaldson, for me looked a foot off-side when he won the ball, I was adamant it was off, but I’d have to see a replay.
United threw on Joe Lewis upfront to add height in place of Wynter, but it was far too little too late as Niate wasted a good headed chance to grab a point. A frustrating afternoon at a sunny Plainmoor.
Covolan – 8 – Outstanding. Little he could have done about the goals. Lucas in an exceptional goalkeeper who will only get better.
Wynter – 5.5 – Really disappointed with Wynts today, as will he. Far from his best, usually a guaranteed 7.5 but he wasn’t on his game.
Niate – 6 – An okay game from Jean today. Not perfect, but had some good moments in fairness. It’s difficult to sum up his game, did nothing terrible, but was part of a defence that conceded two goals.
Cameron – 6 – See above. I forget that Kyle is only 22 years old, and at this level, he will get caught out from inexperience. Still our best CB.
Davis – 5.5 – Much the same as Wynter. He did well with Reid’s goal, but several misplaced passes and being caught out.
Kalala – 4 – Poor. Kalvin is no doubt a talent, and won us so many games last year, but he needs a spell out of the team. Opi is the answer on the wing but he only seems to be able to play once a month at the moment. Very frustrated with Kalvin at the moment.
Hall – 6 – Asa, whilst far from at his best did nothing wrong today, he just didn’t impose himself on the game as much as I would have liked. Asa has a huge responsibility on his hands this season, he is our most experienced player and he has to look after our very young midfield.
Little – 6 – Again, much like Asa, Armani didn’t have a bad game as such, he just wasn’t at his best. He tried so hard to create chances but often enough it came to nothing. My only criticism of Little is keep it simple sometimes.
Andrews – 6 – Fairly non existent really. Not an awful lot to say on him today.
CLE – 7 – Much better In the second half but Connor always looks like he can create something.
Reid – 8 – Jamie is just different level. He never stops working, and he scored another worldie today. I’m running out of things to say about Reid, just a joy to have in the team.
Duku – 6.5 – Best I’ve seen of our number 9 so far. Strong, won aerial duals, and ran. Stick with him – he will come good.
Vincent & Lewis – NA
Man of the Match: Jamie Reid
This was almost a coin toss, Covolan or Reid. In the end I had to pick Reid. In the first half, he was the only yellow to really come close or make any real excitement. Reid ran his socks off for the whole game and continues to impress with his willingness and skill. He took his goal excellently and could have had another.
Like I said, MOTM could have been Covolan, he was excellent again. Produced a few very good saves and his one from the Noble free kick that was headed on left me speechless. I also think that CLE had a good game today, he was effective on the wing and was a threat, as he always can be.
A familiar 4-4-1-1 which for me, does work. However, against a big, bullyish team like Hartlepool we must change it up. They cancelled out any good play we started, which meant the Gulls resorted to long ball. This was never going to work with the players we have, and the players Hartlepool possess. This would have been a game for Duku I think he’d have ruffled up the Pools’ back four and given Reid that extra split-second he needed.
I’ve touched on it already, but Hartlepool are a team perfectly set up to ‘sh*thouse’ their way to wins. A big, strong, experienced team that will bully teams. Torquay got what they deserved today, if they had stuck to their game then Hartlepool, like any team at this level were there for the taking.
Lazy performance from the officials, Torquay could have had a penalty after about 10 minutes in for an alleged hand-ball, but that came to nothing. Hartlepool got away with a few lazy fouls. I also saw Donaldson to be off-side for their 2nd goal. Now, I know they deserved the goal, but if the flag goes up we draw 1-1 and it’s all more positive.
Controversial, but for me the key moment was not changing it until AFTER Hartlepool went ahead late on. Where I was stood, we said the game was screaming out for a change, and Frank Vincent and Ruairi Keating can both feel hard done by. Little was tiring, Andrews wasn’t in the game enough and both of those players could have made a difference.
Player Spotlight: Ruairi Keating
I know he didn’t play, but I’ll focus on Ruairi. I think he has the right to be very, very disappointed for not playing today. When Joe Lewis came on, no disrespect to the lad, but I was shocked. I know he is tall, but we know that Keating will put himself about, win headers and he has scored his fare share of late goals. We forget that he is a striker, not a winger by trade, and I’d like to see him back upfront, I think he needs that lease of life.
We didn’t deserve anything today, but don’t be worried. We’ve had a very mixed bag in the opening month, and we’re sitting in 10th. We’re closer to the play-offs than the relegation zone, and we have the best manager at this level of football. Why aren’t we winning all of the games and being more consistent? Because we have a young team, most of which have little or no experience at this level, and they are settling in. Give them time and it will come good.
Just remember GJ came in (nearly) at this stage last season and won a championship. We have a slightly naïve defence, but who’s our number two? Aaron Downes, arguable our best CB in the last seven years or so. Lets think about Woking, have a plan B, and take them off their pedestal! COYY!
Woking FC (A) – 3rd September, 7.45pm KO – Laithwaite Community Stadium