“This squad have got to get their heads together and take responsibility”
The Ed blogs about the latest from the world of Torquay United
Dom Roman – @DomRoman
NO JOY IN SIX
Losing is becoming an increasingly annoying habit for this Torquay United side and our season is currently derailing before our eyes. Always nice to start on a positive note! But unfortunately that sentence pretty much sums up the current situation for the Gulls, as we lurch from one miserable defeat to another. 5 weeks ago (it feels like 5 months) we all rejoiced at a TUFC team on the march, beating Halifax 4-0 marked us down as serious contenders. What’s gone wrong since then? Where do I f##king start?!
Let’s begin at the top of the tree. We’ve always felt blessed to have Gary Johnson as manager and rightly so. He’s been a breath of fresh air for the whole club, and brought so much entertainment back into our Saturday afternoons. Unfortunately in recent times, the gaffer has blemished his United copybook with a number of strange (some would say poor) decisions. Decisions that have seemed totally out of character and decisions that are not helping us on the football pitch. Has someone kidnapped the real Gary Johnson? If so, can this impersonator please be apprehended and the real one be returned to Plainmoor by Saturday!
Last Saturday was the latest example and the team selection just puzzled me. We had just conceded five goals in the previous game and a defender (initials RC) had been at fault for at least two of them in a nightmarish 90 minutes…but the centre back remained in the back four. Meanwhile Shaun MacDonald had basically kept us in the game for 45 minutes, but dropped out due to the dreaded (and bemusing) rotation system. The defence is struggling so you have to give them more protection in midfield surely? Into the engine room came…diminutive loan winger Amrit Bansal-McNulty. Five attacking guys ahead of a creaking back four, including the defensively shy(te) Kalvin Kalala – it didn’t bode well as we approached kick-off. In the end (after a lame first 60 minutes) the unbalanced Gulls almost grabbed a point, but only once three subs had given the team a jolt of energy (Lewington impressing Matty Hayward). Another afternoon of misery for the Yellow Army* had unfolded and more questions for the gaffer to answer.
*Nearly 300 in attendance, you guys are just magnificent.
Exhibit B. One of the notable talking points in recent weeks has been chucking players like Reid, Janneh, Asa and CLE back into action too early. The news from Instagram yesterday that CLE is struggling for fitness again after Saturday’s match was unwelcome, but also unsurprising. After a fairly serious injury he wasn’t ready to start games, neither was Saikou in early November or Reidy versus Stockport. Unfortunately with injury problems and the form of the team, desperation to win points has superseded common sense to phase these guys slowly back into the starting line-up. Ignoring fully fit players like the determined Ruairi Keating in the process and gaining no reward from the gamble. It’s so disappointing to see a protective boot back on Connor’s foot. Injuries to key men continue to haunt Torquay United’s 2019-20, but in some respects we aren’t helping ourselves.
That’s enough about GJ, I’ve got too much respect for him to take that criticism onto a third paragraph (and I haven’t even mentioned set piece defending or juggling formations)! The players must of course shoulder a high proportion of the blame; they’re the ones kicking the ball erratically and they’re the ones currently struggling horribly for confidence. One thing is clear and that is currently we lack leaders on the pitch and opposition teams are taking advantage of our passive approach. Without Liam Davis and Asa Hall lining up who are these lads looking at for inspiration? Who’s gritting their teeth and dragging others out of this grim run of form? “We’re not losing today boys”. Nobody at the moment is stepping up, and even the simplest facets of the game are causing us trouble. This squad has got to get their heads together, shake off this malaise and take responsibility, starting with Aldershot at home in the FA Trophy.
We can’t possibly lose seven on the bounce can we? Can we? We might…but good news, the Shots are one of the poorest teams in the division, probably the poorest I’ve seen at Plainmoor this season anyway. Team selection will again be debated as the week progresses and the XI will depend on injury news (as usual), but one man who is probably first on the list at the moment is Ben Whitfield. It’s always easier to look good in a team on form and dominating the opposition (Kalvin: I’m thinking of you again dear chap!), but you get to know someone’s true character and quality better when the team is struggling and our November Player of the Month has given everything to alter our beleaguered fortunes. At 4-1 down against Stockport, as heads dropped around him, he ran back most the length of the pitch to dispossess an attacker threatening to score – that sort of dogged commitment is what I love to see.
BIGGEST GAME OF 19-20 SO FAR
The 21st December game against Chesterfield is just looking massive at the moment. With awkward customers like Yeovil and Woking on the landscape over Xmas and the New Year, a win before then is imperative to boost our National League morale. Earn at least 4 or 5 points to keep us in the hunt (in a ridiculously mediocre division), give GJ the chance to perform some magic in the January transfer market by bringing in experienced quality (budget allowing) and the season could still be a successful one. We cannot count on so many loans, and the defence must be reinforced – we all know that. At the moment Gary just appears desperate to make it to the New Year so he can make changes, and after letting Many Duku go, he may be in the mood to cast aside others. Five games present themselves before then. Big crowds and big matches to turn our frowns upside down, I’m dreaming of a Yellow Christmas…
TT have had to dish out some pretty low player ratings recently and we do not enjoy doing it. There’s no pleasure in dishing out 3s and 4s out of 10, but as an independent blogging site we have to be honest to our readers. Otherwise there’s no point to our existence. We’d love players earning 8s all over the place and positive banter flying around, but the current situation is unpleasant and we’re not afraid to call a spade a spade. One thing however that is never in doubt is our commitment to supporting the team, and the TT contributors are following TUFC all over the land begging for a victory to warm their cockles. We’re keeping the faith with Gary Johnson to turn the tide and know just one victory could lead to plenty more…so join us and keeping supporting the lads. COYY
*If you would like a TT mug, as modelled below, get in touch using the Contact TT option on the website or through Twitter/Facebook, and I’ll come back to you asap.