Matty Orton – @MattyOrton1
Only 584 miles of tarmac and 90 minutes of football stood in the way of Torquay United and 3 points in their latest venture north. It’s been a rough old week for Fylde, and as the yellow army spearheaded it’s assault onto the flats of West Lancashire you couldn’t help but feel the semblance of Fylde’s mission statement was about to be dealt a further blow. In just seven days they’ve lost their striker Danny Rowe to Oldham, been embroiled in criticism over their late decision to call off their game against Notts County and had a deliberate attempt to sabotage their pitch with a brick wrapped in a towel. Perhaps the ‘2020’ (target for Football League status) which was recently changed to ‘2022’ needs to be modified once again.
A good performance from our boys would do it and a good performance is what we got. We played some neat and tidy football on a difficult pitch for a large majority of the game. After a bright start we found ourselves a goal down (how many times have we seen that this season). In the 12th minute Fylde picked up on a loose ball from Hall in their own half. Walker got the better of Lewis, who arguably should have made a tactical foul and brought him down, to then rifle a great finish across Covolan into the top corner. 1 down.
It was disappointing after a good start but we replied almost instantly. A corner swung in from the left of the travelling support found the head of Hall who nodded it past Hornby. 1-1 and the skipper had immediately made amends.
Our front three were feeling dangerous, Reid, Kalala and Whitfeild were starting to turn the screw on a Fylde back-line who looked increasingly shaky and bereft of any confidence. Kalala had made it to the by-line but was dispossessed, he then managed to block an attempt at a clearance and as the ball span loose, Whitfield somehow manged to head the ball back into the box whilst taking a clattering in the process. Reid latched onto the ball, made some space past the defender and drilled his shot hard and low across the keeper. 2-1.
We looked comfortable for the rest of the half and started the second very much how we finished the first. The third goal would prove vital in the end as Fylde missed a golden chance for an equaliser. Hall found Reid whose shot was parried by Hornby and Whitfield was ready to pounce on the rebounding effort. 3-1 and it was almost mission complete. Not just yet. It’s a position we’ve found ourselves in a lot this season and you would usually fancy us to go on and get 1 or 2 more to comfortably see off the game. For some reason we stood off, whether we were trying to shut up shop or slow down the game I’m not really sure, but as a result Fylde began to find a rhythm of play.
So the home team eventually found a 2nd. Longridge was beaten at the by-line, the ball flashed across the box and was pierced into the net at the back post as Lewis was beaten by his man. 3-2 and a big puff of the cheeks from the travelling support at what would prove to be a nervy final 10 minutes.
We dug in well at this stage and the experience of Hall and Warren proved vital in seeing off the final bombardment. The battle was over and the 3 points were going back to the Westcountry.
Lucas Covolan 8 – Probably a bit of a harsh score for Lucas today. He didn’t put a foot wrong the whole game on a difficult pitch. Gathered balls well, slowed play down when necessary, made some good saves when needed and wouldn’t have been able to do anything about the two goals conceded anyway.
Joe Lewis 7 – A generous 7 for Joe who arguably played his part in both of our goals. Perhaps somewhat controversially should have committed a professional foul for their first goal as they broke free. He was also beaten at the far post for the second as his man beat him to the ball. He did however tackle well for the majority of the game and won possession back admirably on more than one occasion.
Robbie Cundy 7 – Robbie did okay today and looked all the more assured next to Warren. Won a few headers but struggled a bit with passing on a poor surface.
Gary Warren 8 – Solid, vocal, encouraging at the back and calmed any ensuing panic after Fylde’s 2nd. I think Gary played his part today as an experienced head to help the younger lads see out the game in the end. Positionally he was superb.
Jackson Longridge 7 – Played well today and had a touch of class at times. Did his job well and didn’t once feel as if he was going to make a mistake.
Kalvin Lumbombo-Kalala 8 – Just. Kalvin carried the threat we know he’s got. The only problem was the final ball which was slightly lacking. Not sure whether it was the surface or not but couldn’t quite find that killer pass.
Asa Hall 9 – See MOTM
Connor Evans 7 – Better and slowly getting back to his old self.
Ben Whitfield 8 – ‘Classic Ben Whitfield performance’ is the commonly used phrase I believe.
Aaron Nemane 7 – This was the first time I have seen Nemane play in a midfield three as opposed to a wide position. I thought he did a good job in there and asked some questions of Fylde with his range of passing. He went a little quiet in the 2nd half.
Jamie Reid 8 – Everything you expect from Reid. Closed down, led the line, held the ball up, full of energy and always posed a danger.
Ruairi Keating N/A – Ruari got about 5 seconds of game time and I think he made the most of that opportunity.
Armani Little 8 – Great to see him back on the pitch. Immediately looked a class above and can’t wait to see him back to full strength and full match fitness.
Jake Andrews 7 – Jake got a solid 15 minutes and did okay. 7 for him.
Man of the Match: Asa Hall
A colossus performance from the skipper, anchored the midfield, won aerial battles all afternoon and created and caused problems. He lead as a captain should lead at the heart of the team. I was proud he was wearing our shirt today.
Once again with almost 600 miles on the clock for those travelling up from Devon, the honourable mention has to go to the travelling support. We never fail to turn up in numbers no matter where we go and we made some good noise today. Always impressive.
We went with 4 at the back with Lewis and Longridge playing left and right with Warren and Cundy as a central pairing. Hall, CLE and Nemane played as a middle ‘three’, as Nemane was brought in from a wide position which is where we have seen him. Kalala, Whitfield and Reid made up a front attacking line with Reid down the middle and Kalala and Whitfield playing naturally wide. We’ve seen CLE and Whitfield play in the ‘hole’ just behind Reid on occasion but that didn’t appear to be the case today.
Fylde were poor and look like a team in big trouble. They looked a different side to the one that visited Plainmoor and despite a slightly spirited last 20 minutes they were bereft of any confidence and lacked any real cutting edge or quality. Don’t believe Jim Bentley’s rhetoric that this was a close game, it was a game they never looked liked winning and had they got anything from it, then it would have been unjust. Their attempt to climb the ladder and the dream of the Football League is beginning to look more and more like a nightmare.
Very good I think. Kept control of proceedings well, played advantage at appropriate times and didn’t have any real moments of controversy. Had something come of a questionable ball over our by-line that the linesman didn’t flag for, then we may be saying something different. Some were complaining about 6 minutes added time, but there were quite a few players who went down needing treatment.
Fylde’s missed chance for an equaliser. At 2-1 they were presented with a golden chance that rocketed across our goal and past the post.
Player Spotlight: Armani Little
Armani came on for a 15 minute cameo and was very impressive. He looked sharp, quick, strong and not necessarily like a player who has been out for a large chunk of the season. Johnson mentioned this week about returning players feeling like new signings and the return of Armani felt just like that.
Cast your minds back to the autumn and the reverse fixture at Plainmoor – recall that battling performance where we won it in the 91st minute. We were over-run for the whole game as our midfield of Vincent and Buse couldn’t handle the physicality of Fylde. No Hall, no Connor Lemonheigh- Evans and no experienced central defender in Gary Warren. That felt like a different Fylde, but arguably, it was a different Torquay. For me it highlights how important those players are for us and how much of a difference they make to the team.
With Kyle Cameron injured Johnson had to go with Warren and Cundy as a central pairing and, despite conceding twice, I think defensively we were better than usual. Admittedly that isn’t difficult with one of the most fragile defences in the league, but the positional play from Warren today was impressive and that type of player and experience has been missing from an inadequate defence.
The alleviating injury crisis is more a long overdue and we should now be focusing our eyes back to looking up the table. COYY