“Gary Johnson appeared quiet and subdued in the dug-out and that translated onto the pitch”
The Ed blogs about the latest from the world of TUFC
Dom Roman – @DomRoman
WHERE’S THE ENTERTAINERS?
“0-0 in football doesn’t necessarily mean a dull 90 minutes”. For example our game against the Daggers a few months ago was competitive, with two strong looking teams going toe to toe and just failing to find a winner (the match verdict was also excellently written by yours truly!!). Saturday afternoon was nothing like that. This was a snooze-fest of epic proportions, a game so bad that the highlights could be condensed into about a minute, but only if you include Patrick’s new shirt advertising at the beginning (just to Pad it out a bit..ahem). In fact you could rename it ‘lowlights’ perhaps just to guard against false advertising.
What’s happened to the entertainers that set our pulses racing in September/October, when attacking fluency oozed out of our paws and the Yellow Army jumped for joy on numerous occasions? Well at home at least it’s been null and void. Apart from the Woking beating and a thrashing of a tragic Aldershot team in the Trophy, we just cannot produce anything at Plainmoor. The tempo wasn’t there, neither was the passing or the cohesion to break open a very limited Ebbsfleet team, and we trudged out of the old place around 5 o’clock with a sigh and more than a bit of apathy.
The most disappointing aspect of the performance overall I’d say was the lack of aggression going forward. Even when you’re not playing well and passes aren’t sticking, you can still win a game through force of personality and just pushing men into the opposition’s half. Gary Johnson appeared quiet and subdued in the dug-out and that translated onto the pitch. We needed more overlap on the wing from Longridge and Lewis, more midfielders desperate to get alongside or even beyond Reidy to make something happen, heck just more of everything. Fleet were there for the taking and we didn’t ask nearly enough questions. Hugely dull from the men in yellow.
I’ll move onto a positive now (even my grumpiness has limits!) and that’s the return to action of Armani Little at Plainmoor. After a short spell at Fylde, Gary clearly thought the midfielder was ready for a half-time entrance in place of the toiling Nemane and threw AL in the hope of prising one goal that would surely win the game. Armani’s movement gave us something different, unfortunately with the ball he struggled to get going and this rust may take a couple more outings to correct. Once he gets going again, we’ll definitely see the benefits and at least the squad is starting to get healthy again with Davis and Wynter not long away from a return.
The use of Nemane in midfield has puzzled me slightly, though it certainly paid off at Fylde and the young lad has quick feet capable of making an impact in games. But, if you’re asking me who is a better bet in midfield, Nemane or Jake Andrews? I’d say it’s a no-contest and field Jake every time. The ex-Bristol City maestro hasn’t had a proper run in the XI for a while and he must be frustrated at the way his campaign has petered out. Jake gives you set piece potential, goal-scoring potential and also loves to get in the box and create mayhem – for those reasons he goes straight into my eleven for Barrow.
Another midfielder Connor Lemonheigh-Evans is having a hard time at the moment. At the weekend he looked unsure of his position in this new look formation, hesitant with the ball at his feet and really struggled to pick out a team-mate, with errant passes affecting his confidence. The disruption this young man has suffered in regards to injuries and then the struggles to regain match-sharpness seems to have taken it’s tole. I’ve no doubt with all his talent ‘The Lemon’ will rediscover his touch and swagger, but I’d like to see him playing behind Reidy (see August!) and causing trouble in-between the lines – currently (without a proper partner for Jamie) we need that sort of player.
Striker-wise, options are limited and they got more limited when that lovable Irishman Ruairi Keating left last week, in one of the slowest burning TUFC departures in recent memory. It’s been a difficult season for RK and he has never been really in favour with GJ. Even after commanding the odd first team spot the striker was soon dislodged when other options became available. The passion and hunger has been on show as always, and Ruairi has done alright this season with his usual commitment to flying into challenges and desperation to make something happen. These attributes and an outgoing personality means the Yellow Army will miss him, and his Gateshead move is a good chance for RK to make an impression on a more regular basis. Scoring on his debut will definitely help and I hope he does very well for ‘the Heed’.
Apparently GJ had been chasing the signing of Callum Morton for months, so the decision from the striker to turn us down in favour of Northampton will not have lightened the gaffer’s sour mood anymore! With no other news of new signings, we may just have to play with the cards that have already been dealt. Jared Lewington is a striker who has made very little impact on me so far and if I’m being honest I’m not expecting that to change, but maybe he’ll provide some spark here or there to help JR19 out? Apart from that, the pressure is on the likes of Whitfield, Armani and Kalvin to chip in with the goals and remove us from this mid-table malaise. Kalvin had moments of quality on Saturday, he just needs to find that end-product.
Mid-table is an odd phrase for Torquay United fans…we just don’t often use it! Myself and other YA comrades have often stated during our relegation scraps that ‘mid-table’ would be okay in future seasons, but now we are actually mid-table it just doesn’t feel right. This is not TUFC territory! I think the main challenges for GJ from here on in is finding a settled line-up, finding form and finding some momentum to end the season with. There’s plenty of time to do all three; whether that could take us into play-off contention may be a long shot at the moment – it’s possible though! In this ridiculous league where teams all beat each other at random, and two wins can push you up the table at a rate of knots, I am not ruling anything out (we still have a bloody good manager after all).
One thing that is hard to predict is an away win on Saturday. After failing to beat Ebbfleet at home (or manage more than one shot on target), we travel to high-flying Barrow AFC and their fans will be confident of giving us a battering. A home win is not nailed on though. This season’s Gulls crop appear to be better suited to away days. The reasons for this? Well at home we struggle to break down teams who sit in and then look to counter, whilst away from home we become one of those teams! If we can resist the likely pressure from Barrow then there will be space to exploit on the breakaway. First we need to win the right to play, battle hard and triumph in 50-50s. Barrow are a strong physical outfit and we must simply man up to get anything on Saturday. Here’s hoping. Watch out of our opposition interview with a chirpy Nathan Garnett, his team really are having a tremendous season.
It’s been a pleasure in recent weeks conducting interviews with two fabulous characters in the form of Tim Sills and Alex Rowe (see above). Both Q&A’s took me back over 10 years to those dramatic early Conference years, the Wembley win and all that. With a local board in charge, a popular group of players and big crowds at Plainmoor, it was a fun time for everyone and there was an enjoyable bond throughout the club. The insight from Alex into what happened behind the scenes is hugely interesting and I would urge you to check it out. We’ve also got other recurring features in place such as ‘Ex-Gulls Watch’ with Andy Charles, ‘TT Groundhopping’ with various contributors and of course the Match Verdicts and whatever else we can muster. Keep an eye out for more as the weeks progress. The TUFC season may be limping on slightly, however we are just getting going! COYY