Jonny Jones – @Jonny_Jones
Well it had to happen at some point; my unbeaten run of verdicts stretching back to mid-way through last season has ended. Sutton strolled to a 2-0 win at Gander Green Lane on Saturday afternoon, with United rolling over with barely a whimper.
We lined up unchanged from last week’s victory over a spirited, but let’s face it, pretty woeful Chorley side at Plainmoor. Five at the back with Jackson Longridge and Ben Whitfield as wing-backs. With Covolan still injured, Shaun MacDonald retained his spot between the sticks.
Sutton flew straight out of the traps creating the first big chance on 8 minutes. In what would be an all too familiar thorn in our backline all game, a lofted diagonal ball put in the dangerous David Ajiboye down the right. He fed Isaac Olaofe, whose shot was well saved by MacDonald. Joe Lewis, the only defender to come away with any credit today, was alert to deal with the rebound.
Our afternoon would start to unravel in all its misery on 19 minutes. Sutton’s centre forward shithouse, Bugiel, got the turn on Lewis and went to ground. I’m not sure how much contact there was, but it looked inside the area. The referee, hapless all afternoon, gave it as a free-kick. Not that it would help us. Milsom stepped up and bent the ball into MacDonald’s near post. Keeper at fault? I’d say yes, but from that range he might get a reprieve.
On the half hour our afternoon would get worse. Jackson Longridge landed awkwardly on his knee and had to be replaced by Ben Wynter. What followed shortly after would end our hopes of getting anything from the game.
Jake Andrews dwelt on the ball in the centre of the park and looked to have been fouled. The referee waved play on and Sutton broke. While United stopped to look at the officials for a decision, Beautyman pounced on the loose ball and played in Randall, who rolled it through MacDonald’s legs into the net. 2-0. Shaun’s remark to us behind the goal would sum it up nicely…’for f**k’s sake, lads’.
Now you may have noticed I haven’t described any passages of our play yet. That’s because we didn’t have any. It wouldn’t get any better in the second.
Sutton were good enough to hold onto what they got, not saying they were anything special, mind. Ajiboye, again was causing all sorts of problems when he decided to run at our backline; United’s midfield, non-existent all afternoon, were unable to provide them any protection. If it wasn’t for MacDonald who made a series of saves, Sutton would’ve made the scoreline look even more damning.
I’m racking my brains for a chance that we created in the second half. Kalala and Nemane were introduced on the hour, and were an improvement on Azzez and Hall, respectively (more on that in the ratings!) but other than huff and puff, we did zilch to trouble Sutton’s keeper. Paulie B asked him where his deckchair was; he’d easily have been able to take a nap in it for most of the game.
At least we had some light entertainment off the pitch to distract us from the pathetic performance on it. One particular steward was plucking members of the Yellow Army, seemingly at random, from the terrace to be patted down for booze. Obviously, it was quite amusing when he failed to locate said narcotics at each attempt.
There was some sort of crowd trouble late on in the game that I didn’t see; you’ll have to read elsewhere about that one. Unfortunately, it all just served to compound a crap afternoon.
On the pitch, back-to-back wins at home were meant to get us looking up to the play-offs rather than down, but that was undone for me today.
A defeat away to Sutton on a plastic pitch, *hey I got this far without bringing it up*, is hardly a complete surprise for any seasoned Torquay United fan. But the manner of the defeat cuts deeper. It was toothless, abject, and one that I thought we’d not see again this season. The gaffer looked seething in his post-match assessment, and I think he knows the last two wins only papered over the cracks. It’s now looking clear this squad of players has not got what it takes to get into the Football League. Despite a shite display, I’m not saying we’re an awful side, just an average one, in a very average division.
MacDonald – 6: At fault for the opener, but made a series of decent saves to keep the score down, so gets a 6.
Longridge – 4: Run ragged by Sutton’s ring winger, never looked comfortable. Landed awkwardly on his knee and subbed – hope it’s not serious.
Cameron – 4: Off day, not sure he made a tackle all game.
Cundy – 4: Been excellent of late but reverted back to being slack and shaky.
Lewis – 5.5: On the whole, the best of a bad bunch today, still got beaten too easily at times.
Whitfield – 5: Didn’t happen for Whits today; no lack of endeavour.
Hall – 3: A stinker for the Viking, he’ll know it and bounce back, it happens.
Lemonheigh-Evans – 4: Tried to make things happen and a few neat touches, but isn’t drifting passed players with ease like we know he can.
Andrews – 4: Not at the races. Had one decent effort that went wide. The three in the centre of midfield just couldn’t get a hold on the game today. Apart from one occasion I can’t think of a single tackle they made.
Reid – 5: No service, kept coming deep for the ball, not much he could do.
Azeez – 4: No service, fell over a lot.
Wynter – 4: Lacks match sharpness but good to have him back.
Kalala – 5: Looked lively down the right without any end-product; we needed to try something different.
Nemane – 5: Well, he controlled the ball and made a few passes, which was an improvement on Asa!
Man of the Match: Shaun MacDonald
As I have to pick someone I’d give to Mac. I need to see the first goal again, but he looked at fault; the ball was on his side. He didn’t have much hope with second, and made a few vital stops to keep the score down.
As you were. Three centre halves with Whitfield and Longridge as wing backs, Hall, Evans and Andrews in the middle of the park with Azeez and Reidy up top. We were forced into 4-4-2 with the arrival of Wynter for Longridge; Lewis went to left back. As a whole, I’m not convinced about this 5 at the back system. All be it we’ve looked more solid in recent weeks, but it doesn’t do us any favours going forward. We need Whitfield further up the field, and I’d put Jake out wide.
Sutton were stronger, sharper, smarter, and technically superior to us today. Hard to believe they were below us in the table before play. Their right winger looked like running through us every time he received possession.
In my opinion the referee was poor. The free-kick that lead to the first goal looked inside the area, but to be fair he made up for it by giving Sutton a free-kick every time a player fell over, which served to break up the game’s flow and prevent any counter attacks for us. Andrews was kicked off the ball right in front of his nose, but he didn’t see it. Looked like a foul in build-up to the second goal.
Sutton’s second goal. The challenge on Jake Andrews looked like a foul judging by the referee’s previous decisions, but you’ve got to play to the whistle and we paid the price. 2-0 is normally a dangerous score-line but in truth it never looked safer for the U’s or Chocolate and Yellows, or whatever they’re called.
Player Spotlight: Connor Lemonheigh-Evans
A loan who dazzled us at times last season but is struggling to show the quality we know he possesses at this level. Is he good enough for the Football League? I think he’s got the makings of a very good player, but needs to start doing the simple things again. There’s no need to beat two players when you’ve already knocked it past one.
One of the worst performances I’ve seen in recent times. To completely swept aside by a part-time Sutton side who played in mid-week is nothing short of an embarrassment. Question marks now rest over this young squad and how Johnson builds one capable of competing for promotion in this league. First things first, get enough points to secure safety, then the rebuild begins.
Boreham Wood at Meadow Park, 14th March – 3pm Kick-Off