Matty Hayward – @mattyhayward96
Guess who’s back. Back again. To be fair, you can definitely guess: there isn’t a termite in Torbay who hadn’t heard the rumour that Connor Lemonheigh-Evans was set to return to Plainmoor, this time on a permanent basis. Having had three spells previous spells in Yellow and never left a sour taste, it’s easy peasy to see the appeal of giving The Lemon another squeeze.
Usually in these pieces, it’s incumbent on me to do some research to find out what sort of player our new signing is, the positions and roles that he tends to occupy, and consider how he’d fit into our squad. But you know all that anyway, so instead I’ll just give you a brief summary of his career, his time as a Gull, and point you in the direction of a couple of his highlights.
Born in Swansea, Connor was snapped up by Bristol City’s academy as a young prospect, signing a pro contract in 2016. He was quickly sent out on loan to Bath City under the stewardship of Gary Ow*rs. Upon his return to The Robins, and despite never making a league appearance for Lee Johnson’s men, he played 90 minutes in a 3-0 FA Cup defeat at Watford. Later that month, he reconvened with The Gravy Man at Plainmoor.
The combination of Gravy and Lemon was as unpleasant as the culinary concoction sounds, and they were unable to keep the Gulls from the drop. Luckily, after a forgettable start to the NLS season, a competent manager was finally appointed, and he rated CLE too. It was that season that he showed his real zest, being one of the key performers in United’s title-winning engine room. So much so, on the eve of our National League opener against Boreham Wood, GJ brought him back again! Connor would be the first to admit that last season wasn’t his best. A combination of high expectations, injury, and general sluggishness meant he never achieved the consistency he became known for in the previous campaign.
There’s obviously more to being a midfielder than goals, but there aren’t many YouTube compilations of a non-league player knocking simple passes about. So here are some peaks of his three spells in Yellow:
Probably his best goal for Torquay, this, and it came in his first season. If we had been any good elsewhere, this strike at home to Woking would’ve been huge. He picks the ball up 25 yards out, sidesteps an onrushing midfielder and slams the ball home. From 7 mins in on this video:
His only brace in Yellow came in the FA Cup, scoring the third and fourth goal in the win over Winchester. Two tidy finishes here, at 3:40 and 4:53.
Most of these goals were pretty inconsequential. A winning goal in a game that didn’t end up mattering, and two goals in a game we were winning anyway. This one, however, was both excellent and important. We knew that if we beat Chelmsford that Tuesday night we’d go to Woking 7 points clear. Connor picked up a loose ball, slinked past two men in claret and nailed it past their ‘keeper. We won 3-1 and the rest is history. From 3:50 here:
Where He Fits
Connor joins a long list of midfielders now signed to the club. The competition between him, Asa Hall, Jake Andrews, Armani Little, Matt Buse will be fierce. Moreover, with the apparent lack of depth in the forward line, it’s likely that one or both of he and Ben Whitfield will be deployed in supporting number 10 roles behind Danny Wright and/or Andy Nelson. This is a position that The Lemon occupied a few times last season, especially before his injury, and I think it suits his passing and dribbling ability well.
This is undoubtedly a good signing. Despite Connor’s lukewarm 2019/20 campaign, it’s plainly obvious that he has talent and Gary Johnson knows how to get the best out of gifted young players. When life gives him Lemon, he makes Lemon play.
That said, like many for the current squad, now really is the time to step up and make an impact on the league. He’s no child anymore, he doesn’t have the safety net of returning to Bristol City to fall back on. It’s all well and good sitting pretty on the side of an already tasty cocktail, but now Gulls fans will be eager to see Lemon’s juices flowing. He needs to make himself key to the main course.
COYY – Matty