TT MATCH VERDICT
Matt Roberts discusses the return of the Gulls to Plainmoor
Matt Roberts – @MatthewVA438
After six long months away, football finally returned in a friendly with Hemel Hempstead making the journey down from London to the English Riviera for some much-awaited pre-season action at an empty Plainmoor. With the club streaming the game, it sounded like a decent way to spend the afternoon.
The starting XI featured a number of familiar names from previous seasons as well as most of the new signings over the summer and several South Devon College lads in a 3-5-2 formation. Lucas Covolan retained his role as first choice goalkeeper while the back three consisted of Kyle Cameron (today’s captain), Fraser Kerr and Louie Slough, with Ben Wynter and Dean Moxey as wing backs.
The starters in midfield were Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, Ben Whitfield and Aaron Nemane, with Danny Wright and Andrew Nelson upfront. Asa Hall, Gary Warren, Jake Andrews and Armani Little weren’t included in the squad. It was mentioned by Dave Thomas on commentary that Little still wasn’t fully ready to come back following his hamstring injury.
Unsurprisingly, the game started slowly with very little action of any sort and neither side creating much. Immediately though, Torquay began playing very wide and direct with long diagonal balls that would become the pattern of the game.
The first real moment of note came after almost 20 minutes when an off the ball incident saw Andrew Nelson having a spat with an opposition player. Both players were awarded yellow cards, however, unexpectedly Nelson was subbed off almost immediately for Josh Umerah and did not look particularly happy when walking off. A clear signal from Johnson that such behaviour on the pitch wouldn’t be tolerated. Mind you, it’s not like Nelson hasn’t got form for riling opponents up based on his career up in Scotland.
Torquay started to control the game from about 25 minutes with some tantalising crosses from Moxey in particular, but there were still precious few chances to write home about as the first half ended 0-0.
The game burst into life early in the second half when United went to sleep while defending a corner and Bateman rose at the near post to direct the ball into the net. The goal was against the run of play but demonstrated very familiar frailties that we witnessed last season from set pieces.
Torquay were gifted an opportunity to get back into the game 10 minutes later with a penalty. Wright flicked the ball onto the impressive Koszela who was bundled off the ball a few yards from goal, a bit of a soft penalty to give, but Wright powered it home to equalise.
United stepped it up a gear and went ahead only three minutes later. With Hemel forced back into their own box, the ball fell to Cameron who unleashed a powerful strike and slammed it off the bar and across the line (just about). The benefits of really putting your laces through it, no toe poking here.
Torquay were now well on top and spraying the ball across the pitch with ease. Umerah and Wright had formed a delightful partnership upfront. Wright with his strength and ability to introduce teammates into attacking moves, and Umerah with his skill on the ball and the ease at which he was able to hold the ball up when he needed to. Soon after the second, Umerah capped off a fine performance with the third goal, looking calm and confident in the area as he turned away from his man and slammed it into the net.
Hemel got one back almost immediately as United’s set piece defensive problems were on show again. A corner came in and no defender rose with O’Connor-Ajayi who gave Covolan little chance. If teams like Hemel Hempstead in the division below are able to expose our shortcomings so easily, the likes of Stockport will have a field day when we face them next month. Something we have to improve on.
This was a decent run out with Torquay controlling much of the game in a direct style, though when necessary the players were more than able to pass it around on the floor. Central to this was Nemane who played in the centre of midfield, picking out nice passes and looking assured on the ball throughout. Umerah is my shout for man of the match. For a player who only signed the other day he looked to have a good understanding with Wright and I’m excited to see what he does in the next few games.
Last word on the coverage from the club. £4 for good quality coverage that actually worked can’t be sniffed at, especially when I have the pleasure of listening to the expert analysis of Dave Thomas and his slightly meandering conversations on the history of Torquay wing backs over the last 50 years or so. I’ll look forward to the next one!
Man of the Match:
56 minutes – 0-1 Bateman
64 minutes – 1-1 Wright (pen)
67 minutes – 2-1 Cameron
81 minutes – 3-1 Umerah
83 minutes – 3-2 O’Connor-Ajayi