TT MATCH VERDICT
Rachel Malloch – @RachelVillavox
The National league giveth and then it taketh away, confirming the day before that the season was definitely on, but that supporters were not allowed into the league’s grounds. Many Torquay United supporters would clamour for any morsal of football just to recover a semblance of lifestyle normality and if it meant via the worldwide network of an internet stream, so be it. 7 months since we were last at Plainmoor TQ1, incredibly in fact my birthday weekend of the 29th February when we lay host to Chorley with a 2-0 victory, a long COVID-19 drawn out 10 months since I treated my young nephew to a 1-5 thrashing at the hands of today’s visitors. Thank goodness for the refreshment kiosk and cheesy chips that day. Then, last season, with rumours abound of a virus that would have far reaching affects on not just football, but on life itself, a defeat in March and the season was cancelled.
A few technical hitches and a degree of panic set in at 2:30 when WiFi decided to buffer and splutter, but with my eternal gratitude to my beloved, we were all set to watch the game by the time the team sheets were announced. These remain extraordinary times.
The surreality of watching a game on a smart tv knowing that but for a prevailing world pandemic we would be going about our Saturday chores with one eye on the clock for a trip to Plainmoor, for the bustling excitement, finding a parking space, a quick look around the club shop before pushing through the turnstiles and smiles and perfunctory chat to familiar faces, friends and staff, Robert Miles ‘Children’ to be blaring from the tannoy and the refreshment hut busily catering for the crowds and for late attendees. If nothing else, COVID-19 leaves many of us vowing never to take our recreation for granted again.
Stockport started this game as firm favourites, indeed they are the bookies favourites to runaway with the conference title this season. Torquay, after covid had interrupted a season beset with setbacks and an ever increasing injury list, began the day with a late announcement of 3 new loan signings as further injuries had hampered Gary Johnson’s plans for the new season. So in came defender Sam Sherring , midfielder Adam Randell and young Bristol city starlet Louis Britton.
The game started as it intended to go on, a dominant Stockport with much of the possession, a Torquay team with much endeavour but sloppy final balls and a reliance on goalkeeper Lucas Covolan to distribute with quick throws or long kicks to the big front 2 of Josh Umerah and Danny Wright, neither striker had much impact on the first 45. The hastily compiled pairing of Kyle Cameron and Bournemouth U23 lad Sam Sherring dealing admirably with incessant pressure. Torquay midfield while running and harrying failed to get a grip on the game, a good run often broken up swiftly and the trademark passing game lacked accuracy or any real attacking intent. Stockport were piling ball after ball into the area and but for a 44 minute Ben Wynter 20 yard piledriver, it was one way traffic and a sense of relief when the ref blew for half time.
Very little changed in the 2nd half, still plenty of effort from the Torquay middle men but without the final ball, leaving the toiling Wright and Umerah stranded. Stockport were keeping our defence busy, Covolan was called upon to make a few stops and credit to him for having an assured confident game. Torquay were weathering a swathe of Stockport attacks and struggled to make any impression.
72 minutes and Torquay made a triple substitution, on came new boys Adam Randell, Britton and captain and warhorse Asa Hall to replace Jake Andrews, Umerah and Matt Buse. This instantly paid dividends, the team seemed to settle and look in better shape, Asa Hall straight away showing his experience and bringing some incision with the impressive Adam Randell in the middle of the field.
Suddenly Torquay were taking some control, and with Aaron Nemane pushed out wide to the wing, we were attacking the Stockport goal and looking much livelier. A lovely move and Whitfield came close, the busy Britton had an unmarked header but he could only direct it straight at the keeper. Lemonheigh-Evans had a great chance to score but saw his shot slice wide. Britton again after some smart passing play, turned his player and hit the crossbar.
With the impetus now switched to Torquay, a brilliant cross-ball from Asa Hall found Aaron Nemane out-wide and he flicked over a sweet pass to the oncoming Evans who this time made no mistake and less than a minute on the clock, we were a goal up with what seemed an improbable victory for large parts of the game.
It still took a goal-line clearance from Nemane with added time trickling away but with the referee almost going into 5 of the 3 added time, the whistle was blown and living rooms across Torbay and beyond erupted with delight, and relief!
Lucas Covolan – 7/10 – An assured, confident performance from the keeper. Pulled off some top drawer saves.
Ben Wynter – 7/10 – While his distribution could have been better, no faulting his defensive work and he worked hard all game. Ben really is becoming an excellent defender.
Kyle Cameron – 8/10 – My MOTM see below.
Sam Sherring – 8/10 – Another who stood firm in defence in a game that saw a lot of defending! Very impressive debut from the youngster.
Danny Wright – 4/10 – Just didn’t run for him today, and his control could have been better on a few occasions.
Jake Andrews – 5/10 – Subdued and struggled to get any foothold of the game.
Matt Buse – 5/10 – As above, just didn’t produce a performance that we all know he can.
Aaron Nemane – 6/10 – Again, struggled to impose himself in the middle, stray passes and decision making could have been better, however a different player after the subs were made, playing out wide he relished running with the ball and his cross assisted for the goal and stopped a goal bound shot off the line.
Josh Umerah – 4/10 – It was not the striker’s day as he struggled to hold the ball up and link with team mates.
Connor Lemonheigh-Evans – 6/10 – Tried, a lot of effort and running, missed a great chance, scored another. He’s a lovely player, it was a tough game for the midfield today.
Ben Whitfield – 7/10 – The human Duracel Bunny. Is he still running now? Puts a shift in every time, a truly hard working player. Unlucky with a chance in the 2nd half.
Adam Randell – 7/10
Asa Hall – 7/10
Louis Britton – 7/10
I’m giving all 3 subs 7/10, Randall looked composed on the ball, Asa too seemed to bring a shape to the team, he upped the passing standard. Louis Britton looked a fantastic player, could have scored 3! What a contribution to the last 15 minutes he brought.
Man of the Match: Kyle Cameron
Kyle marshalled the newly forged defence well, and against a very strong Stockport team, while Torquay were under pressure for a lot of the game, he never faltered. Excellent game from the centre back.
A 3-5-2 that saw the front 2 forwards labouring. Not a great day for the striking duo of Wright and Umerah. Flooding the midfield can be a gamble, congesting the attacking movement but today the passing quality was the real weakness. Thankfully defensively Torquay held strong.
I thought the referee and linesmen had a good game, kept the play flowing, the cautions were fair, he can come back to Plainmoor again!
Stockport are big, strong and quick on the break – a force to be reckoned with and it is clear to see why they are the turf accountants favourites for the title this season. While their keeper Ben Hinchliffe didn’t have too much to trouble him for a large part of the game, he looked good when called upon in the last quarter of the game as a rejuvenated Torquay came at them. They have very nippy full backs, in particular Sam Minihan who gave our defence a busy afternoon. Real contenders for the hype bestowed on them.
View from the Ed:
The omens didn’t look good before kick-off, with the Gulls depleted due to injuries and drafting three loanees in – meanwhile Stockport have spent money assembling what they hope will be a promotion chasing squad. An uphill struggled awaited, and so it proved for much of the game! TUFC toiled around the pitch with a mixture of tactical confusion and passing sloppiness as County bossed proceedings – with United providing the odd glimmer to warm my cockles on the sofa! But football remains a funny old game, three subs and a change of formation made the difference. We suddenly had better balance, sharpness and direct running to have the once confident away team back-tracking. The goal had an element of luck as it rolled in the corner but who cares, 3 points in the bag and a joyous Gary Johnson fist pump to round things off – if we must do closed doors then that’ll do nicely. Dom
Eastleigh FC – 6th October 2020 @ Silverlake Stadium
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