TT MATCH VERDICT
Matty Hayward – @mattyhayward96
A much-improved second half performance at Aldershot last night turned a sluggish start into another convincing victory to give the Gulls an early lead at the top of the National League. Three goals either side of the half-time break were crucial in turning the tide of the game, and a late fourth from Danny Wright was the perfect nightcap at the end of an excellent evening and the EBB.
The game started at pace. The first of many direct runs from Ben Whitfield earned the Yellows a corner within the first minute, but by minute two the Shots had a chance of their own. From then, the home side piled on the pressure and Torquay struggled to get a handle on the game.
Every Aldershot attack looked dangerous, though neither team managed to dominate possession with both sides giving away multiple silly fouls. United’s wingers were high, and often left their full backs without support. It was from wide right that the opening goal came, a neat move provided Craig Tanner with a decent chance: his powerful shot flicked the near post on the way in.
The Hampshire side looked set to go into the break with a deserved 1-0 lead when Ben Wynter galloped up-field with the ball at his feet. His cross was deep, floaty and seemed ineffective. The Town ‘keeper sought to change that. Seemingly troubled simply by the presence of Josh Umerah, he flapped all around it and eventually punched it into his own net.
The Gulls were fortunate to be level at half-time. The gaffer had to change the shape and give the lads a rocket. It seems he did both. Hall came on for Umerah, The Lemon moved up into the number 10 position, and the boys in navy came flying out of the traps.
It took just one minute for them to take the lead. A well-directed cross drifted in from the left, and Wright’s header was too powerful for the confidence-shot dodgy ‘keeper. He probably should’ve kept it out, but instead palmed it into the side-netting.
By now the Yellows were on fire. An excellent run from the Lemon started a counter-attack, before he laid it off to Ben Whitfield. He carried the ball further, but it got a bit behind him. Many would offload now – that’s break over. Not Whits. He swivelled, and curled a beautiful finish into the top bin. A proper he-had-no-right-to-score-from-there goal.
Realistically, that was the match. It drifted from there, with the Shots barely threatening and the Gulls not needing to. As it meandered towards its end, you felt the game needed one final spark. Wright on cue, Danny chased down a loose channel ball, shrugged off a centre back and struck a shot against the far post. It pinged back into his path, where he coolly slotted through the goalie’s legs, and wheeled away to celebrate his first brace in a Torquay shirt.
Lucas Covolan 7 – No faults tonight. Claimed some crosses at crucial times, and beautifully executed his now standard “game management” technique of going down “injured” late in the second half. Love him for that.
Ben Wynter 6 – Did alright, without claiming any headlines. This goal was far more fortunate and far less monumental than some of his others, but they all count.
Sam Sherring 6 – Barely noticed the centre back pairing, certainly in the second half. Probably a good sign for a centre back. Fine.
Kyle Cameron 6 – See above. Absolutely fine. Two games without a goal though, worrying sign that a drought may be on its way.
Dean Moxey 6 – Looked troubled in the first fifteen minutes but improved a lot as the game went on. Also gets huge credit for going down to “tie his laces” on seventy minutes. Again, I love the horrible team we’ve become.
Aaron Nemane 7 – Best moment probably came in the first five minutes: a direct dribble into the heart of the defence which won a dangerous free-kick. Was decent all night.
Connor Lemonheigh-Evans 6 – Poor first half. Gave fouls and possession away too often. Much improved second half. I like him in the hole, if you’ll pardon the expression.
Adam Randell 5 – Similar to The Lemon. Struggled a bit, and was shown up when Little replaced him. He’s a very good player, though, and will have much better games.
Ben Whitfield 9 – Fantastic tonight. My MOTM. More below.
Josh Umerah 5 – Service to him was rubbish, but he didn’t have an impact in the first half and was whipped off at half-time. A victim of our need to change the shape. Will have better games.
Danny Wright 8 – Similar to Umerah in the first half, but fantastic in the second. Worked so hard and occupied the opposition centre backs. Probably looks better up front on his own. Scored his first chance. Hit the post with his second. Scored the third. Clinical.
Asa Hall 8 – Changed the game. It was the most obvious change in the world, but it still needed making. We needed some control, experience, shape in midfield. That’s exactly what he provided. Also put in one sensational cross that was begging to be put away. Our Lord, Our Saviour, Our Ace.
Armani Little 7 – Looked so so good off the bench. Really sharp, some great touches, probably should have had a goal. Crucially, for himself if anything else, proved he could run his socks off and trust his body. I eagerly look forward to his (hopefully still phased!) return.
Gary Warren – N/A
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Man of the Match: Ben Whitfield
Whits was the only Gulls player to really impress me in the first half. His mazy, darting, rapid runs caused chaos and he probably could’ve had more than one goal. The goal he did get was sensational, will go down as one of the best of the season. He’s a fantastic player; the best thing to come out of Yorkshire since the KitKat (and maybe Dame Judi Dench).
Asa and Wright were superb. They had experience we often missed last season. Good players do big things at important moments, and these two really seized the game when it was there for the taking. The former Cheltenham pair showed there’s plenty of life – and plenty of hunger for another Conference title – in the old dogs yet. I dare say there’s plenty of Conference-winning potential in their legs, too.
We started out with a four-four-effing-two, which never really worked. At half-time, Hall replaced Umerah, CLE was shoved in the hole, and the game changed. This really is how we should be starting games, as far as I can see. It was clear from about ten minutes in that we were being overrun in midfield and, if anything, I’m surprised it took so long to change it.
One key moment was those changes. Another was our opening goal. Going in at half-time level must have been huge for the morale. Not only did the cock-up for our first completely rattle their goalie who spent the rest of the evening flapping around like those flags at Windy Corner, it also gave us real hope and momentum which we capitalised on either side of the break. Between 40 and 50 minutes, the game flipped from being completely out of our hands to pretty much sealed up as an away win.
Threatened early but were never clinical throughout the game. They might’ve got a point if their ‘keeper was a competent, shithousing Brazilian. But he wasn’t. As the commentator rightly said, it ended up being a “good, decent, solid away win” for the Yellows.
Scott Simpson’s second National League match of the season passed without incident or controversy. Rightly booked Aldershot’s centre back for an awful Jamie Sendles-TackleWithBothFeetInFlight.
We didn’t have many chances tonight, but we were ruthless (and fortunate) enough to score four times. The resilience and resolve to bounce back from such a poor first half and completely put a team to the sword in the second is an excellent sign going forward.
The only way a 4-1 away win could’ve been improved upon is if fans were allowed in that East Bank behind the goal. Aldershot is always one of the best away days of the season, even though I’ve never seen us win there. Being directly behind that Whitfield strike as it floated into the top corner would’ve been electric, reminiscent of the great Halifax and Stockport travels last season, and the thought of missing out on such fun has taken the edge off the fun for me tonight. Being top of the league and having the words to “we’re on our way” ringing in my ears certainly softens that blow, mind.
COYY – Matty
Hartlepool (a, and on BT Sport) – 31st Oct
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