Andy Charles – @capitalgull
Keep it short, Dom said in the run-up to the game. Then the game happened…
The Gulls continued their impressive run of play in the 4-2-3-1 formation and appeared to be in cruise control once again with two first-half goals giving them the led over League Two play-off chasers Crawley Town in what was to end as one of the most memorable matches I have ever seen.
A superb opening goal, his first for the club, from Aaron Nemane who calmly beat Tom McGill in the Crawley net made it 1-0 and he would then turn provider for Ben Whitfield to add to the lead with a low drive into the opposite corner.
Whitfield hit the bar with what would have been a worldie before half-time, but the momentum came out of Torquay’s performance in two key spells after the interval – first McGill was seriously injured in a clash inside his own area which brought with it at least 16 minutes of added time (more to follow on that) and then Gary Johnson messed around with his formation to “tighten things up” (more of that later as well!)
Just before those changes, Torquay had needlessly given Crawley a way back into the game when Ben Wynter tripped former Exeter City striker Tom Nichols, who converted the resulting penalty.
And then came the return to a back-three/five, and what would turn out to be five more Crawley goals…
The first of those was slightly controversial with Adam Randell going down with a head injury but referee Charles Breakspear allowing play to continue and impressive Crawley sub Max Watters to level the scores.
But there was still time for so much more, even though that goal came in the 104th minute. Josh Umerah – who had earlier wasted two good chances – put the Gulls back in front with what seemed like only seconds remaining, only for Crawley to go down the other end and slide a ball across goal for Jordan Tunnicliffe to slot home at the far post.
Extra-bloody-time just as we were celebrating a thrilling win.
Torquay settled down again, somewhat surprisingly given the way the 90 (111) minutes had ended and regained the momentum with two penalties – won by Umerah and Kyle Cameron and both despatched with aplomb by Asa Hall.
Kevin Nicholson said “game over” on commentary but he should have known better as our back-three (or five however you want to see it) completely disintegrated to allow Nichols too much space on two occasions to level the game at 5-5 and give him a hat-trick.
And we all knew what was coming next. A break down the middle, some more inept defending and a woeful attempt from Lucas Covolan at saving Ashley Nadesan’s shot meant the 11th goal of the game – the decisive one – went to the visitors from Sussex.
Queue a ridiculous empty feeling, blood pressure through the roof and no chance of a money-spinning behind-closed-doors second round match.
Covolan 5 – No protection in front of him for most of the Crawley goals but really should have done a lot better with Nadesan’s winner.
Wynter 4 – Poorest I have seen him play for some time, doesn’t look at all suited to wing-back duties and gave away the all-important penalty.
Moxey 5 – Most of Crawley’s good work came down the other flank and that was down to Moxey’s work-rate and tackling. Still part of a defence that conceded six though.
Sherring 5 – Composed until Crawley got back into the game but fell into some of the same traps the rest of the defence did as the game progressed including allowing the ball go out for a needless corner at a vital point in the closing seconds of “normal” time.
Cameron 5 – Commanding until the comeback but difficult to give a decent mark to any defender whose side has just conceded six.
Hall 8 – Bossed midfield for most of the game and scored two penalties, just a shame he was involved in the Randell incident which led to their equaliser.
Randell 6 – Still looks a very good player but went to pieces in extra-time, not that he was the only one.
Lemonheigh-Evans 8 – Played very well, hungry and quick to chase down the ball. We lost a good deal of attacking momentum when he left the field.
Nemane 9 – Best I have seen him play, constant threat and took his goal very well. Mistake to take him off IMVHO.
Whitfield 8 – Similarly strong performance and another who we missed when he went off in extra-time. Some truly baffling substitutes today.
Wright 6 – Hard-working for no reward and was missed again when taken off.
Umerah 5 – Was on his way to a 2 or 3 after missing two golden chances, but did score and then win a penalty. I’m not sold on him though.
Warren 4 – Not sure why we brought him on because “Dawlish” certainly didn’t shore anything up at the back.
Little 5 – Flitted in and out of the game and looked to be on one of his angry days.
Waters 4 – Offered next to nothing. Another pointless sub as Whitfield didn’t look to be lacking energy.
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Man Of The Match: Aaron Nemane
Aaron Nemane has polarised opinion since his arrival towards the end of last season but this was easily the best I’ve seen him play. A menace down the right wing, took his goal really well and a lovely little touch for an assist on Whitfield’s goal as well. We lost our way once he (and CLE) were withdrawn.
Ben Whitfield was excellent again – a clear leader in player of the year voting for me – and Asa Hall rolled back the years with a superb midfield showing alongside Connor Lemonheigh-Evans. Afraid the least said for those involved at the back the better.
The trusty 4-2-3-1 to start with – unchanged again – and it was looking oh so good until Gary Johnson messed around with it. Although Crawley had gotten back into the game by then with a penalty it’s not as if they were pounding at our goal and the changes took away a lot of our attacking threat, especially down the flanks which gave their full-backs more of a licence to come forward as well. Afraid, on this occasion, I’m going to say those changes made all the difference for the wrong reason.
Crawley looked distinctly ordinary for most of the game and I think they might have struggled to score at all had we not handed them a way back in with the Nichols trip and penalty. After our tactical change things were very different, and their subs made much more of an impact, in particular the dangerous Tarryn Allarakhia and Max Watters.
Charles Breakspear was petty and whistle-happy. Too many soft free-kicks and seven yellow cards in a game which was not dirty for a second. His penalty decisions were all probably correct but I do wonder if he might have blown for a stoppage when Randell went down with a head injury in the run-up to Crawley’s equaliser.
Ben Wynter’s ill-judged tackle on Tom Nichols in the 83rd minute (in reality more like the 67th). Without a goal there I am fairly sure Torquay would have claimed a regulation 2-0 victory and secured a place in the draw for the second round alongside a fair few giant-killers.
Bottled it…not once or twice, but three times. The game was there to be won at 2-0, 3-2 (with a few seconds remaining) and 5-3. More than enough experienced heads out there to have shut up shop but inexplicably that never happened and it’s yet another bad FA Cup day to add to the memories.
Up Next: Boreham Wood (h) – 14/11/20