The Ed discusses the Maidenhead victory and returning to Plainmoor
Dom Roman – @DomRoman
Well well well, the Gulls are flying! Who’s going to stop us?
Returning to Plainmoor last Saturday, I felt a little apprehensive about what I’d find. Would the queues be laborious, the checks be rigorous and the stewarding unfriendly and over-zealous? Would we have even a modicum of the enjoyment a normal matchday used to bring? Would I miss the sofa and the selection of drinks on offer?
Not a bit of it. My initial doubts and fears were quickly dashed. Granted, the crowd has been less than a thousand, but it’s felt like more and the stewarding was firm but friendly. I thought I may be emotional, but it was just felt so right being back, I slotted into my Bristow’s Bench seat like the 9 months hadn’t happened.
For someone like me who has been working at home and mostly only seeing immediate family in the flesh, it’s been a shot in the arm to chat merrily with my mates on Bristow’s. Football banter and laughter is good for the soul, and that along with the sparkling Gulls football provided me with my best afternoon in a long while.
Just a shame we couldn’t trot into the Gulls Nest for our usual pint but you can’t have it all. Even without the alcohol I basically talked Richard and Paul’s ears off for a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon and repeated that on Tuesday night, but I’m sure they didn’t mind…
Now enough about my mental health, let’s talk about those table topping Gulls!
1 – AND NOW YOU’RE GONNA BELIEVE US…
As a long term Torquay United supporter I could never be over-confident – we’ve suffered heartbreak too many times and had plenty of false dawns. But this could be our year. All the signs are there. The team is united with the strongest team spirit we’ve seen in years. We have a manager who has cultivated a winning mentality from the doldrums of this time last year, and all the squad are making an impact when called upon.
Add to that the likes of Asa Hall (more of him later), Connor LE, Kyle Cameron and Ben Whitfield, who are right at the top of their game and the omens are bloody good. Still many hurdles to face as the season unfolds, but optimism should be high as we head towards the Xmas rush. Onwards and upwards.
2 – PRESSING MATTERS
Being back at Plainmoor means you can survey the whole pitch and catch things the camera doesn’t. When I see a match some random moments will always stick in my mind, and last night they revolve around a wonderful display of pressing from the entire Torquay United team.
From the first whistle to the last, the defence pushed up, so did the midfield and so did the attackers – following each other in unity to pressure Maidenhead into constantly giving the ball away. In fact they barely got out of their half for the first half an hour!
Anyway the moments are threefold…
A) Halfway through the 2nd half Connor Lemonheigh-Evans sprinting 30 yards across the pitch to close down a defender. The Lemon could be forgiven for taker a breather considering his all action performance, but he didn’t. He made the effort, blocked the ball and halted the opposition. Leading by example.
B) Late in the second half Maidenhead tried to break out in the right back area, but found the ever keen Adam Randell determined to block their way. He was instantly joined by Nemane. Hunting in packs, harrying the opposition into submission. No retreating back, pushing forward and stopping Maidenhead before they’ve even started.
C) Even later in the second half! A Maidenhead midfielder saw a rare opportunity to drive forward and make something happen. Back runs speed merchant Aaron Nemane to rob the player and win back possession. That sort of heart and work ethic wins you games. A pat on the back for that man.
3 – PASS AND MOVE
Torquay United teams over the years have often had hard work rate and endeavour but rarely possessed the flair, movement and imagination to break down teams. This team is different and the Wrexham and Maidenhead games were exhibitions at times of pass and move football. The United players are making it so hard for defences to pin them down.
Whifield, CLE and Nemane are always on the move, looking for gaps to exploit and spaces to help their team mates. For the first goal, Ben Whitfield made a perfectly timed run and Asa Hall found the perfect ball – the very least that United deserved in a a dominant first half.
This is a squad full of confidence brimming with ambition and swagger, inspired by a top manager who wants them moving the ball quickly and staying on the front foot. Gary Johnson, thanks for the first pump – now take a bow!
4 – ASA HALL
Have these last two games been Asa Hall’s best for Torquay United? Well I’ve not been to every game of course, and the skipper has been bloody good for many of them – but I doubt he’s played much better. On Saturday the captain was literally everywhere in the first half versus Wrexham. If he wasn’t picking up pieces around the centre circle, he was storming towards the box to support the strikers or back helping the defenders.
Against Maidenhead it was pretty much de ja vu, with a lovely assist for Whitfield allowing us to break the deadlock, strong defensive headers and just a total understanding of where to be on the football pitch. A man on top of his game (mind you, you can pretty much say that for most of them!).
5 – JAKE IS (LEFT) BACK
The signs didn’t look promising for Jake Andrews in November. His name being followed by the shadow of ‘unused sub’ on the match reports. But an injury to Dean Moxey has given Jake the chance to get back in the team, and he has done very well. Left back is clearly not his favoured position, and his tackling technique does leave a bit to be desired, but I’ve loved his aggressive and confident attitude, which has sharpened up game by game.
That competitive edge is exactly what Gary Johnson wants to see from Jake, and along with that you’ve got his ability on the ball to make something happen. The 20 yard free kick that rattled the crossbar on Tuesday night would have been a perfect end to the evening, but it wasn’t to be. Point proven though, Jake Andrews means business.
STAT ATTACK (ATTACK ATTACK)
Top Gulls in all competitions (with help from Torquay Stats):