We were always going to face the occasional obstacle that trips us up this season, and Tuesday night it came in the form of a stubborn Daggers team who somehow managed to block our 25 shots, or however many it was!
Time to move on and re-group…but before that here are my five talking points from Plainmoor.
1 – ONE OF THOSE DAYS
If you google Torquay 0-1 Dagenham, then from a TUFC supporters point of view it would say ‘one those days’. It was certainly a phrase much used on the disappointed TT whatsapp group.
Sometimes, just sometimes the game doesn’t go your way, as crosses are flicked, kicked and headed to the left, right and over the opponents goal. Add to that desperate blocks and unfortunate ricochets, and you’ve got Tuesday night in a nutshell.
Let’s not sugar-coat it too much, the lads didn’t play great but they were not bad either. We created some excellent early opportunities and pretty much did everything but score in the second half. These are the fine margins of football matches, and after finding some fortunate points late on in games – lady luck swung the other way this time.
It happens,. We’ve not become a poor team this week – this is no time to panic and point fingers. Injured players will hopefully return by the time we play our next proper game (sorry Chesham!) and our squad’s batteries should be suitably recharged for the Boxing Day fixture. Make no mistake GJ will be hugely determined to beat his old team!
2 – ASA HALL
As the Gulls struggled to get a grip during the 1st half, it was quickly noticeable how much Asa Hall was missed in midfield. Without the skipper, a midfield comprising of Andrews, Randell and CLE lacked the stature and presence to lock down the Daggers.
The effort was there, but the 50 50s and loose balls were not gobbled up, and the away team improved as the half went on…until the reckless red card changed the game’s narrative (but not the score).
Football teams are all about finding a balanced format where 11 players prosper in harmony, Asa Hall knits things together and allows the playmakers time to make things happen.
I was expecting Matt Buse to deputise in midfield and give the midfield some oomph, apart from him we don’t have anyone similar in style to Asa and it was no surprise his impact left a hole we struggled to fill.
On the plus side maybe the skipper will feel fresher for the tail end of the season due to this this winter break, we’ll certainly need him on top form. A key man.
3 – DAGGERS RESILIENCE
If Torquay United had scrapped out an away win at the leaders after being down to 10 men, we’d have been lauding a heroic performance. So credit has to go to the Daggers for their battling performance.
Their goal lead a charmed life at times, one volleyed attempt by Whitfield seemed to bypass about 10 players and squeak pass the post unbelievably. But, the away team kept a good defensive line, looked to press where possible, chased down long balls to alleviate pressure and threw absolutely everything at shots from the first minute to the last.
Spirit and work rate like that can earn you points, and their team were unsurprisingly delighted when the final whistle went. We’ll see if that result is a turning point in the Daggers’ season – in the constantly unpredictable National League nothing is assured.
4 – CUTTING EDGE
It was probably the night when you need your top striker to nod one in and get you at least a draw, or set you on the way to three points – and Danny Wright will be gutted he didn’t bag at least one goal.
The chances weren’t sitters, but needed more guidance and strength from headers that didn’t do enough to trouble the goalkeeper. Another evening and the veteran may have been taking the match ball home, but it wasn’t to be.
Overall the striker has still been terrific this season, and has played a big part in our charge to the top. His hold up play and appreciation of team mates has made a difference, and 7 goals is not a bad return at all. If Danny’s not scoring, then someone else has to step up.
Billy Waters and Josh Umerah both got a run out in the second half. Waters looked sharp as usual, and is intelligent around the box. Unfortunately nothing would drop for him as the minutes ticked on.
Umerah has been a frustrating player for me this season. The signs were good in friendlies, but the striker appears sluggish and lacking in awareness to influence games. He remains in the rough diamond department, and is some way off being an able replacement for Danny at the moment.
5 – ARMANI LITTLE
One player who certainly isn’t a rough diamond is Armani Little. As soon as the midfielder entered the action, he demanded to be involved. ‘Give me the ball, I’ll make something happen’ and he almost did.
I’ll stop short of saying we’ve missed him, as we are top of the league after all! But as the winter months roll in you really need your whole squad to come to the fore, and as many quality options as possible.
Armani has lovely balance and can be a match winner for the Gulls. Fitness very much permitting, but I have my fingers crossed for him.
It’ll be interesting to see how Gary Johnson sets the team up at Chesham but I’d imagine Armani will start on this weekend. In top form and fitness he is a first eleven player and come 5pm on Saturday the midfielder will be hoping to give GJ a selection dilemma for Boxing Day.
Lovely to have him back.
STAT ATTACK (ATTACK ATTACK)
Top Gulls in all competitions (with help from Torquay Stats):