Matty Hayward puts the Yellow world to rights
Matty Hayward – @mattyhayward96
“If you’re not winning, you’re learning.”
That’s a nice phrase, isn’t it. Best used either as encouragement at a Sports Day or as a glib response to someone pointing something trivial out to you (especially if you’re tired of saying “you learn something new every day!”).
It’s mostly nonsense: if people learned things when they lost there’d have been no clamour for a second referendum on Brexit and Gary Owers would be a mastermind champion. But a defeat should allow a team/club (particularly one that has got used to winning) to identify and reflect on weaknesses, and an incentive to improve on them. With that in mind, and with the benefit of a few days’ cooling off period, here are some talking points (and my inevitably disputed conclusions) from our disappointing loss at Huish Park.
Oh My Josh
Q: What’s more annoying than Josh Umerah occasionally giving the ball away on the halfway line?
A: The knowledge that it’ll give people further incentive to lay into him.
I think there’s a tendency among football fans to be snobbish about target men. Because they’re big and strong and probably haven’t got as good a pair of feet as the number 10 or the tricky winger we give them an undue amount of stick. Playing up front by yourself is hard. It requires a different skill-set. The ball gets whacked at you and you’re expected to control it, hold off two centre backs and wait for a midfielder to pass to, all while being really strong but also not too strong or you’ll give away a foul (it was this area in which Umerah particularly suffered on Saturday, due in no small part to a whistle-happy referee). Oh, and you have to be a consistent threat in front of goal. And if one of those things goes a bit wrong, you’re suddenly bad at your job.
Josh didn’t have a great game on Saturday. He had half a chance across the 90 minutes and he put it just wide. His hold-up play wasn’t brilliant. He isn’t as good at football as Danny Wright. All of these things are true.
What is also true is that Umerah is a young lad, in whom Gary Johnson – a man with years of experience – has seen potential. He has scored four times in seven starts for Torquay. He is our backup centre forward, so him being less gifted, less prolific, less experienced than Wright shouldn’t come as a shock.
Dave Thomas in Torbay Weekly today is reporting that Wright is to be out for a while with surgery on his hamstring, and that we’ve signed a striker on loan from Crystal Palace called Rob Street. You might say he has the word on the Street. Obviously, having two fit senior strikers at the club is better than one, and I’m excited by the look of this new lad. But I’d be keen not to give up on Umerah just yet.
One thing I do know for sure is that bickering online (and that’s the nicest possible word) about him “not being good enough” is going to do nothing to help his performances or our promotion chances.
Which Keeper is a Keeper
I am bored of this debate. So bored. Mac Vs Cov has become as tiresome as Messi Vs Ronaldo (it’s Messi), Pepsi Vs Coke (it’s Pepsi (Max)), Boreham Wood Vs Any Team That Plays Boreham Wood. I hope that, after writing this small segment, I’m never going to think about it again. I’ll just look at whoever walks out at Plainmoor in orange every fortnight and think of him as an amorphous goalkeeping robot: “oh look, there’s Macolan 2000. Hope it has a good game!”
For what it’s worth (and it’s worth absolutely nothing), I think MacDonald is the better goalkeeper. He’s braver, he makes fewer howlers, and is probably better in the air. He is also considerably younger and has more time to improve into – I predict – a serviceable Football League player. I also think the endless swapping between them is a bad strategy. Mac was quite bad at Weymouth but probably didn’t deserve dropping. Cov was bad at Yeovil but probably didn’t deserve dropping. Whatever. Pick one, and stick to it.
I also don’t buy into the idea that we need to sign a new goalie. Most goalkeepers in this league are unreliable and inconsistent. That’s why they’re in this league. It’d be a big risk to sign a keeper that is currently unattached or available for loan and hope that he beds in immediately with our well-established back line. Save that to the summer.
It’s an extender! (hopefully)
That subtitle is poor, but there’s not enough TorquayTalk/Partridge crossover for my liking.
It’s believed that the loan spells of Sam Sherring and Adam Randell expired last Saturday. It goes without saying (to the extent that calling it a “talking point” at all seems disingenuous) that we’d like Gary to extend their stay at Plainmoor. You’d like to think Sherring, superb as he has been for the Gulls, wouldn’t be considered ready for a recall to his parent club Bournemouth just yet. Randell has also been excellent, and while there’s an argument that a young and untested midfielder probably isn’t what’s needed in a relegation scrap, you could see him being a useful part of Ryan Lowe’s Argyle squad.
I’m hope they’ll stay on, and I’m pretty confident they will, but I won’t be counting any chickens until I see a big “INCOMING” on the club’s Twitter feed (or the news is revealed to Guy Henderson or Dave Thomas days before it’s officially announced).
One curious talking point from the Yeovil game was the lack of substitutions used by Johnson. It certainly seemed like a pair of fresh legs might have benefited a weary looking Yellows side. Perhaps the tidy feet of the shithousing, injury-faking Jake Andrews; the Benyon-esque foul-drawing of Billy Waters; or the relentless shuttle runs of Matt Buse could have helped to see the game out.
I get the frustration, but I think it’s easy to underestimate the challenge of getting oneself up to speed once off the bench. Especially on a horrible looking pitch in quite unpleasant conditions, Gary clearly thought the players he had on at the time were good enough to see out the game. And, lest we forget, they very nearly did. A substitution wouldn’t have encouraged Covolan to leap onto the loose ball (and probably take a kick in the face) to stop the equaliser, nor could Andrews nor Waters nor Buse have risen higher than their centre back for the second.
Fresh legs are all well and good, but they have to be the right legs at the right time.
That brings us nicely onto the final talking point. Our starting XI – even with injuries to Wright, Wynter, Davis, Little – is one of the best in the league. But at the moment our bench looks bare.
Assuming we get Randell and Sherring back, I still think we would probably benefit from one or two additions into the squad. Think Frank Vincent in our NLS season: at the time we didn’t really think we needed another midfielder, but he came in very handy come March and April.
As mentioned, there appears to be a centre forward announcement in the pipeline, but there’s also room in the squad for a winger. Andrews can and has played wide but neither he nor the fans prefer him there, and he’s a very different type of player to Whits and Nemane. If one of those gets injured, or just need a rest, we’d look very light on the flanks.
The trick though, as Gary keeps telling us, is getting the right kind of characters in. There’s no point signing someone who’ll upset the apple cart, and it might take a while to find the absolute perfect fit. At the moment, we can wait, but I’d like to see one or two through the door soonish.
COYY – Matty