TT MATCH VERDICT
Dom Roman – @DomRoman
“You can’t always get what you want….” It was another game of toil and struggle for the Gulls against the Stones at a wind battered Plainmoor. Thankfully a much improved second half performance did eventually yield the deserved reward of a late goal from Billy Waters and a share of the spoils, on a night that looked well…looked destined to be one of those nights.
The evening started off with some rather unwelcome (and cryptic) team news from the gaffer, with CLE, Moxey and Little out of the squad, and a substitute bench looking like a 6th formers meet up. However the captain fantastic Asa Hall did return to the line-up, and Sam Sherring came back to partner his mate Kyle Cameron in defence. The formation appearing to be 3-5-2 at the start, but settled into a 4-4-2 as the 1st half ticked on.
United made a rather typical Plainmoor start. The plan being to get the ball to Ben Whitfield and see what he can do! As usual Ben didn’t disappoint, the blonde bombshell enjoying the challenge of a game under the lights and testing the Wealdstone defence with dangerous crosses and their keeper with a shot that was too close to him. Then a shot was spilled by the keeper and scrambled out of play for a corner. The Gulls looked lively and despite playing against the ferocious wind, had pinned the Stones back. Sherring did under-hit a back pass to Mac but the Geordie was up to it.
That was 15 minutes and my scribbled notes halted at that point and so did the game. Scrappiness crept into the action, with over and under-hit passes, injuries and a dearth of quality making it a frustrating watch. The Stones started to grow in confidence and use the weather conditions to their advantage. Just after the half hour a swirling free kick banged the Gulls crossbar and United looked decidedly edgy, with Gary Johnson substituting an annoyed Max Sheaf for Olaf Kozsela to give his side more energy.
A few minutes later United were behind. The Gulls appeared to be on the front foot and looking to seize an opportunity to throw men forward, but the Stones had other ideas and a swift counter attack saw Jacob Mendy cut in from the right flank and hit a sweet left footed drive into the bottom left hand corner of the net. Well I say ‘corner’, for my money Mac could perhaps have done better. All in all not nearly good enough from United.
Half time passed with the usual mixture of particularly dull music and eclectic adverts and before I could say ‘get me some stationery’ the second half was up and running. The Gulls came out clearly stirred by a Gary Johnson rollicking and a wonderful cross by Olaf Kozsela should have created the first goal for Josh Umerah. The striker slipped and could not convert the opportunity, but it was a start.
Adam Randell is a lovely player to watch in midfield and his game grew as the minutes ticked on, the young lad taking responsibility for the passing in United’s engine room and coming close with a rising shot from the edge of the area. Meanwhile Umerah again threatened, this time with his favoured turn and shoot move forcing a stop from the goalkeeper. Better moments from the Gulls, tucked in amongst frustrating periods of incompetence.
Rob Street was thrown on as Gary Johnson decided the kitchen sink would indeed be required. Umerah directed a smart header from a corner towards the goal but a man on the line thwarted the attempt. Adam Randell hit a rasping low drive that looked all the world to be goal, but agonisingly it slapped the right hand post and was then missed by Cam on the rebound. Painful, head in hands stuff.
As the minutes ticked on the Gulls continued to probe but it looked like the resilient Stones had done enough. However then in the 91st minute with the fat lady warming up, some cheer at last. An Asa Hall shot deflecting into the path of Billy Waters, who kept calm and drilled the ball into the corner. It was exciting enough for me to do a mini jig around the living room (I don’t get out much…literally) and one point is definitely better than none at all. Obviously.
Shaun MacDonald 5.5 – It was a fairly quiet game for Mac. A few comfortable saves and a scrambling clearance apart. Should he have done better with the goal? Perhaps.
Joe Lewis 5 – Big Joe is a good player no doubt about that, but as a right back his attacking prowess is limited and it showed tonight, with too many mis-placed passes adding to the frustration of the evening.
Kyle Cameron 5 – Wealdstone didn’t attack very much, but our defence looked shaky when they did, Cam included. Too many cheap goals given away recently and surprising hesitancy from the previously rock solid Cam/Sherring combo.
Sam Sherring 5 – Almost handed Stones an early goal with a poor back pass. Like many of the team, not at his best but he’ll do better.
Jake Andrews 5.5 – Booked for a silly challenge in the 1st half and then moaned about it for far too long. Apart from that some good set pieces and overlap, but not making the impact he should (even if he was out of position).
Adam Randell 7 – A bright spark in the midfield as the Gulls pushed for an equaliser. Horribly unlucky not to score as the ball cannoned the post. Should shoot more often. See MOTM.
Asa Hall 5.5 – Asa did his best to get United going in midfield, but struggled to make any impact on the game. Involved in the late goal though, so an extra half mark for that.
Max Sheaf 4.5 – Max was stationed on the right wing and barely touched the ball more than a few times before being replaced by Olaf. The jury is very much out on this chap and we really need more from these latest loan signings.
Ben Whitfield 6.5 – Whits was our best hope at first, but then found himself bogged down as the game progressed (didn’t we all). Still energetic and involved as usual mind. Must have wondered why no-one connected with some of his crosses.
Billy Waters 6 – He was destined for a 5 before the goal! Billy tried to find space behind Umerah but failed…but like any reasonable poacher he was in the right place when it mattered and took his chance well.
Josh Umerah 6 – He perhaps should have scored early in the second half, but Josh was bustling and busy throughout, and was unlucky not to find the equaliser.
Olaf Koszela 7 – The forgotten man is back! Olaf’s determination made a difference in the second half and that youthful enthusiasm is very welcome as the side struggles to reclaim it’s early season form.
Rob Street 4 – Sorry Rob! I’m not sure he touched the ball on arrival, it was a blink and you’ll miss it appearance from the lad. I’m not writing him off though (just in case you were wondering), but he currently looks lost in a United shirt.
Do you agree with Dom’s ratings? Have your say with our poll on the site here
Man Of The Match – Adam Randell
On a night where there were very few calm heads and little composure on the ball, Adam stood out as someone who could pull the strings in the United midfield. He wasn’t outstanding or anything, but on a tough 90+ minutes of dreadful weather conditions and struggling confidence, where United looked far short of being potential champions, he made a difference.
Not a long list! Ben Whitfield put enough crosses in to help us score, not his fault they weren’t lapped up and his usual hard running and work rate was there. Meanwhile Olaf Koszela entered the fray like someone who had a point to prove, and the lad did well.
Boy do I miss my usual seat on Bristow’s for writing this part! Dave Thomas speculated on 3-5-2 (will DT ever think a booking is deserved?), but I believe it was a 4-4-2 for most of the game, before changing to a rather desperate 3-4-3 after the arrival of Rob Street. Tactics weren’t necessarily the problem, the Gulls more hindered by missed players (plenty of those) and a lack of sharpness and authority in their play.
It has to be the late Billy Waters equaliser, before that my eyes were watering! It gave the Gulls a point and boosts our morale and momentum a little heading to our old foes Woking on Saturday. Nice finish by the lad. Is he worth his place in the line-up? No idea.
The Stones started slowly, but after weathering the Gulls early pressure looked more assured as the first half wore on – grabbing an equaliser in their rather garish kit. In the second half it wasn’t quite backs to the wall stuff (the Gulls were not that dominant), but they scrapped and cleared their way very close to 3 points. Jacob Mendy looks a very decent player and appeared to be a one man attack at times as he ventured forward.
A very quiet game for the officials as the game never got dirty or even mildly aggressive! It looked like a harsh booking for Billy Waters, but very little to discuss regarding the referee, which is normally for the best.
We’ve been rather bogged down in 2021 so far. There’s been some wins, but the free flowing football from 2020 seems like a distant memory at the moment, and without the likes of CLE, Armani, Nemane and Wright (not to mention Wynter, Moxey etc) it’s understandable that our cohesion just wasn’t there tonight. Defensively we’re also making errors which is a concern, something which we’ll hopefully eradicate soon. Going forward Gary Johnson will surely try to pull all his available strings to find an experienced striker to balance out his team again, but we’ll see what the great man can sort out.
In the meantime our existing players simply have to step up to the challenge and find a way to win games to keep this season on track. The injuries are a concern and so is the lack of swagger…but the most important thing is we are still top of the league. The pressure is on but this is no grim relegation scrap, this is the promotion push we’ve all dreamt of so let’s keep our chins up. Onwards to the next game and what will no doubt be a lively encounter against the Cards! Keep the faith.
COYY – Dom
Up Next: Woking (A) National League – 13th Feb 2021
Proud Away Sponsor of Kyle Cameron