Matty Hayward – @mattyhayward96
Such is the incessantly fun-spongey nature of a poorly handled global pandemic, football fans have been forced to show their support for clubs in different ways this season. Where once we’d have done so with a couple of beers in the belly, a bounce around the ground, and bit of a sing-song, supporters have been consigned to their front rooms, temperamental streams and perhaps a premium lager from the fridge.
That tiresome routine continues this Saturday, but with a twist. Instead of a shaky stream and inconsistent commentary from Hornchurch Ray, we’ll be treated by the visit of BT’s cameras – presumably alongside that bloke who does the Champions League highlights sometimes, Chris Hargreaves and Adam Virgo. Who knows, maybe even Jeff Brazier might be knocking on our door.
This extra touch of glamour and professionalism will be welcome to some, but others will understandably feel aggrieved. Many Gulls fans bought season tickets or season streaming passes with the expectation that all home games would be available to them. If those people don’t have a BT Sport subscription (which itself isn’t cheap), they are pretty much out of (legal, legitimate) ways of watching the Halifax fixture.
As far as I understand it, BT Sport gave up their exclusive rights to National League football in order to make any online streaming possible, and for that they should be applauded. But it does seem unfair – especially at a time where people can’t watch the match at the pub or a friend’s house – that supporters who have paid for a season of home games will have to pay again for a subscription or miss out completely.
Unfortunately, I haven’t got a solution for this, and I can’t realistically squeeze 700 more words out about it. It’s probably going to be put down to “one of those things” and those who miss out will be forced to listen to the TUFC Radio coverage.
Onto the pitch, and a word to Joe Lewis. I feel about guilty about this: he was signed on the day of the Sutton game, thrown straight in at the deep end against one of the best wingers in the league, and I didn’t even bother writing a New Gull Profile about him. It is no exaggeration to say that I have written more about Absent Andy Nelson’s arrival than I have about this genuinely exciting signing.
Perhaps “exciting” isn’t a word you’d usually attribute to a utility defender, a man who in his first two games after his return, played at left back, centre back and right back. But in a season where injuries are piling up, where bodies will be strained more than ever by fixture congestion, someone who can plug all sorts of gaps is just what the doctor ordered.
But Lewis is more than that. His loan spell at Plainmoor last season showed that he is not just a utility player, he is a seriously effective defender at this level. When everyone’s fit, he provides real and genuine competition to Sherring, Warren and Cameron at centre back, and probably forces his way into the team there. To bring this 21-year-old in on a permanent basis is an excellent sign for us not just in the short-term, but as we hopefully progress into the Football League.
Torbay Weekly today have reported some good news on the injury front. Ben Wynter is back in contention for this weekend, which is fantastic news. Not only does it improve our back four, it allows whoever might’ve filled in at right back (Lewis, Sherring or Randell) to return to their preferred positions. The Argyle-loanee, especially, is such an important cog in midfield and his creative ability is wasted in the defence.
More, Dave Thomas reports that as well as Armani Little and Dean Moxey recovering from their short-term injuries in time for Saturday and the Lemon’s suspension elapsing, it is hoped that Danny Wright may be back to action sooner than previously predicted. United’s talisman required surgery on his torn hamstring and was feared to be out until Easter, but Gary now hopes he’ll be back on the pitch in around four weeks.
Without meaning to return to a lit firework, it’s fair to say that none of Wright’s replacements have reached the high standards that he set before Christmas, and his absence has certainly contributed to our latest downturn in form. Josh Umerah is absolutely capable of leading the line in a decent Conference team, but Danny provides a level of experience and nous that none of our backup forwards can access, and his homecoming could be vital in our run-in.
Back to this weekend, and I think there’s every reason for optimism. We’ve had a nice break which should mean that we go into it with fresh legs, while Halifax are coming off the back of a humbling midweek defeat to the truly woeful Barnet.
Also, and I’m aware there’s absolutely no correlation here but it’s just nice, we’ve been quite good on the telly of late. Last time, of course, was our royal hammering of Hartlepool. That was the first time I truly believed we were a decent side – putting a title rival to the sword over fish and chips is a pretty brilliant way to spend a Saturday evening.
The time before that was against Aldershot in August 2019, a game that will inevitably go down as the day Reidy scored that goal. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t watch live because it fell in the pesky overlap between the cricket and football seasons. Safe to say I regretted choosing an afternoon batting nine and not bowling over watching the goal of the season from my favourite player. We live and learn, and hope that Gary’s Yellows can continue this mini-run of BT Sport success.
COYY – Matty