TT MATCH VERDICT
Tom Vosper – @TomVosper11
I remember being in the crowd for this fixture last season and wish I didn’t. A 3-0 defeat on a Tuesday night is almost as bad as it gets. This didn’t fill me with confidence, but I need not have worried.
The gulls went into this game without a league win in February and still without a number of first team players due to injury. In classic Johnson style however, a new addition to the match day squad was announced moments before the team news was released. Calls for an experienced striker had been heard and Scott Boden signed on loan from Chesterfield. He took his place on a bench made up of 1 goalkeeper and 4 strikers.
The game kicked off and it was clear the wind was going to be influential. Johnson had returned the Gulls to a more familiar 4411, with Andrews and Buse coming in for Cameron and Umerah. Buse’s place on the right hand side meant Evans was restored to his favoured central attacking role behind Waters.
The opening 15 minutes saw an equal share of the game. Torquay, with the wind behind them, threatened with a handful of set pieces, whereas Adam Rooney was proving his physique and experience could be a handful for Torquay’s relatively inexperienced central defence pairing of Joe Lewis and Sam Sherring.
The opening goal came in the 17th minute, a great run by Whitfield set him up to cross into the box, only for the Moors defender to block this cross with his trailing right arm. A clear penalty, despite protests from the Moors commentary team. Asa stepped up, and just like on Saturday evening, converted comfortably. 1-0 Gulls!
Torquay continued their attacking game, looking for a second and pressing high. This led to gaps being created and exploited by the Moors. On 24 minutes Wynter was caught out of position and left Cranston with complete freedom. His charging run and good ball in was dealt with by Sherring and the resulting shot from Sbarra was put over the bar.
The Gulls’ high pressing was great to see, Waters, Whitfield, Buse and Evans working exceptionally hard closing down the Moors defenders and Whits almost got himself through. He got in behind and beat the keeper to the ball on the edge of the box, but he wasn’t able to lift the ball over the onrushing Boot.
The first half came to an end. Both sides looked dangerous, but the Gulls were in control.
The Moors had the wind for the 2nd half and they made their first change. Hudlin, a 6’9 striker came on and instantly made his mark….by being booked within 15 seconds of the restart.
Solihull were going to use the wind to their advantage and the Gulls would look to sit in, weather the storm and try to hit their opponents on the break. Which they eventually did on 63 minutes. Evans drove into the Moors half and spotted the run of Waters. His impeccable ball sent Waters through on goal but he still had a lot to do. Closed down by 2 defenders, Waters’ composure shone as he dropped his shoulder to shift Cameron and create the space for the goal and finished calmly into the corner. 2-0 Torquay.
We had our second and now we had to sit in and survive if we could. Solihull threw everything at us. On 85 minutes, following another long throw from the left hand side, Moors hit the bar and had a big shout for a penalty as Buse chested the ball. With both his arms outstretched it seemed a fair shout, but replays showed it had clearly hit his ribs. Somebody should’ve told the commentators this….then carnage. MacDonald, who had been booked for time wasting, cleared out Hudlin as he made is way through on goal and was subsequently sent off. Hamon came on and within 30 seconds Moors had a goal back on 90+9 minutes. The Gulls survived the free kick caused by MacDonald’s foul, but they couldn’t survive the long throw which followed. What followed was an incredibly tense last 4 minutes. Moors piled on the pressure but couldn’t find a way through. 3 points for the Gulls and back on track!!
Macdonald 5 – After Halifax it was crucial that MacDonald could have a quiet game. For 90+4 minutes he did that but his red card created a lot of problems. Not tested shot wise, but claimed set pieces and crosses well.
Andrews 7 – I do feel for the lad, he’s not a left back but he puts in a shift every time. Targeted by Moors he matched what they hit him with.
Lewis 7 – A tough game for the pair at the back. We know what Solihull are about and before the game may have been concerned to see how these two would fair. But they were solid. They limited the Moors strikers to half chances and did the simple things well.
Sherring 7 – See Lewis.
Wynter 7 – Great to have him back! Obviously not 100% yet, but tonight’s test will speed up his return to full match sharpness. We’ve missed his level headedness at the back.
Hall 8 – See MOTM.
Randell 7.5 – Quietly goes about his business alongside Hall. His composure is way beyond his years and his tenacity is second to none.
Whitfield 7.5 – No matter the situation you know this lad will work hard. Great and direct tonight. Won the penalty and always looked dangerous going forward.
Lemon 7.5 – So good to have him back in behind the striker. Luscious ball through for Waters to get the second and a lovely nutmeg in the first half. He’s link between midfield and attack gives us much more balance. Hopefully we never see him pushed out to the right again…
Buse 7.5 – The forgotten man returns! Asked to do a job on the right hand side of midfield and he certainly did. Similar to Whitfield, he is always going to work hard for you and he did that to great effect tonight.
Waters 8 – I’ve been a critic of Waters but today I can’t criticise him. Probably buoyed by the signing of Boden, he played well. A thankless task in the second half playing alone on the counter, but he stuck at it and got his goal. And a good goal it was too.
Boden 5 – I’m not sure if he touched the ball or not? We’ve wanted an experienced striker to join our ranks, Boden certainly ticks those boxes.
Hamon N/A – Played 6 minutes and conceded what felt like an inevitable goal. Good claim before the final whistle though to see the game out.
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Man of the Match – Asa
A captain’s performance from the big man! Scored his penalty and marshalled the midfield throughout the game. When he plays well the gulls play well. His experience with Randell’s energy is a midfield pairing worthy of promotion.
Honourable mentions – Buse
The lad hadn’t played competitive football for a while and was thrown in by Johnson. But he didn’t look out of his depth. He’s arguably one of our hardest working players and on a night against a big side, that’s what we needed. Playing out on the right isn’t his position, but you wouldn’t have known this from tonight’s performance.
The second goal. We came out for the second half and executed a game plan perfectly until the 94th minute. As we soaked up Solihull’s pressure, we hit them on the break flawlessly.
It was a welcome return to the number 10 role for Conor Lemonheigh-Evans supporting Waters in a 4-4-1-1. Buse came into the righthand side of the midfield. A very high press in the first half for the Gulls with the wind behind them. Which, when faced against the wind, was replaced with a counter attacking approach. Johnson got things spot on!
Before the game it had been noted the size and strength of this Moors side. They will be very disappointed they didn’t make their pressure count in the second half, especially in the last 10 minutes. But apart from that their final ball wasn’t good enough.
Got the penalty spot on and let the game flow as much as possible. Was right to send off MacDonald and was definitely right not to give Solihull a penalty.
I think all Gulls fans knew that we needed to get back to winning ways pronto, but Solihull away is a tough place to get 3 points. But we did it. It wasn’t pretty but we deserved the 3 points today as we took our chances. Johnson shifting Evans back centrally was ideal too. This win looks even more important after Sutton got a last minute penalty win away at Dagenham. Woking next in the cup on Saturday.
COYY – Tom