Matty Hayward – @MattyHayward96
The Goalkeeping Situation
I vowed in a recent Talking Points blog never to write about “the goalkeeping situation” again. But (most of) you live in the United Kingdom, you should know by now not to take anyone at their word (especially not with the initials MH – good afternoon to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care if he’s reading!). In my defence, I made that vow when “the goalkeeping situation” was basically “which of these similarly decent if not world class goalkeepers should we pick?” – I maintain that I was right to call that boring. Now though, “the goalkeeping situation” involves three different goalkeepers being ruled out of our next game (Woking, in the FA Trophy) for three different reasons. That is noteworthy at least, and a crisis at most.
It is nice, in a way, to tick off the Big Three on the Bingo Card Of Unavailability. Lucas Covolan remains sidelined with an injury that has kept him out since Yeovil (h); Shaun MacDonald, of course, was sent off in the dying minutes at Solihull and will be suspended (it is my understanding that red cards from league games do carry over into the Trophy); and James Hamon – having made his Gulls debut for five minutes this week, on loan from Truro – is cup-tied.
So, what’s the solution? Well, I don’t know. We have the young man Andy Collings from South Devon College, who has only ever appeared in friendlies for us. It’s obviously a risk to pick a completely untested goalkeeper in a quarter final. The other option available to us is to sign someone, probably on an emergency loan. I think this is the most likely, and you’d hope Gary and Pete would have contacts and a list of potential targets already drawn up, presumably with a view to announcing the signing within seconds of kick off on Saturday.
While we’re on goalkeepers, it’s worth saying that Shaun MacDonald had a very good 93 minutes on Tuesday, and can feel very hard-done-by to get sent off. The wind was brutal throughout and he claimed every cross you’d want him to claim, and though he wasn’t tested much he made a couple of sharp saves. While his second booking was obviously the correct decision and came as a result of a rash moment, the first was extremely harsh. He “kicked the ball away” about two yards, against an advertising hoarding, and I’m not even sure he knew he’d been carded. Thankfully, in Shaun’s absence, Hamon didn’t break and we held on valiantly.
If I can be absolutely frank, I had been involved in conversations for most of the second half calling for Waters to be substituted off. Partly because I was intrigued/excited to see our new forward (about whom there will be a New Gull Profile soon!), partly because I didn’t see what he added to our team.
Then, I saw what he added to our team. A delicious through ball from CLE was met by Billy who opted not to shoot with his weaker left foot, steadied himself, and slotted home coolly into the bottom corner. And that’s what he does. He’s not an especially classy footballer, nor someone you’d ideally select for his technical ability or creative build-up play, but what Billy Waters does best is work hard and score goals. The comparisons to Elliot Benyon are hard to resist, and while of late he’s resembled late, bad-era Benyon, on Tuesday he did a great impression of early, good-era Benyon. Long may it continue.
In preparation for this piece, after the game had finished, I jotted down some brief thoughts in the notes app on my phone. For this section, I simply wrote: “Asa; pens, hair, sex appeal.” (Yes, I use semicolons in my notes app). I was tempted to just leave it there, but it’s probably best if I expand on those. After pretty much two seasons of penalty-taking carnage, it appears we’ve found someone who can convert from twelve yards. Asa Hall succeeds where Jamie Reid (sometimes), Connor Lemonheigh-Evans (100% of the time, though he scored the rebound), Jake Andrews (spectacularly) failed, and has scored seven times from the spot this season. Of course, he’ll miss one eventually – everyone does – but that’s a superb return on a task that we’ve made look harder than it is in recent years.
Barnet have really suffered recently having won just once in their last eighteen games. But one barnet that has really thrived in Lockdown is Asa Hall’s. He’s known for being our long-haired central midfield leader, but since the barbers closed his locks have been allowed to flourish and, at times, become out of control. I can only assume that Boris’ decision to keep hairdressers closed until April was informed by the potential beauty of the skipper’s mega-man-bun after a further couple of months’ growth.
Steely reliability and a marvellous mane; Captain, Leader, Adonis.
The WingerBuse is Coming
I’m bored of typing, saying, and actually thinking the following statement: play the Lemon in the hole and you will get better results. It has been so obvious lately, as he’s been shifted around from centre forward to central midfield to right midfield. Yesterday, he was relieved of right-wing duties by the industrious Matt Buse, and allowed to take up his customary number ten role.
They both did their jobs superbly. The Lemon was generally threatening throughout and made a goal, but Matt Buse deserves extra praise. It’s no exaggeration to say that I’d pretty much forgotten about him, and I’d certainly not considered that he’d be drafted into the starting XI this week to play in Aaron Nemane’s position. But he was fantastic. His work rate was excellent, completely keeping Solihull’s dangerous left-wing-back out of the game, and when he tucked into the middle his passing was faultless and tenacity unmatched. The Plainmoor Pirlo, The Marnham Road Mark Albrighton, The Westcountry Walcott all in one. A fine performance.
An Ickle Bit Fickle
It’s extraordinary how, in the space of three days, we can go from “right well that’s our title push over, I guess the playoffs aren’t bad” to “what specific route should the open top bus take?” Torquay Talk’s Whatsapp group has a prediction league for Gulls games (of which I am, regrettably, bottom), and I’m ashamed to admit I predicted us to lose at Solihull.
I speak to myself more than anyone else when I say that perhaps we ought to take the rough with the smooth a bit more, not draw wild conclusions on the basis of one (or a brief run of) match(es), and just have a bit more faith that it’ll all be fine in the end.
COYY – Matty