Two wins from six February games was not exactly in the script, but not entirely surprising given how depleted the squad has been by injuries and how little forward momentum the Gulls have built up since the New Year. I don’t think any team in the National League would have progressed merrily with so many key players missing. The likes of Kyle Cameron and Aaron Nemane have been amongst the best players in the league up until their injuries, whilst the experience and proven quality of Dean Moxey and Danny Wright have left man-sized holes that these young lads have struggled to fill.
This is no time to dwell on these problems though, it felt like we did this last season and our form never recovered. The excuses for our results can be made, but the squad just has to push on, and the Solihull Moors victory was a clear sign we are not going away. Unfortunately that was followed by the Woking defeat, the chaotic nature of which I quite enjoyed! Two teams pushing forward for goals, plenty of chances and lapses in concentration made for an entertaining if ultimately frustrating afternoon.
Gary Johnson was absolutely furious with the late decision from the linesman, but I would question why he is spending time writing to the authorities to complain. What’s the point? Decisions can go for or against you. In our loss to Halifax, the second penalty we were awarded was very questionable, you just have to live with it and move on. We have bigger fish to fry with the upcoming clash against Hartlepool on Saturday. If there is a right time to rediscover our mojo at Plainmoor this is it!
Pools have steadily moved up the table over the last few months, leapfrogging the ‘nailed on’ favourites Notts County and Stockport in the process, and they will fancy their chances against a weakened United team. We will perhaps have Little, Lewis and Moxey back to aid our cause. Gary Johnson may consider using Dean at centre back before long. Without Kyle Cameron the centre of the defence requires a leader and the ex-Grecian has that in spades. Without him a back four of Wynter-Lewis-Sherring-Andrews is talented but youthful, and at the moment we really need to remain tight at the back with goals hard to come by at the other end.
There’s no doubting the biggest threat comes from Sutton United at the moment. Sutton have developed the handy habit of winning games late (circa Man United 1990s) and you have to give credit to the spirit they possess. They looked a strong team at Plainmoor, but with a busy schedule ahead perhaps the tiring workload will catch up on them (fingers crossed!). With plenty of games still to come, the league title is very much up for grabs. It’s been demoralising to see our comfortable lead slowly fritter away in recent weeks, but there will be nobody giving up at Torquay United I am sure.
The Sutton mid-week win over Bromley certainly ruffled the feathers of the Yellow Army. As a supporter base, I think we’re used to hard knocks over the years. The rough times, the relegations and painful/torturous losses have made a big emotional dent in all our Yellows supporting lives, and I think that’s left us all rather sensitive to results going against United. More thin than thick that is for sure, but I don’t think we should be defeatist at this time. Only 24 fixtures have been chalked up after all, which would normally see us around the New Year mark!
We’re all feeling hard done by from the last year of grind and struggle, and there is a chance we won’t win the title. But there’s also a chance we will. A chance that we’ll return to Plainmoor in May with glory in our sights, so try and stay positive and get behind the team. The likes of Sutton, Hartlepool, Notts County and Stockport are not to be feared, and there is proverbial 6-pointers to come against all four of those. These could be the games that define our season, and Gary Johnson will make sure we’re up for the battle. One thing’s for sure, we are in a promotion fight and this is no time to meekly surrender.
FEBRUARY PLAYER OF THE MONTH
Normally I would pick a top 5 players of the month, but even someone with my optimism could not delve that far! Instead I’m just putting all my eggs in two baskets (see runner-up below!) and as POTM going for the man who celebrated his 25th birthday at the weekend, the one and only Whits.
Whilst so many players have fallen by the wayside, Ben Whitfield has played every game and like the energiser bunny, just keeps on going. In poor Gulls displays he’s so often picked as Man of the Match because his work rate and determination always comes to the fore. Charging around like a man on a mission game after game, Ben’s attitude is spot on and to be honest it’s a mystery how he made it down to our level in the first place. I can only guess the League teams have heightism (yes that is a form of discrimination I’ve looked it up!).
Unfortunately Ben’s main trouble at the moment is opposition teams becoming clued up to his dangerous wing play, and doubling up on him. Without Aaron Nemane on the other wing (no sign of him returning soon), United’s attack has suffered and become too predictable – especially at home. But no matter, Ben will keep pushing whatever, and thoroughly deserves our Player of the Month award for his creativity (13 assists for the season and counting) and willing endeavour. Keep it going Whits!
RUNNER-UP – Asa Hall
Hands up who predicted Asa Hall as Torquay’s top goal-scorer this season? Nobody?!
Well it probably won’t last, and for the sake of our season I hope it doesn’t! But Asa has overtaken Danny Wright, and now has 10 goals for 2020-21. Three penalties in a week pushed by esteemed colleague Matty Hayward to say he was a supreme penalty taker, or something like that. So I guess it was inevitable that he would miss at Woking!
But well done to the skipper for his efforts in February, plenty of life in the old dog yet.
Onwards to Saturday, let’s have positive vibes please, you know it makes sense.