Rachel Malloch – @RachelVillavox
Top of the National league table we may be, but with loss of form and an injury list filed H for Hamstring in the treatment room notes for so many key players, our once free flowing attacking football that imbued confidence both in players and supporters, now a patch work quilt of players stepping into unfamiliar roles and with the loss of deputy captain King Kyle Cameron at the heart of the defence, a lead now whittled down to just 2 points and with more games played, words on the lips of all Torquay United supporters for today’s game was ‘must win’ with the chasing pack breathing down our necks.
The team sheet was bolstered by the return of mercurial midfielder Armani Little, a player with flare and guile, and a first start for Scott Boden the loan Chesterfield target man. It also saw the return of goalkeeper Shaun MacDonald following his 2 yellows and sending off at Solihull Moors, a game that saw a gutsy United come away with 3 points after 16 minutes of added injury time.
Torquay started the game brightly in the mid afternoon sunshine, within the first 5 minutes a zipping ball into the box from Ben Wynter just out of reach for Boden. A high Sherring header and some nifty passing looked pretty but failed to trouble the Hartlepool keeper Killip. Then, with Whitfield dispossessed, a long through ball sliced through the static Torquay defence and with Jake Andrews, the stand in left back, losing his marker and allowing Luke Molyneux to nip in and finish past Macdonald.
The game continued thereon in a familiar vein; a lot of Torquay possession, some attractive passing play, but that the first save of the game came on 87 minutes, following some good play from substitute Josh Umerah, getting the cross into the area for Ben Whitfield to miskick and Billy Waters to shuffle the ball straight at the keeper who pushed it around the post for a corner. The game had very few chances for either sides, Hartlepool playing with every man behind the ball, whilst playing the odd counter attack and winning a glut of corners.
Torquay had plenty of possession, some fanciful build up play, yet nothing to truly test the Hartlepool defence. Scott Boden was replaced by Josh Umerah and Billy Waters brought on for the fading Little. Probably the best chance of the whole game was a late, late corner for Torquay United, following on from the Waters opportunity. Asa Hall with a glorious chance to snatch something at the death, a free header but misplaced and the ball rolled away for the final piece action of the game and a sense that the game could have continued long into the evening and the outcome would have stayed the same.
Macdonald – 7 – had very little to do in the 1st half, not much chance for the goal. Smart save in the second half. Did as well as he could.
Andrews – 5 – tried to impose himself in an uncustomary role at left back but often caught out of position and for pace, particularly for the goal.
Wynter – 5 – not at his best, none of his usual forward runs and quality passing.
Lewis – 6 – did well, never allowed their forwards to settle.
Sherring – 6 – same as Lewis, very little threat and dealt with what little there was.
Armani Little – 7 – showed eagerness and some deft touches, kept on driving forward without much joy. Faded. Subbed.
Asa Hall – 6 – a solid game from the captain, no frills, should have got the headed chance on target.
Adam Randell – 6 – showed some nice touches without really imposing on the game.
The Lemon – 6 – like others, guilty of taking too many touches and not taking the easier pass choice.
Ben Whitfield – 6 – always wanting the ball, always running, gives so much, just didn’t happen for Whits today.
Scott Boden – 5 – thought he did well in holding the ball up first half, had a good chance but delayed and the chance was gone. Faded and didn’t see much of him in the 2nd half. subbed.
Billy Waters – 5 – didn’t really affect the game at all when he came on.
Josh Umerah – 7 – didn’t have much time to alter the path of the game, however he did well for what little time he was on the pitch, some nice touches, put a good cross in late on.
Do you agree with Rachel’s ratings? Vote here in our player poll
Man Of The Match
No one player really stood out in what was a hugely disappointing afternoon. I thought Armani Little, a gifted player who has had dreadful luck with injuries, looked close to the player we know he can be, he was running, harrying, chasing and making every effort to carve out some creativity in the game.
Little and Lewis returned from injury, replacing Buse and Sheaf. MacDonald had served his suspension and went back in goal, while Boden made his first start as Waters dropped to the bench. It was a 4-2-3-1, with Little on the right of a fluid three.
Referee while letting the game flow blew up for a few fouls that his linesmen didn’t see. His whistle, his rules. He was fair. Quite honestly, I’m too fed up to spend a match report focusing too much on the officials of a game that we really needed to get something from.
No great shakes. rarely troubled Shaun MacDonald, didn’t really look particularly threatening. Took their one real chance well then played deep and relied on the occasional counter attack and a lot of corners that came to nothing. but then they didn’t really have to try too hard, such was Torquay United’s ineffectual performance.
Player Spotlight – Olaf Koszela
A young player who needs game time and from the glimpses we have seen of him, can play out wide or as a forward, has pace and a decent cross in him. He’s 19 now and while Gary Johnson has made overtures of how much he rates the lad, of how much a part of the squad Olaf is, I would really like to see him being played more. There’s a lot of players who are maybe due a rest or some competition for their place, and with this spell of poor form and of injuries what better opportunity than to play this skilful, exciting young winger/striker, especially in the absence of Aaron Nemane.
COYY – Rachel