16th March 2021 was an evening where you could be forgiven for believing that Torquay United’s 2020-21 season was only heading in one direction. Maidenhead (A) showed up a team toothless upfront, slow in midfield and jittery in defence. Some teams would not have recovered from that dagger into their confidence. Without Kyle Cameron at the back it was a tough evening for Sam Sherring and Joe Lewis especially, two young lads who we all knew were good players, but could they steady the TUFC defensive ship?
Seven games on and the answer is an emphatic yes! Emphatic in a ‘why were you ever worried Dom’ kind of way. Only two goals conceded between King’s Lynn (h) to Sutton United (glorious a) – see below. The cherry on top was at Gander Green on Tuesday night. Surely this would be the biggest test of this blossoming partnership? One big moment stands out in the second half as a Sutton striker pounced on an opportunity to chase a decent ball over the top. Could this be their chance? Not a bit of it. Sam turned on the after burners and shuffled away the attacker like he was swatting away an annoying fly. No problem. The celebratory exchange between Sam and Joe said it all. Thou shalt not pass.
The Steady 7
King’s Lynn Town (H) 1-0 WIN + CLEAN SHEET
Solihull Moors (H) 2-0 WIN + CLEAN SHEET
Dagenham (A) 1-0 LOST
Woking (H) 1-0 WIN + CLEAN SHEET
Wrexham (A) 0-1 WIN + CLEAN SHEET
Weymouth (H) 2-1 WIN
Sutton (A) 0-1 WIN + CLEAN SHEET
Experience is usually handy at the back, but if you’ve got talent then with good coaching this can be overcome. The two make a lovely combination due to the qualities they possess between them. Joe Lewis is bigger and more likely to head away crosses with aggression, whilst Sam Sherring is cool and calm with an excellent positional sense. Pace wise neither are slouches, and that allows United to push up the pitch and press hard – Tuesday night was the perfect example of that.
Sutton were never allowed to get comfortable and build up attacks, much of that was down to the defence squeezing up high. That tactic is what Gary Johnson is all about, and when the team started struggling for fitness and intensity after Xmas – the results inevitably began to drop off, leading to the Maidenhead massacre. The best performances from the Gulls this season have been when the team have pressed, won the ball time and time again, and then used it effectively. Sutton had all that in spades. The home team barely threatened United’s goal all night.
It seems like an age ago when Sam Sherring joined last October, arriving just in time to partner Kyle Cameron against Stockport, as we embarked on our first stream of the season. Since then the AFC Bournemouth loanee has been one of our most consistent performers, as him and Cameron forged a combination worthy of being at the top of the National League. It’s not been without it’s wobbles (Crawley and Halifax come to mind), but considering he had never played at Conference level before, the defender has passed with flying colours. Sam has not just been an asset at the back either, he also creates havoc on attacking set pieces – banging in a big goal at Wrexham a couple of weeks ago. If it wasn’t for Adam Randell being such a diamond, the Young Player of the Year award would probably be his.
TT PLAYER PROFILE – SAM SHERRING
Date of Birth: 8th May 2000 – 20 years-old
Former Clubs: AFC Bournemouth (on loan to TUFC), Weymouth FC
National League Stats: Played 33, Goals 2, Bookings 2
Joe Lewis’s spell on loan from Swansea City last season went very well, so well that it was no surprise when he returned on 26th January – the only surprise (and a pleasant one at that) is that it was a permanent deal. A sign of intent from the United hierarchy, even if the results didn’t swing in our favour during that rather glum period. The imposing Welshman slotted into full back, but then eventually moved into the centre and it feels like he’s been getting better by the game. A young determined player who plays with no fear and someone who will have no trouble stepping up to the Football League…if given the chance!
TT PLAYER PROFILE – JOE LEWIS
Date of Birth: 20th September 1999 – 21 years-old
Former Clubs: Swansea City
National League Stats: Played 16, Bookings 3
International: Wales U21 – 1 cap
Gary Johnson will no doubt be whispering sweet nothings to AFC Bournemouth about keeping Sam for next season as well, with Lewis, Sherring and Cameron on the books the centre back position is brimming with strength. Will Kyle Cam find a place back in the line-up any time soon? I’d give the Geordie the slight edge over both, but then again I’m not sure there’s any better centre backs in the National League than him. However I can’t imagine Gary will want to rejig this line-up at the moment, so the big man may have to wait his turn (I’m sure he he would walk back into most, if not all other NL teams).
Much of the focus in recent weeks has been on the return of Danny Wright, and rightly so. He’s knitted together our attacking and helped others thrive again. But TUFC’s tight defence has been just as important, with the team only scoring 8 goals in those 7 post-Maidenhead games, five impressive clean sheets have been key. The foundations look sturdy with these chaps, Lewis and Sherring have not just excelled but exceeded expectations and the good news is they are learning all the time. Top lads.
Hands up who’s been watching that Asa Hall goal on repeat?! I did actually predict a headed winner from the skipper beforehand, but only in Whatsapp passing to Matty Hayward – so I’ll need him to back me up on that one. When a player reaches Asa’s age, you’re always concerned whether they can still A) Keep up the levels of performance and B) Stay fit. Asa has dismissed that and showed there is plenty of life in those boots just yet, not only scoring the fabulous headed winner…but also being key to containing Sutton’s midfield. Talk about a captains knock! Get in therrre lads.