TT MATCH VERDICT
Andy Charles – @capitalgull
I’ve had to deal with some re-writes in my time as a journalist but none will give me as much pleasure as this one, although I offer advance warning to the players that joy might not be reflected in one or two of the ratings later on.
I was ready to launch into a full-on rant (me, rant??) about some of Torquay’s players but suspect this will turn out being a lot more positive, despite feeling more like a performance which would provide disappointment rather than delight.
But then referee Lewis Smith and his assistants got involved in the game for the first time – I was ready to be positive about them as well – and the Gulls somehow rallied themselves from a dreadful/pathetic/bad 75 minutes to snatch an unlikely point in the 98th minute of a game which could mean an awful lot in about a month’s time.
And thanks to Eastleigh beating Sutton 1-0, Torquay sit top, top, top of the league for the first time in a while heading into another two massive home games in the next seven days.
United lined up as they had at Woking, where two mistakes from the home team secured a 2-0 win for the Yellows and possibly masked a display which was nowhere near as good as the final result, especially in the second half.
That hangover seemed to continue for most of Saturday’s game, albeit one against a much more proficient and experienced outfit than Woking and one who still have plenty to play for despite arriving at Plainmoor on the back of three successive defeats.
The opening 45 minutes were forgettable for Torquay, whose sole chance was wasted by Scott Boden inside the first 20, a poor far post header from an Adam Randell cross one he would certainly like to have again, at least to get it on target.
County were far more fluent, especially dominant in midfield, with their only defensive scares coming from some poor distribution by debutant goalkeeper Luke Steele.
Lucas Covolan came to United’s rescue soon after Boden’s miss, making an instinctive save to deny Kyle Wootton from close range after Jimmy Knowles’ header had come back off the crossbar.
But the visitors would lead at the break thanks to Torquay’s sloppiness – something of a surprise given our recent defensive record. Clearly not having learned from the identical mistake by Ben Wynter at Dagenham, Joe Lewis was caught trying to shepherd the ball into touch. Jim O’Brien picked him off and played in Dion Kelly-Evans, who produced a superb, curled finish past Covolan into the opposite corner.
Covolan denied County a second just before half-time when he pushed a shot from O’Brien over the bar, but four minutes into the second period it was 2-0 and Lewis was again found wanting.
A corner routine from the County left eventually saw a cross drop over Lewis’s head and the ball was nodded down to former Gulls defender Mark Ellis, who beat Covolan with a shot at his near post.
United threw on new loan signing Lucas Tomlinson – a winger from Bristol Rovers – for a baptism of fire soon after but the game appeared to be getting away from the home side as they huffed and puffed for little reward, moves often being stifled by simple errors or over-playing.
Then came the changes which ultimately changed the game – for both positive and negative reasons – as Billy Waters and Josh Umerah entered the fray in a tactical switch to 4-4-2.
With 15 minutes to go came a glimmer of hope and a rare flowing United move, Waters making some space for himself down the left and delivering a deep cross which any one of three United attackers could have put away, but Connor Lemonheigh-Evans expertly did.
Soon after, Umerah was inexplicably booked by Smith after he had initially ignored a clash between the United striker and Ellis and allowed play to continue – one can only assume that his assistant (much further away) brought something to his attention because of the bleating antics of the County players and management team. (Another reason why the dugouts should be swapped over at Plainmoor despite Gary’s public reservations).
Two minutes from the end of time a carbon copy. United awarded a free-kick for a foul yet it is Umerah booked and eventually sent off for apparently elbowing Ellis, who did need lengthy treatment and played the remainder of the game with a bandage around his head.
So that’s two yellow cards and a suspension for Umerah; no fouls given by the referee. Something just does not add up here and it’s not the first time we have seen the luckless United striker treated like that this season. I’ll stop here before saying something I might regret, although I’ve said most of it on Twitter anyway.
And that was it…disappointment for the Gulls and a wasted opportunity…OR WAS IT????
Deep into stoppage time, a corner and Lucas Covolan wins a header in the box, but sadly no-one there to convert. Surely the last chance and County head up the M5 with three points.
But no, don’t be silly. This is Torquay United and we score late goals. Don’t you know this Ian Burchnall??
Dean Moxey sprints as quickly as a 35-year-old left-back can, over to the right side, hurls in a throw to the edge of the six-yard box and the ball falls for Wynter to somehow squirm the ball over the line – for the crying County fans, video evidence clearly shows that Mr Steele failed to stop the ball from crossing the paint so you can stop moaning now, okay?
Still Mr Lewis played on and there was even a final chance for the Gulls to secure what might have been the most amazing victory I’ve ever witnessed, but Randell’s free-kick was very (VERY) poor and the whistle went on a game which saw multiple players collapse to the ground as it blew.
Pretty boring stuff really…
Covolan 8 – not to blame for either goal, made a couple of excellent saves and continues to prove that he is Torquay’s best keeper.
Wynter 6.5 – this mark is significantly higher than it might have been after 97 minutes – he’d not had a good game defensively or going forward until then.
Moxey 7 – easily the best of the United defenders, made a couple of superb tackles to stop County’s forwards getting in on goal and his throw-ins caused panic at times.
Sherring 5.5 – neither centre-back had a good game but he wasn’t the worst of the two by a long chalk.
Lewis 3 – just one of those days when he looked like a right-footed defender who is very uncomfortable on the left. Dithered for the first goal and missed an easy header during the run-up to the second. He’d been in good form until today though and I’m sure he will bounce back.
Hall 5.5 – another player who has been in superb form but had a bad day at the office. Passing was off, control was poor and County were well on top in midfield for most of the afternoon.
Buse 5 – played really well at Woking but not today, so no shock at all when he was sacrificed soon after County scored their second goal.
Randell 7 – continues to impress although he wasn’t at his absolute best today. One of the most willing runners I have ever seen in a Torquay shirt and looks more like a skilful version of Kevin Hill every time I see him (and that, in my eyes, is a major compliment!).
Andrews 5 – not at the races today and it was telling that Randell was preferred on the left to him when changes were made.
Lemonheigh-Evans 7 – hadn’t played well in the first 75 minutes, like most of his team-mates, but produced a very composed finish for the goal which sparked United into life and looked more at home in midfield than in his No 10/False Nine role.
Boden 5 – no service at all but should really have scored with his sole chance. It’s telling how much less effective the Gulls look going forward when he plays rather than Danny Wright.
Tomlinson 5 – didn’t really get much of the ball but, when he did, looked a little bit lost. I’m intrigued why Gary Johnson kept him on the right when he is so obviously left-sided, despite right-footed Randell playing on the left. I’m all for an inverted winger but only when they are effective.
Waters 6.5 – offered a little more than in recent performances off the bench. Didn’t want to see him back out on the left-wing but, somewhat ironically, that is where he provided the cross from for the goal which got Torquay back into the game.
Umerah no score – I feel sorry for him, really I do.
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MAN OF THE MATCH: Lucas Covolan
I’m not changing this – none of the outfield players really deserved to be the top man on Saturday so the nod goes to Lucas Covolan. Having seen the replay a few times, I am still not sure how he kept out Wootton’s close-range effort, and he made a couple of other decent stops as well. As I’ve already said, he is clearly separating himself as our No 1 goalkeeper and that could be important if only one of the current pair is kept on for 2021-22.
The outfield players were much of a muchness (ie: not very good) for the first 75 minutes and the only one I would have given a pass mark to was Adam Randell, despite continuing to play out of position on the wing most of the time. But Dean Moxey really upped his performance levels in the second half, as did Connor Lemonheigh-Evans after he was returned to midfield.
Can only be Ben Wynter’s equaliser. To not pick a 98th minute goal would be remiss of me and now hopefully we can kick on as we did when the same player scored that memorable goal at Woking just over two years ago.
4-4-1-1 again with Evans supporting Boden to very little effect. As we were from the Woking game and as we were from the Woking second-half performance, at least until we changed to 4-4-2. Maybe a lesson there for future games, although we’re going to be without Umerah for a game now. Crying out for Wright and/or Ben Whitfield to come back soon since it appears we might not see Aaron Nemane again this season.
County should really have cruised to victory with United so ineffective going forward, but their problems defending crosses and set-pieces (blatantly obvious from fan reactions to posts on Twitter) came back to haunt them in the final, breathless 15 minutes plus added time. They played 3-5-2/5-3-2 with Wootton and Knowles a handful up front throughout.
First 75 minutes excellent. Last 15 minutes of normal time scandalous. I’ve said enough about the Umerah yellow cards already and don’t really want to get in trouble with my employers, but there needs to be an enquiry of some kind into why poor Josh gets such bad treatment from officials. (However I do remember what kind of treatment he dished out at times in the reverse game at Meadow Lane when he was probably lucky to stay on the pitch!).
Absolutely a point gained. Poor performance for the majority of the game but the Gulls (young and old) showed their mettle and played until the final whistle. Would have been truly amazing to see the reaction if Plainmoor had been full – I could only imagine a full-scale pitch invasion, at least from those who didn’t leave after 70 minutes to beat the rush!