Just imagine what those scenes would have been like at a packed Plainmoor on Saturday. Two late goals and a crazy finish would have been something wouldn’t it! Finishes like that deserve supporters in the ground, and the elation I felt as we snatched the draw were a little tempered by the fact I wasn’t celebrating it with friends and my father. Instead I just got quizzical looks from my young daughters, who were impatiently waiting to turn the tv over. We cannot get back through those rusty turnstiles soon enough, a title run-in with the Yellow Army sat on their sofas is all kinds of wrong. Barnet at the old place towards the end of May will hopefully be worth waiting for.
A crazy end seemed unlikely by the middle of the second half. After the second County goal, the match appeared to settle into some kind of slumber where United pushed and prodded but failed to land any real punches. My position on the sofa was starting to recline by the minute. The beauty of football is how quickly games can change from dull to exciting in a matter of a few minutes. A poised finish of wonderful technique from CLE, Josh Umerah red carded in strange circumstances, 8 minutes added on and an awkward volleyed finish from the right back trickling over the line. Wonderfully absurd stuff and a reminder (like we need it) that football is the best sport, end of debate!
No time to sit on our laurels and rejoice Ben Wynter’s latest last-ditch equaliser, there is much more work to be done, starting with the visit of the Shots tonight. A little like Woking, us and Aldershot Town have been tangled in more fixtures than I care to remember. Plenty have been unmemorable I’m sure, but one match that stands out is from the emotionally exhausting 2007-08 season, when Aldershot came to Plainmoor in early March looking to extend their lead at the top of the Conference and all but wrap up a return to the Football League.
As so often that season it was a random night of the week (Monday in this instance) due to Setanta TV, and around 1000 travelling supporters came down from Hampshire, making a hell of a racket from start to finish. In fact I haven’t heard many louder. It was a barnstorming edge of your seat match, with Shots scoring early and the Gulls responding by throwing everything at their opponents (and Jody Banim). Lee Phillips equalised and there looked to be only one winner. Unfortunately inspired goalkeeping from the Shots stopper and a last minute Scott Davies volley took the points for the visitors, sending them 11 points clear. That season carried a lot of pain in the last couple of months, a shame as so much of the preceding period was filled with big crowds, crackling atmospheres and fantastic games (I’m still after the programme for that one, if anyone has it get in touch!).
The line-up for the Gulls that evening in 2008 was:
In more recent years it’s been a real mixed bag of results, with that amazing comeback in 2012 (Rene!!!), but then the Shots knocking us out of the FA Cup twice – Scott Rendell scoring the winner in 2017 as our perennial cup struggles continued. But the Gulls have turned up the heat in the last few games, Jamie Reid scoring a cracker in front of the BT Sports cameras in 2019, a 5-1 trouncing in the FA Trophy with Saikou Janneh on the scoresheet and then a superb second half last October at the Recreation Ground to keep United’s tremendous start going, final result 1-4.
No mistake we should be winning this game. The Shots are proper mid-table and properly inconsistent. However, like any mid-table team, they do possess players who can both make life difficult for the Gulls attack and also trouble our defence. Five years since playing a part in our 2016 Nicho-inspired great escape, Josh Rees is still performing to a high level in the National League, chipping in 12 goals this season from midfield. Alongside Rees is former England u20 international Jermaine Anderson, so the likes of Hall, Randell and CLE will have to be on their toes. It’ll be a good contest in that midfield.
At the back is another familiar face for Torquay supporters in the form of Jamie Sendles-White. Jamie played a part in the NLS title winning season, and was perhaps unlucky not to earn a new contract from Gary Johnson, who favoured Jean Niate instead…which didn’t go very well. JSW is the club captain at Shots, and will be desperate to keep the likes of Scott Boden quiet under the lights. After a somewhat predictable Mark Ellis goal (Dave Thomas saw it coming all game!) at the weekend, we have to be wary of these ex-Gulls – so often they come back to bite us…
TT PLAYER PROFILE – Jamie Sendles-White
Position: Centre Back
Date of birth: 10th April 1994 – 27 years-old
Former Clubs: QPR, Colchester United, Mansfield Town, Hamilton, Swindon Town, Leyton Orient, St Albans, TUFC, Crawley Town
International: Northern Ireland U21 – 12 caps
National League Stats 20-21: Played 23, Goals 1, Bookings 2
What should we expect on Tuesday night then? The Shots don’t seem to be the sort of team who’ll want to sit back and hold on for a draw, tactics that have troubled us at home this season. It could be an entertaining and open 90 minutes with the away team throwing men forward and Torquay having to show their guts again. Unfortunately without Danny Wright there’s no denying that something is lacking when United attack, so moments of magic from the likes of CLE and Adam Randell may be required. Adam Randell is such a talent that apparently he can play anywhere! Just one more season Argyle please, we’ll look after him.
With any luck we won’t have to count on a goal from our right back in the 98th minute this time. For the good of all our health lads, let’s make it a bit more comfortable than that. Higher intensity and aggression than Saturday is required, as Notts County found it far too easy to transition from defence to attack and that looseness in United’s play will have frustrated Gary Johnson. This league is ours for the taking, but sloppy starts and giving away two goal leads is not in the script – however many times we’ve scored late responses. Win the second balls, push harder on the press and 3 points will be all ours – simple really. Enjoy the game.