Thomas Kelly – @Tommyktufc
Gary Johnson & Torquay United decided to change things up for the Yellow Army in comparison to the last few results. They comfortably dispatched an Eastleigh side coming into the game with play-off aspirations, after three consecutive victories. Two wins over Notts and a home win over Sutton. No last minute goals were required and, in all honesty, once the Gulls took the lead, they never really looked back. Torquay made one enforced change to the squad with Gary “Dawlish” Warren coming in for the injured Joe Lewis.
Just like our previous two home matches, Torquay started brightly. Connor Lemonheigh-Evans fired a shot not too far from goal early doors, while Eastleigh were forced into an early defensive substitution. Ben Wynter’s brother Alex entered the fray after an injury to Joe Partington. One minute later, Torquay were 1-0 up.
No doubt the goal of the afternoon, Billy Waters scored a beauty, cutting into the box and firing a delight of a shot (with his weaker foot!) into the top left hand corner of the Eastleigh net. No chance for the keeper and the perfect start for the league leaders.
Torquay had a few moments to deal with rare Eastleigh ventures into the Gulls box but Cov and the defence were able to handle any Eastleigh pressure. Honestly, Torquay were the team in control in the first half. Randell and Andrews were proving a handful on the wings. Waters & Wynter should have furthered the Gulls advantage just before half time but to no avail. Eastleigh would have been glad to have limited the damage to just one goal.
Could Torquay continue to dominate the game going into the second half or would Eastleigh step up and make a game of it? Well, just three minutes into the second half, Asa Hall gave us an answer. The skipper once again heading in an Andrews corner at the near post to double the Gulls advantage. 2-0 and happy days.
Billy Waters continued to pose a threat in what was probably (in my mind) was his best game in a Yellow shirt. After being played in by Randell, his shot just lacked enough power to beat the Eastleigh keeper. Randell once again provided an excellent cross to CLE but he headed over.
Torquay playing so well, we all knew what was to come next didn’t we?
It was sloppy defending and a sloppy goal to concede just on the hour mark, Tyrone Barnett from about six yards out giving the visitors a much undeserved lifeline.
Torquay for the first time, suddenly lacked a bit of composure. Eastleigh suddenly sensed that they could find a way back into the game and the Gulls had to survive a few scares, a free kick that had to be booted clear of the penalty box and Alex Wynter saw an effort go wide of the post.
Then on 75 minutes, the goal that everyone associated with Torquay United craved arrived. A dangerous free-kick just outside of the box, up steps Jake Andrews who excellently slotted the ball into the left of the Eastleigh goal. 3-1 and relief!
Little and Benji came on, both returning from injuries for Boden & Waters. Benji in particular looking very lively and providing the Gulls with some much needed pressure as the game reached its final conclusion. Jake Andrews had an effort cleared off the line on 87 minutes but Torquay saw the final few minutes out with ease. On a day where Sutton, Hartlepool & Stockport all won, it was a very important win which sees Torquay remain top of the National League with just five games to play.
Lucas Covolan: 7.5 – In all honesty, he didn’t have much to do. His distribution has seriously improved since his return in between the sticks and has solidified himself as Torquay number one. Will be disappointed to concede but did the goalkeeping basics right.
Ben Wynter: 8 – It’s taken a while for Ben to find his form at the back but today he looked like the Ben Wynter of old. Quite often I saw him pressing forward in attack and trying to work the ball forward, which was great to see. Not sure who was at fault for the Eastleigh goal marking wise but overall, one of his best games since his return to injury. A confidence boosting performance for everyone.
Gary Warren: 7.5 – Marshalled the defence well and Eastleigh really struggled to get much past him. Won a lot in the air and despite not playing many games, he had a pretty good one today. Silly booking in the first half mind you for running 40 yards to argue with the ref over a challenge that he didn’t give a foul for.
Sam Sherring: 7 – Decent afternoons work from Sam. Honestly didn’t notice him too much mainly due to some brilliant performances around him but played his part and should receive credit for it.
Dean Moxey 7.5: – Same as Warren honestly. Puts in a shift and looks ready for the last run in of games. His long throws are such a useful asset. Looks sharper since returning from injury and another experienced head that is an important part of our defence.
Jake Andrews: 8: – Set piece man from corners and free kicks. Found Asa for the corner and slotted home his free kick brilliantly. No short corner nonsense today, one assist and one goal. A decent afternoon for the young lad. Matured performance.
Connor Lemonheigh-Evans: 8 – Another typical CLE performance. Linked up well with the forwards, had a few chances, put in a really good shift.
Asa Hall: 8 – Captain fantastic does it again. Another goal to add to his tally, top work rate and put in a very good performance. When Asa plays well, we tend to do well.
Adam Randell: 8 – This lad is just immense. Destined to play at a much higher level in the future. His ball control and distribution is something to behold. He offers us such an outlet to create chances and create danger to the opposition. If we are talking about loan signing of the season this lad is definitely up there. Bit quieter second half but such a vital player for us.
Billy Waters: 8.5 – As mentioned in the summary, probably his best performance for us. He can be quite wasteful in front of goal but wow did he take his goal well. In as soon as it left his boot. He and Boden seem to link well together and can consider himself unlucky to only have scored one.
Scott Boden: 7 – Flicked the ball to Waters to set up the first goal. Didn’t really get too many clear opportunities in front of goal but I think he enjoys playing with Waters up front and his goals in recent games has boosted his confidence. Subbed Little after Jakes goal. Remember he won’t feature against his contracted club.
Armani Little: N/A
Benjamin Mbunga-Kimpioka: N/A
Both came on with just under 15 minutes to play so no rating for either. That said, Benji looked up for it and was unlucky not to score. He will be an important player for the final few matches coming up. Good to see him & Armani back playing, fingers crossed the likes of Wright, Whits & Cam aren’t too far behind.
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Man of the Match – Billy Waters
Man this is such a tough one, considering the excellent performance the lads put in. I’ll give it to Billy. I’ve been slightly critical of him being wasteful but boy did he show what he’s all about. A truly excellent effort and should have had more goals to his name. He ran his socks off for the cause and found himself in good positions, especially in the first half.
So many players deserve a mention, Jake for his excellent free kick, Wynter having probably his best game since injury, Asa for his leadership and contribution, just to name a few. I think across the pitch you could find a honourable mention for everyone and the performance was a real team effort and the team and gaffer deserve praise for it.
Key Moment – Goals from Billy & Jake
Our first and last goals both had significant impacts, which provided the key moments from the game. Eastleigh had just been forced into an early substitution and then a minute after were 1-0 down. Billy’s superb goal set us up perfectly to take control of the game and put in one of the best halves of football we’ve played all season. It gave us the confidence to keep the pressure on and dictate the game how we wanted it, which at this stage of the season is so important.
Jake’s goal couldn’t have come at a better time. Having conceded just on the hour mark, we gave Eastleigh a chance to get back into the game and with Eastleigh bringing on Ben House, their intentions were clear. As soon as we won that free kick, it was calling for Jake to bury it into the net and he did just that. A two goal cushion is definitely better than one in the last 15 minutes of a game and it took the hope of Eastleigh possibly getting a draw away from them and allowed us to see the game out. Two very important goals.
4-4-2 with Andrews and Randell swapping sides during the first half. I don’t think we deviated from that tactic all afternoon. Eastleigh struggled to deal with our pressure coming from the wide channels and when Benji came on, he gave us the extra energy we needed up front as we approached the end of the game.
Three wins in a row prior to the game, no goals conceded in that time and right back in the mix for finishing in the play-off positions, I think many of us were definitely wary of the threat that Eastleigh could have imposed on us. In all honestly, they didn’t offer very much. Credit to the lads for their performance, they only had a few chances that we were able to deal with and their goal came from our poor marking. I’m sure they will be there or there abouts when the season ends but they were very much second best for the majority of the game.
Refreshingly the officials, at least from a Torquay perspective, didn’t really create any drama and I can’t recall too many moments where I disagreed with a decision they made. Pretty fair officiating overall.
No Gary time? No problem. That was probably our best home performance since our 6-1 thrashing of Yeovil way back in December 2020! It’s fair to say that our run in is definitely much more challenging compared to say Stockport, but so far the lads have risen to the challenge and continue to push all the way for National League glory. It’s still advantage Sutton with their game in hand, but Gary Johnson’s men are doing all they can, do and that’s win the matches we have. Let’s see what happens elsewhere. It’s incredible to think without so many key players in recent months that we are still right in this title fight and it’s credit to the unity of the management and squad that despite everything that has been thrown at us that we are still fighting. It’s a short turnaround now as the squad head to Chesterfield on Monday in another vital game. Confidence is high and Gary Johnson looks to have us motoring at just the right time. WE BELIEVE IN YOU LADS, WE ARE ALL BEHIND YOU! COYY!!!