Perfect! Well almost perfect. Saturday afternoon was about as convincing as you could hope for from Gary Johnson’s team. Right from the start the team dictated the tempo of the game, the passes zipped across the surface and the enthusiasm from every player was too much for a surprisingly lacklustre and open Eastleigh FC. This was a GJ XI at their best, the away team just couldn’t handle the pace and intensity we played at – Thomas Kelly said it was our best home performance since Yeovil, I wholeheartedly agree with that. Chasing down the Spitfires in packs and attacking in numbers, terrific stuff.
The first goal was another moment that deserved a roar from the absent Yellow Army. Instead the players had to make do with a celebratory moment by themselves, with workaholic Waters a very popular goal-scorer. After that it was one way traffic, as shot after shot rained in on the Eastleigh FC goal; the midfield pressing with gusto; Wynter and Moxey pushing up the flanks and the strike duo showing the type of understanding we needed in January/February. In the end the nerves were tweaked a little as Eastleigh poached an undeserved goal, but eventually Jake Andrews sealed an outstanding 3 points for the Gulls. Lovely stuff.
Quick turnaround ahoy, as the lads travel up to Chesterfield today in search of another win to take us closer to the Football League. Gary Johnson would have preferred Tuesday night. The lads worked so hard on Saturday, it’ll be tough to replicate that two days later. Not impossible though, with the adrenalin flowing and confidence high, this can hopefully over-ride any feelings of tiredness. This squad is so determined at the moment, anything is possible including winning every game.
With the battle for the play-off spots raging, Chesterfield FC could do with a win themselves, especially after losing 3-1 to Hartlepool at the weekend. The Spireites never recovered from an early Pools goal, and showed fragility in defence and notably set pieces, that Gary Johnson will be hoping to exploit. Young manager James Rowe has helped transform their season, but the pressure is very much on them now, especially with the high profile signing of ex-Fylde striker Danny Rowe. Danny was lethal in the Conference last time, whether he can reach those heights again is debatable but he’ll certainly give Sherring and Warren something to think about.
Elsewhere injuries have helped take the sting out of the team (sounds familiar!), with striker Akwasi Asante ruled out for 9 months with a knee injury and defender Haydn Hollis out long term with a ruptured achilles. The experienced Curtis Weston will wage war with Asa Hall in midfield, whilst ex-Gull Fraser Kerr scored against Hartlepool on Saturday and should have had a second. Upfront Nathan Tyson is now 38 years-old, but could still be dangerous. This is a solid rather than spectacular team who will have to be at their best to beat us, but as we know full well no team can be taken lightly and they’ll be fighting tooth and nail to take us down.
TT PLAYER PROFILE: Fraser Kerr
Position: Centre Back
Date of Birth: 17th January 1993 – 28 years-old
Former Clubs: Motherwell, Birmingham, Cowdenbeath, Stenhousemuir, Gateshead, Hartlepool, TUFC
National League Stats 20-21: Played 21, Goals 1, Bookings 2
International: Scotland U21 – 3 caps
Our previous form against Chesterfield away is absolutely dreadful, with only one win to speak of in 2011 in the FA Cup (yes a win in the FA Cup, you heard me right!). United had found form under Martin Ling, and inspired by Eunan O’Kane, despatched the Spireites 3-1. The goals came from Danny Stevens, Rene Howe and a tremendous free kick from the sweet left foot of Kevin Nicholson.
This was a United side full of confidence and ready for a promotion push, here is the line-up:
More recently, United lost 1-0 in September 2019 to hand Chesterfield their first win of the 19-20 season. The big favourites tag hanging heavy on the Gulls as usual. The scorer was a certain Scott Boden, who won’t be playing today unfortunately. Another loss followed for United in December 19 at Plainmoor, this time 0-3 with Saikou Janneh receiving a red card. However onto 2020-21 and a much improved United team triumphed at Plainmoor last October. It was a late goal that sealed it (unsurprisingly), with Ben Wynter bundling in from close range in typical Gary-time fashion. 3 points thoroughly deserved, on an evening when TUFC had bossed much of the 90 minutes.
Predictions for this afternoon? If Torquay can find the same gears from the Eastleigh game, then they’ll be only one winner. The loss of Scott Boden is unfortunate as his partnership with Waters has been a big boost and Scott does the ‘muck and nettles’ work (that’s for you DT!) that brings others into play. Assuming Kimpioka deputises, the team will have to adapt to his different strengths, and make sure they keep the ball on the deck. The other concern is fitness with two games in three days, but of course the same goes for our opposition. Taking all that into account (and even allowing for a possible Kerr goal!) I’m quietly confident.
A close game probably awaits. One point could be okay depending on other results, but the Gulls will be desperate for all three. Stockport, Sutton and Hartlepool are pushing hard as well, making this National League title chase the closest in years. Anything with Torquay United involved is bound to be entertaining isn’t it! Enjoy the game.