Thomas Kelly – @Tommyktufc
Having completed my final Covid clinic of the week on Wednesday, there was only one place I was going to spend the rest of the week as the play-off semi finals approached. No it wasn’t going to be Stockport. The English Riviera awaited and the forecast was looking sunny and hot. Another chance to see my team at Plainmoor. One negative lateral flow test later, I was ready for the 3hr 45 min trip from West Sussex to Devon.
My nerves heading into the weekend were surprisingly not too bad. Yes Notts was probably not the team I wanted to play in the semi final, but we finished ahead of them by ten points come the end of the National League season and we had home advantage. The atmosphere would be such an important aspect to the game. We had to bring the noise.
My first port of call of the morning after a relatively decent nights sleep was to the Green Ginger for a Spoons Breakfast with five of my friends (remember rule of six!), some of whom I haven’t seen for a long time. There were plenty of Gulls fans there enjoying their pre match refreshments too. Whilst beer was on the agenda for some of my mates, for me it was too early and I didn’t mind doing the short drive to the ground.
A full English demolished, a cappuccino and an hour of talking football and post match plans, it was time to head to Plainmoor. My church.
As I parked up near the ground, the excitement began to really take hold.
My friend Mark (who runs the Torquay United Travel Club) had bought my ticket so I was left to wait for him to arrive before I could enter. Whilst waiting by the Popside, I bumped into the lovely Nina, who was donning her “We’ll be back scarf.” Her picture was on the front of our last Football League programme for those who don’t know. We’ve become good friends travelling on long coach journeys during some of the clubs lowest moments and we spoke for a few moments about whether our return to the EFL would come full circle. It would be tough but we believed.
Finally Mark and my social bubble of friends had arrived, 45 minutes until kick off. Let’s go!
As I entered Plainmoor, I was handed my clapper. I’m not normally a fan of clappers at football stadiums but I’ll be honest, it really worked well here. Considering the reduced attendance, it certainly felt like a lot more. More people were getting involved and it absolutely aided the atmosphere. Well done to whoever came up with the idea.
My spot for the game was in Block B of the Pop, pretty much the same place I was stood when football fans returned for the Wrexham game, close to the Family Stand. I also happened to be close to the BT Sport presenters who were about to go live to the nation.
The pre-match atmosphere was cracking. “Yellow Army” & “We’re on our way” bellowing out around the ground as the players finished their warm up. I even ended up on TV for a very short moment. Fame at last. Danny Wright looked incredibly sharp scoring goals in the final warm up. Encouraging.
The crowd roared as the players clapped the fans and headed to the changing rooms. You knew this was going to be a great atmosphere.
During the game I was on twitter duty for TorquayTalk, so a lot of the afternoon I was live tweeting. Rachael wrote an excellent summary of the game but to describe how the game went, well didn’t we go through the emotions? Less than a minute in and Danny was at it again. That roar as the goal went in felt like Plainmoor was full. It was loud. It was also a great feel good moment for everybody.
If I’m being honest, Notts did have more of the ball and looked like the more likely to score, but we also had a threat up front as well. Having seen many a game at Plainmoor, I haven’t known the crowd to be in such great racket for the whole game. It matched the occasion. Even when Notts equalised, we were quickly back supporting the team.
Randell’s class at the start of the second half got us back in front, dinking the ball over a Notts player, running into the box and picking out a wonderful pass to Wright to slam the ball into the net. Every goal we scored I wish I could have bottled up. It was incredible. A draw was a fair result and was what I predicted before the game, but there had to be a winner. Extra time awaited.
Notts created a very good chance early on through Wootton. I reminded myself following Torquay United was not going to be a stress-free experience. Then, my captain headed us in front. Joyous scenes all around Plainmoor. That turned to concern as Asa went down in the celebrations but after a few minutes he was bandaged up and back on the pitch. Relief.
Then the penalty, that probably wasn’t a penalty. The one that would give us a gap. Who would take it? Mox? Please don’t miss…. He didn’t. Euphoria! Surely that was enough? We’re on our way!! Notts missed two sitters straight after, oh my word Torquay please don’t.
Notts pressed but couldn’t find the net in the 2nd period of extra time. It was happening, we were going to win and go to the play-off final.
The final whistle! The noise!! The celebrations!!
We had done it. Torquay were on their way to the play-off final. Thank goodness. I couldn’t stop smiling. The memories of seeing poor performance after poor performance, travelling hundreds of miles to see our team get thrashed well and truly replaced with pride. What Gary Johnson has done since his introduction has completely changed our mentality as a football club. The players, playing with pride and deserving of wearing the shirt. Sorry to quote another Gary but “We aren’t rubbish anymore!”
Post-match was a quick walk to Babbacombe for fish and chips on the green. A perfect backdrop to such a wonderful result. My voice was gone but it didn’t matter, I had seen my side win a huge game of football and the reality was starting to hit home, we were potentially just one game away from the EFL. Considering where we were just a few years ago, it’s truly a fantastic achievement and whatever happens Sunday, we are all proud to be Torquay United fans. It was so nice to be having celebratory drinks compared to drinking our sorrows. Oh what I would do for the same next weekend.
Go make history lads, we are all behind you!!
COYY – Thomas