TT MATCH VERDICT
Andy Charles – @CapitalGull
Don’t Panic Mr Mainwaring!
Someone will soon be calling for my head – whenever I do one of these verdicts there is often little chance for me to wax lyrical about a flowing performance, or talk about a game that lacks in controversy, or even just witter on about a nondescript draw.
I ended last season having to describe the heart-breaking defeat (well draw and then lottery loss) against Hartlepool in the National League play-off final and now get the call to describe what can only be called a depressing 2021-22 season-opener against “predicted strugglers” Altrincham.
Six new signings in the starting line-up at the end of a pre-season, which ended with some positive results but might not have set us up ideally for the season ahead.
From the first whistle, the mistakes started with most of them coming from stand-in captain Armani Little who was lucky to escape a booking for scything down one of his midfield opponents and then was correctly carded for another late tackle. Things got little better for him as the game went on.
By the time that yellow card came along, the Gulls were behind. A cross from the right wing was glanced past both of our central defenders and Marcus Dinanga had time (lots of it) and space (plenty of that as well) to guide the ball past debutant goalkeeper Mark Halstead.
Worse would follow in the 20th minute and a nightmare for another new boy, who had clearly watched videos of us trying to allow the ball to run out of play for a goal-kick and performed a perfect replay of three or four 2020-21 goals by failing to do so and allowing Joel Senior to cross for Connor Kirby to hit a deflected shot past stranded Halstead.
Utterly dispirited, the crowd was quiet bar the odd Yellow Army chant, and there was little for them to get excited about. Danny Wright and Dan Holman often had five defenders swarming around them, and the time-wasting had started long before half-time arrived, Alty keeper Tony Thompson having had a quiet 45 minutes barring one save from Holman.
Altrincham continued to defend well in the early minutes of the second period, neutralising Wright to the point of anger when – after he had caught a defender with an arm – he was caught across the side of the face and needed to be bandaged up.
Soon after the same two players tangled again, with Wright booked for his part in an accidental clash which ended up with a near brawl and a yellow card for a riled-up Holman.
Holman’s tame header over the bar came from a rare dangerous Torquay venture forward, but the introduction of Asa Hall and Chiori Johnson at least provided some energy to a midfield that lacked quality throughout and saw Tom Lapslie really unable to put his stamp on the game.
Brief hope came with 17 minutes remaining, just after those subs came on, with a way back into the game when pinball in the Altrincham area ended up with the ball in the back of the net – Joe Lewis claimed it but Opta gave it as a Tom Hannigan own goal.
That hope lasted just 10 minutes and with no real chances having come for a Gulls side who should have been rampaging forward and creating chance after chance…but weren’t able to do either.
And it was a Wright mistake which led to the killer third goal, his slack defending from a set-piece allowing Toby Mullarkey the chance to shoot from 25 yards, which he did with precision and aplomb to seal the points.
Disappointment at the final whistle, Gary Johnson walking off the pitch looking like a man with a lot of questions to think about before his side heads to Notts County (5-0 winners at Barnet on Saturday) in a week’s time. That’s going to be an interesting one for sure!
Halstead 5. Beaten three times and looked somewhat questionable on crosses as well as uncomfortable with a couple of cross-shots. He’s no Lucas Covolan that’s for sure.
Wynter 5. Looked ill at ease for much of the game and could see his place coming under threat from Chiori Johnson if he is not needed in other positions first.
Moxey 6. Considering Dan Mooney started the game as possibly Alty’s danger man, Moxey kept him fairly quiet. Best of a pretty poor bunch at the back.
Lewis 4.5. I’ve got very high hopes for Joe but this was not a good performance. Constantly fouling his opponent and probably got away with a few as well. He will play much better than this.
Omar 5.5. Won plenty more in the air than Lewis but concerns me when he has the ball at his feet and his positional play needs some work.
Lapslie 5. I was really looking forward to seeing him in a proper game but proved a major disappointment. Passing was off target and didn’t seem to deal well with being very closely marked, unlike against Chippenham and Bournemouth U14s. Constantly moaned at the referee as well which given he wasn’t captain, I thought might have led to a yellow.
Little 3. Dreadful performance. Maybe the captaincy isn’t right for him? Passing was poor, set-pieces were inaccurate, tackling was off until he had to give up on tackling after being booked. Not in my first XI when everyone is fit.
O’Connell 5. Gave away the second goal with some pathetic defending, but he was the one player who constantly tried to be positive when he got the ball. Needs to get stronger and make better decisions though.
Rogers 5. Wowed during a couple of pre-season games but this was very different. Too many dribbles down dark alleys against a team which man-marked our midfield out of the game for long spells. I don’t think he is a winger and certainly not inverted on the right.
Wright 4. I’ll be honest I laughed when he was named man of the match. Can only assume the match sponsor wanted to meet him after the game. Just not able to affect the game at all and was getting more and more uptight as the match progressed.
Holman 5.5. Ran all game, chased defenders all game, but didn’t really do a whole lot when he had time on the ball. Not that he had a lot of that as swarming Altrincham defenders continually neutralised Torquay’s fairly feeble efforts to attack.
Hall 6.5. My man of the match on his 17 minutes plus added time. Won more headers in that time than Wright and Holman did in 90+. Getting him back to 100% is absolutely vital.
Johnson 6. I like him but don’t really know where I want to fit him in the team. Is he a right-back? A central midfielder? A right-winger (with not too much pace)?
Lolos NA. Didn’t get enough time to warrant a mark.
Do you agree with Andy’s ratings? Vote here
MAN OF THE MATCH
No-one really, but I’ll give it to Asa Hall.
None. End of.
I seem to recall berating Robert Massey-Ellis before and today did little to improve my view of him. Allowed time-wasting to go unpunished for almost the entire game and spoiled the flow with a series of mistakes. Little was possibly lucky to stay on the park and he lost control of the game in the second when he failed to spot either Danny Wright or an Altrincham defender (Moult perhaps) elbow one another in successive challenges, leading to a near brawl. Five yellows for the Yellows…and it could have been more.
Altrincham impressed me a good deal. They looked very solid at the back, with three big centre-backs, and caused problems with the extra man in midfield. I was expecting to see more of Dan Mooney but, in all honesty, they didn’t really need him. Ruthless in front of goal when they got their chances and they seem to be the latest club to have something of a hoodoo over us based on last season and now this dumpster fire of a season-opener. I don’t think they will struggle this year as they did over the second part of 2020-21 after a quick start.
4-4-2 with O’Connell and Rogers playing as inverted wingers – left footer on the right, blah blah blah. Doesn’t work for me unless you have wingers with a bit of pace and trickery and I don’t think either of them does. Not for the first time we seemed to struggle against a team playing with wing-backs or three in midfield. There was always an overload of some kind and often appeared to be a red brick wall in front of goal when Wright and Holman were trying to find some space. Clearly missed Asa Hall from the start and Connor Lemonheigh-Evans needs to get fit as soon as possible.
THE BIG MOMENT
O’Connell’s mistake for the second goal. We did it too often last year and now shepherding the ball out costs us again. Going 2-0 down to a team like Altrincham is never going to end well. Eleven behind the ball, waste time, rinse, repeat.
A bad day at the office, simple as that. We had them last season and bounced back and hopefully we can do the same after this one, as painful as it was to watch. Might be tilting at rainbows to think we’ll get anything against Nottinghamshire County but if we remain pointless after Woking on Bank Holiday Monday there might be a few quiet alarm bells ringing…and a few calls going in for loan reinforcements.
COYY – Andy