TT MATCH VERDICT
Matt Roberts – @MatthewVA438
When the fixtures first came out, practically every Torquay fan would’ve circled Notts County away as one to watch out for. The play-off semi-final last season and the sideways step from Cameron and Nemane meant this was always going to be a tasty game, and it more than delivered.
The same formation as last week’s shambolic defeat to Altrincham but just the one change with Rogers switching out for Johnson on the right side of midfield. Hall remained on the bench but encouragingly was joined by Lemonheigh-Evans for his first inclusion in a matchday squad since Ashton Gate. Lolos was the man to drop out of the squad.
We started far better than last week, trying to get the ball forward and playing noticeably quicker. The first 15 minutes or so belonged to us as we had much of the possession but failed to find that final ball to unlock the County defence. It wasn’t all going our own way though and every now and then, the home side threatened to slice through our defence with passes straight between Lewis and Omar.
On 25 minutes it was one of these balls that changed the game, Wotton steamed through the defence and Omar made what we all thought was a perfectly executed challenge winning the ball in a controlled manner. Unfortunately, the referee thought different and had little hesitation in pulling out the red card. Almost immediately Holman made way for Martin and we went one up top to shore up the defence. I thought that was it for us at that point, a man down against a Notts County side that was already in the ascendancy.
You cannot write off a Gary Johnson side though and instead of looking worried and making mistakes, the team rallied. Not long after the red card, and seemingly out of nowhere, we got the opener. Classic route one stuff as a free kick from Halstead was launched towards Wright all on his own, it didn’t matter though as the ball completely bamboozled the County defence and Wright’s header looped over Slocombe in goal and into the net. Cue absolute pandemonium in the away stand. One up at half time, brilliant stuff.
It took a good 15 minutes of the second half for the man advantage to tell for the home side. United’s defence was relatively untroubled until around 70 minutes when a great cross came into the box and Wootton was there (unmarked) to head it in from close range. A sloppy goal to give away and from then on, we were really on the back foot with County camped in our half for most of the remaining 20 minutes.
The commitment though from our lads for the rest of the game was superb, all of them did their duty in denying County an opening, throwing themselves in front of crosses, making crucial tackles and interceptions and managing the game perfectly. While the home fans were silently waiting for the breakthrough that would never come, the Yellow Army never shut up and urged the lads on. 6 minutes of added time were indicated but despite the possession, County couldn’t find that ball through the defence. Points shared in a great contest, fantastic stuff.
Halstead 6: Made some useful saves which you’d expect him to make but despite the pressure from Notts, he wasn’t as busy as you’d expect. Flapped at and got nowhere near a couple of crosses, I’m yet to be convinced that he’s better than either MacDonald or Covolan.
Wynter 7: Much more confident going forward this week, forming a good partnership with Johnson and overlapping to great effect at times. Gave Notts very little on the right when they started to stretch the play out wide in the second half.
Moxey 7.5: Man of the match, see below.
Lewis 7: Far superior to last week and he had a lot to do with the ball spending plenty of time in our final third. Won more than his fair share of headers and combined well with Moxey after the red card.
Omar 6: Hard done by with that sending off, he did exactly what he should’ve done in that situation. What else is he supposed to do? Still too much space between him and Lewis which allowed County to get into dangerous positions, thankfully they failed to capitalise.
Lapslie 7: Seemed to be everywhere on the pitch at times, playing out from the back, clearing from the six-yard box, throwing himself into tackles to deny Notts an opening, a very busy performance. I’m looking forward to seeing how he combines with Hall and CLE now that those two are starting to get more minutes under their belts.
Little 7: A big call from Johnson to keep the armband on Little after the shambles that was Altrincham. I couldn’t tell if he was more vocal this time (it was too loud in the away stand) but he gave it everything on the pitch which I’ll take every week. Still too many misplaced passes for my liking but a much better performance.
O’Connell 6.5: A better performance than last time out but I’m not convinced he’s best utilised on the left wing. Too many times the ball was in a good position for a cross and was crying out for a left footed delivery but O’Connell is right footed so cut inside it fizzled out.
Johnson 7: Glad he got a starting place after an encouraging debut last week, repaying the faith by making some good runs and giving us more width than against Altrincham. Combined well with Wynter.
Wright 7: More effective than last week as he was able to win headers and make effective layoffs to his teammates. Obviously though the most important contribution was the goal, a classic example of being in the right place at the right time. He’s well up for the fight and showed some unexpected pace at times.
Holman 6: Didn’t have a huge amount of time to make his mark on the game as Gary took him off after the red card. Given he didn’t see much action today I’m hoping he’ll be really on it against Woking on Monday.
Martin 7: I liked Martin when I saw him at Poole back in July and he impressed again yesterday. He has a hell of a left foot and some pace as well. More than that though he defended brilliantly in what was a baptism of fire in terms of his first real experience of fifth tier football. I’d have no concerns with him slotting in at left back with Moxey moving into the centre.
Hall 7: A very welcome addition when he came on. Hall provides the knowhow and experience that you want when trying to see a game out. It’s more minutes in the tank and he looks fit.
Lemonheigh-Evans 7: His quality was there for all to see when he came on, he can beat two men at a time and was able to kickstart attacking moves. Hopefully against Woking he’ll get a bit more to do in the opposition half as for most of the time he was on, we were pinned back in our own half.
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MAN OF THE MATCH – Dean Moxey
It’s a hard one as all of the lads out on the pitch did everything they could but Moxey yesterday was really impressive. He was handling things well at left back and overlapped with O’Connell to get things moving down the left but he really shone when the enforced change to centre back happened. Solid as a rock and gave the Notts forwards very little to work with. This was the first time I’ve seen him in the centre, could he and Lewis be the main pairing this season? Competition for places can’t be a bad thing.
All of them, every one of the lads played their part to the full, no shrinking violets today.
Failed to endear himself to both sets of supporters thanks to the wrong red card decision and in the eyes of the home fans, his reluctance to do anything of note about our game management, or time wasting as County fans might have called it.
Notts County have players with real ability, and they were able to split our defence on multiple occasions. However, it took until the second half for the man advantage to show when they encamped themselves in our final third for long periods. Mind you, despite all the possession there weren’t as many clear-cut chances as you might expect. Lots of passing sideways and occasional forays into the box but the final ball was often lacking (much like ourselves).
Just a special mention for the fans too, I don’t think I can recall a more apathetic home support. This was the first home game of the season and the first time they were able to attend a league game without restrictions for 18 months. You’d imagine therefore they’d be vocal, and especially during the second half when they were pinning us back, that they’d be willing their team on, but no it was largely silence from the home stands. All rather bizarre.
Similar to last week, a 4-4-2 but Rogers was benched for Johnson. After the sending off, things changed to a 4-4-1 with Holman off for Martin. Despite the numbers disadvantage, little changed tactically and it was some time before it became noticeable. Last week against Altrincham our full-backs were largely observers when the ball was played down the wing but yesterday Wynter, Moxey and Martin overlapped and helped to create some promising opportunities.
THE BIG MOMENT
The Ali Omar sending off, which wasn’t a red in my eyes. We were directly in line and got a perfect view, how is Ali meant to try and stop the player if any tackle he makes in that position will result in a red card? The ball was won and there was certainly no danger in the challenge. From the referee’s view it may have looked different, but you’ll see countless tackles like that throughout the pyramid every week. We didn’t shrink into ourselves after that though, it galvanised us and we never gave up, setting the pattern for the rest of the game.
A good day at the office in securing a point away from home against a good side and being a man down for the vast majority of the game. More than the point though, I was so impressed with the way the team conducted themselves. No one could’ve done any more in what was a hell of a committed performance. At the end of the day, that’s all you can ask for, it’ll take a while to gel some of the new players and but if they give it their all like that every week, I’ll be satisfied.
COYY – Matt
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