TT MATCH VERDICT
Luke Hunter – @lukehunter8
SOLIHULL MOORS 2-1 TORQUAY UNITED
I try my best to adopt a ‘glass half full’ approach at this stage of the season, but even the most steadfast of optimists would struggle to positively spin 81 of those 94 minutes – it was a disastrous evening for United, and in truth, a 2-1 scoreline was extremely flattering.
The yellows – in turquoise for the evening – made one enforced change from Saturday’s heavily berated performance with an in-form Armani Little and his continuing injury woes replaced by Gabby Rogers; the Tiverton prospector hoping to demonstrate his stake as a professional footballer. For the most part, United adopted a fairly flexible 4-4-3 that transitioned into a 4-4-2 as CLE floated; though whether there was an absolute wide player on the pitch until the 62nd minute is debatable; Moxey and Wynter employed the overlap but too often they found themselves backtracking without cover whilst a forward partnership of Holman and Wright synonymously huffed and puffed, but far from blew the house down.
The Gulls enjoyed the best of the opening exchanges – by which I mean, the first 30 seconds – before an unrelenting wave of Solihull attacks saw the woodwork struck twice and Halstead make a respectable block – it was a difficult first 15 minutes and United’s complete inability to deal with anything direct gifted Moors a plethora of openings.
By in large, this was the story of the first half. Most damning was United’s incapacity to keep possession, time and time again, an uninspiring long ball was unchallenged and bounced through to the Solihull backline, only for the Moors to mount another attack in response – there is absolutely nothing in our physicality that suggests a direct approach is the right approach; we aren’t winning the aerial battles at the front and we look incredibly vulnerable to them at the back.
Solihull’s predictable opening arrived in the 33rd minute. Possession surrended in the opposing half, the United backline chased shadows for twenty seconds as a troublesome Andrew Dallas broke the line and rifled home, beating a despondent Halstead at his near post – it was a powerful effort, but I suspect the replay will be indefensible for the United keeper, he should not have been beaten at that angle.
In what may prove to be a poignant moment, the confidence stricken United keeper wouldn’t return for the second half, with Marcin Brzozowski taking his place in the sticks. The youngster initially struggled, and I was reminded instantly of Martin Horsell in our 06/07 relegation (a shiver just ran down my spine and as I recall, coincidentally, Horsell was first introduced in similar circumstances) – for the opening minute, the Gulls pressed high and looked invigorated, but a poorly misplaced pass from Lewis caught too many men out of position and again, Andrew Dallas quickly broke forward and fed the lingering Joe Sbarra who could not – and would not – miss.
The hour mark saw the introduction of newly signed Alex Addai and Klaidi Lolos – the struggling and frustrated Chiroi Johnson gave way, alongside Holman who had become a spectator by this point. I wouldn’t quite describe this as a match-changing moment, but it gently nudged the dynamic and stepped United up from 1st to 3rd gear. Addai was a very welcome introduction, he’s the only player that looked anything like an out-and-out pacey winger and worked hard – Lolos, likewise, brings an intensity that the Wright/Holman partnership isn’t designed to deliver.
The two substitutes brought about what would be United’s 80th minute consolation, and although the squad didn’t deserve it, they did. Addai powered into the box and troubled Ryan Boot in the Solihull goal with a driven effort, the best he could do was parry it into the path of an alert Lolos who tucked away and roused the yellow army.
Solihull managed the final 10 minutes professionally, though for the time the ball was in play, we were on top for the first time in the match. One last opportunity came as CLE navigated a path into the Solihull box; the defender panicked and found himself on the wrong side of the United man, who took a tumble – it would be irresponsible for me to say either way what happened, as the net substantially blocked my view but the silence of the home crowd felt damning – alas, a booking for simulation was the only prize and though the away end certainly deserved something for their efforts, that performance didn’t warrant it.
Halstead: 2 – I felt sorry for him, he’s starved of confidence and it’s the worst position on the pitch when you’re struggling for form – the backline are clearly sensing that and panicked clearances rather than composed backpasses aren’t helping ease defensive pressure. Perhaps some time out of the limelight might have been better for all parties rather than a half time substitution – I expect that will now follow. Subbed.
Wynter: 3 – Didn’t look himself – some scruffy clearances but the winger/full-back relationship is all wrong at the moment.
Lewis: 2 – Really struggled with Dallas, at fault for the second and looked to be carrying an injury (that I now know he was).
Omar: 4 – There’s a player in there, but I’m not sure these are the best circumstances to bring it out at the moment. Worked hard and the most composed of an un-composed backline – won his fair share of headers and the *only* defensive voice I heard all night.
Moxey: 3 – Caught out of position too many times but much like Wynter, the winger/full-back relationship is completely askew – benefited from the introduction of Addai. Need a vocal presence at the back, could Mox step up?
Johnson: 3 – Ran hard but struggled with his first touch, isn’t a winger – difficult night. Subbed.
Hall: 3 – Needs to show some leadership and though I appreciate it’s difficult, help calm that defence; chased shadows but chased nonetheless.
Rogers: 4 – Likewise Johnson, but was able to show a little more quality and looked marginally more comfortable with the out-wide demands.
CLE: 4 – Flashes of quality but couldn’t consistently get into the game, needs to find last season’s form asap.
Wright: 3 – Worked hard but needs pace to offset his limitations, wasted alongside Holman.
Holman: 3 – Worked hard but needs pace to offset his limitations, wasted alongside Wright. Subbed.
Brzozowski: 4 – The youngster was clearly nervous, but steadied himself and wont get any critiques from me – the toughest of circumstances to enter a game for even the most mature of goalkeepers
Lolos: 6 – Earnt a start after that, more passion than the rest combined, plenty of effort, deserved his goal – led by example.
Addai: 6 – Brought some much needed quality to the game, caused Moors all sort of trouble and the only genuine winger I saw in turquoise.
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MAN OF THE MATCH –
Alex Addai – the counterweight of the other 8/9 was too heavy to claim he changed the game, but he at last gave us some cutting edge and posed a threat, really enjoyed watching him, a pacey winger that works hard and knows how to beat a man.
Klaidi Lolos – I like seeing players that enjoy being out there, there isn’t much of that at the moment, but Lolos was fired up, fired us up and gave it a go. I hope GJ gives him a start now, we’re going nowhere with Holman and Wright together – they need to be employed as backup to one another, not together.
The Yellow Army – a fantastic following for a Tuesday night, deserved much, much more.
Absolutely awful, but not why we lost and exactly as I – and everyone else – should expect for the level.
Moors were OK. I really liked Dallas, he caused us trouble all night. They did the basics well and didn’t make many mistakes, though concerningly from our point of view, they didn’t have to be spectacular.
The 45th-48th minutes were match-defining; the goalkeeper substitution was a strong statement and the sucker punch of the Solihull second put the game out of reach – I didn’t see us scoring one, let alone two at that point.
I return to my opening quest for optimism – we have played just 6 matches and perspective in the face of that is imperative. Last night’s post-match interview (2:06 for GJ) is almost exactly what a supporter wants to hear at this point – no the squad is not right, but yes, it absolutely can be fixed. We need two experienced heads at the back inc. a goalkeeper, some (a lot of) pace out wide and a formula up front but most importantly for me, a couple of leaders, a Guy Branston-like character to command and demand – it was one of the most silent team performances I have ever seen. In summary, as a standalone match, last night was unacceptable, and I do think aspects of it could have been managed better – as I have addressed – I also tend to sit in the “give it 10 games” camp but I likely suspect, and agree, that this particular performance was the straw that broke the camel’s back – changes should come. Most importantly, now is not the time to turn toxic, there’s a long season ahead of us either way, get behind GJ, Downes and whoever they send out against Southend – the former have earnt that – and lets see how things are looking come 5pm Saturday afternoon.
COYY – Luke