TT MATCH VERDICT
Chris Wade – @TufcChris
TORQUAY UNITED 1-0 SOUTHEND UNITED
The day started with a cheeky Gary #incoming. Shaun MacDonald returned to the club three months after rejecting a new contract at the end of last season. He was straight into the team as one of three changes, that also saw Klaidi Lolos and Keelan O’Connell starting. Mark Halstead (concussion), Ali Omar and Dan Holman were the three players taken out, with the latter two on the bench. They were joined by Alex Addai for the first time at Plainmoor.
Torquay started in a 3-4-3 formation, with Chiori Johnson and Keelen O’Connell as the wide players and Lolos up front with Danny Wright. It was a bright start, with the players clearly giving it their all after Gary’s rocket in midweek. We were on the front foot and several opportunities came and went around the penalty area without a clear-cut chance. But the structure of the team was much better, with the vocal MacDonald prowling his box and communicating well.
The best chance of the first half was a break from the Yellows, and Wright fed Lolos in the box. He twisted and turned but couldn’t get a shot in and his attempts were blocked, with Wright flashing a volley well wide. Both sides were working hard but there was little goalmouth action as the players headed off for half time, also giving the somewhat whistle happy referee 15 minutes for a rest. I didn’t win the 50/50…as usual.
The second half saw Southend start brightly with lots of possession, but they rarely threatened the United rearguard. Lolos continued to stretch their defence, and we started to gain the upper hand in midfield. Johnson was biting into tackles everywhere and the atmosphere lifted. Connor Lemonheigh-Evans held his hamstring for a time but was able to run it off. Gabby Rogers fizzed a cross narrowly wide, and Joe Lewis nodded a corner fractionally wide. Both managers tried to affect the game from the bench. Addai replaced Rogers and Holman replaced the indefatigable Lolos. But the hard work was being frustrated.
But one moment of quality can win football matches, and it came as the clock ticked round to 90 minutes. A free kick was headed out but retained, and Asa Hall won two challenges to feed Dean Moxey on the left. His deliciously side footed left footed cross made it all the way to the far post, where Lemonheigh-Evans arrived perfectly to touch home from 4 yards.
Ali Omar replaced O’Connell for the three minutes of injury time and won one important header. But that was it, and the first points of the season at home were secured.
Shaun MacDonald – 7 – Solid second debut. Was very vocal, alert off his line and claimed a couple of important crosses. Made everybody look more comfortable.
Ben Wynter – 7 – Good performance as the wide right centre back. As combative as ever and won some aerial duels.
Joe Lewis – 7 – Led the back-line well as the centre of the three. Fought the physical centre forwards well and nearly scored again.
Dean Moxey – 8 – Very good. Alert and positionally as good as ever, but was able to get forward and support the attacks. Gorgeous, gorgeous cross for the winner.
Chiori Johnson 8 – See below.
Connor Lemonheigh-Evans – 7 – Restored to a central role and looked much more comfortable. Ran off a hamstring knock and was in the right place at the right time.
Asa Hall – 7 – Strong performance from the skipper. Led to the team as well as ever and won two tackles to feed Moxey for the winner.
Keelan O’Connell – 7 – His best performance so far. Was lively and drove down the wing with purpose in the first half. Held his position well and contributed to the better shape of the team.
Gabby Rogers – 6 – Worked hard but struggled to impact the game. A couple of glimpses of the wand of a left foot.
Klaidi Lolos – 8 – Very positive full debut. Gave pace and mobility to the forward line and was able to stretch Southend over the top. Clearly has ability.
Danny Wright – 7 – Another 90 minutes from the big man. Ran himself into the ground and his physical presence was as good as ever.
Alex Addai – 6 – Definitely adds a different dimension to our attack. Stocky in stature and with ability on the ball, he should be a useful addition when totally fit.
Dan Holman – N/A – on for the last 8 minutes and ran around a lot.
Ali Omar – N/A – on for two minutes of stoppage time, but did win one important header.
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MAN OF THE MATCH – CHIORI JOHNSON
An excellent performance from the utility player. I really liked his alertness, ability to always get his toe in and his skill on the ball. He gave everything and has an excellent cross on him.
Dean Moxey and Klaidi Lolos – both contributed to the game. Moxey was solid and produced the cross for the winner, and Lolos never stopped working.
Scott Jackson was VERY whistle happy in the first half but settled down in the second half. No major decisions in the match.
Southend have a place in my heart after THAT day in 2004. But they are now struggling badly. They offered little in attack, and were limited in the approach they took. Getting it wide and getting balls up to the front men was their only real tactic (as well as time wasting from the start). But they will get there. It isn’t an easy league to be in and adjusting takes time. They’ll be fine.
The 3-4-3 formation made us much better structured and compact. Everybody knew their roles, and O’Connell and Johnson held their position very well. Rogers didn’t get in the game enough but was lively in between the lines. The defensive shape was so much better.
The winner. In a game of few clear-cut chances, taking the chance that was created was always going to be key. In CLE, we have a man to rely on and he delivered when we really needed him.
We REALLY needed that. A much better, brighter and cohesive display was capped with a late winner as we entered Gary time. Never get too high, never get too l………. oh whatever. GET IN THERE! The man running along the Popside with his shirt above his head was the magic I have missed in the last 18 months. We’re on our way……
COYY – Chris
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