TT MATCH VERDICT
Sam Jones – @samuellejones
Before kick off, United had been undefeated in 3 of their last 4, keeping 2 clean sheets and scoring 8 goals in the process. Bromley had won 4 in a row, but there was a feeling that Torquay had turned the corner this season and could start kicking on. This really was not the case as any hopes from leaving South London with a win dissipated quickly as United fell to a poor 2-0 defeat by Bromley.
The first half started without incident. Both sides traded long balls and won corners as a result, which came to nothing but wayward shots and throw ins. For a while United were actually matching Bromley without showing anything up front, but neither were Bromley. Then they made me eat my words and showed why they’re in the play off places and we’re not. Some neat play down the right set Michael Cheek free. He floated the ball in, which was met acrobatically by Marcus Sablier to knock past Mac for his first ever professional goal. There were claims of offside, but the goal was given and United were behind. All too easy for The Ravens, who pecked off the Gulls with ease (I’ll work on that).
The kick off almost led to Bromley doubling their lead. Lewis panicked when launching the ball forward and ended up giving a free kick on the edge of our box. It was struck beautifully by Bush but fortunately for United just clipped the post and went wide. Torquay then managed to wrestle something resembling the upper hand. We got the ball on the deck and started knocking the ball around nicely. Unfortunately too often we would hit a loose pass, a panicky long ball, or a poor touch which let us down. Despite this, we did manage a couple of half chances as Connor looped the ball into the arms of Cousins and Lapslie drilled wide from the edge of the box.
After their first, Bromley didn’t threaten much, and then scored the second. We gave a corner away cheaply which came in and was won by a Bromley head once, then twice. It fell to Sowunmi on the edge of the box, and the absolute unit of a centre back twatted it into the top corner. Top finish, but we defended dreadfully. The Gulls huffed and puffed for the rest of the half, but created very little, apart from disappointment. There were some openings, which came to nothing, as well as wasting a free kick in the most United fashion possible. Half time came and the Gulls were behind, again.
The second half was much better, but also much worse. United probably had a good 70% of the ball, but did absolutely sweet F.A. with it. We would recycle the ball nicely in midfield, get it out wide, put a cross in and Bromley would head it away. Every now and then we may get a corner, which came to nothing, or the ball would drift out of play. There was a bit of excitement as Wynter was tripped in the box, but nothing was given.
There were the customary optimistic long shots which either missed or were blocked (one from Johnson which was particularly wayward), but we did force the odd chance though. First off, Lolos headed over when well placed. The Lewis has two chances to get us back into the game. This first was the result of a lovely reverse ball from O’Connell, which Joe couldn’t get out of his feet and ended up being deflected wide. The resulting was met by Lewis, but his looping header hit the underside of the bar but failed to drop in.
As we pushed forward for the unlikeliest of goals, we became very open at the back. If it wasn’t for our recently returned Geordie in goal, it would have been much worse. The full time whistle finally blew and the Gulls had lost. Two 2-0 defeats in a row for Torquay, as a home FA Cup against Havant and Waterlooville awaits.
Shaun MacDonald – 8: Best player wearing a Torquay shirt. More on him below.
Ben Wynter – 4: Not a centre back. A very good right back, but not a centre back. Despite winning most challenges and trying to play the ball around, he was at fault for the first goal as he played them onside and lost his man.
Joe Lewis – 5.5: Definitely a centre back, but one who looks like he is playing between two full backs. Didn’t do much wrong today, but should’ve done better with his chances in the second half.
Dean Moxey – 6: Oozes class on the ball, even in a poor performance. The best of the back three and a real threat going forward, especially in the second half. Could do with seeing more leadership from him, especially with such a young team.
Chiori Johnson – 5: A typical Non-League utility man. Obviously a very tidy footballer, but just does nothing with it. Was hardly a bad shift from the former Arsenal youngster, but does not offer enough.
Tom Lapslie – 5.5: Another all action performance from our best signing this summer (low bar, I know). He ran his socks off, harried Bromley like crazy and tried to get us into the game but all to no avail.
Asa Hall – 3: Oh Asa, where art thou? Our Viking warrior from last season is nowhere to be seen. He was out of position too many times, wasted the ball when he had it and was a total passenger. What also got me was how passive he was in the middle. You want your captain shouting at anyone or anything that disappoints, but there wasn’t a murmur from him all game. If we want anything from this season, we need him back to his best.
Armani Little – 4: Has there ever been a more frustrating player to wear the Yellow? We all know how good he can be on his day but today he was way off the pace. His first touch deserted him today and his passing was even worse. Another one we need to step up if we want to accomplish anything this season.
Dan Martin – 5: Like some of the the summer signings, I think he shows promise. Had a solid enough game at left-wing back, but loses marks for being caught out for the opener. Perhaps unlucky to be hooked for O’Connell.
Connor Lemonheigh – Evans – 6.5: One of the better performers. Showed some lovely turns of skill and pace, but his impact was limited by the lack of movement around him. Won a surprising amount of headers too, considering the size of the Bromley defenders.
Dan Holman – 5: Almost tempted to give him an N/A, as the way we played gave him nothing to work off. When he did get the ball, he was neat and tidy without ever threatening. Came off injured in the second half and was limping heavily at full time.
Klaidi Lolos – 5: Struggled to get involved. Showed some decent touches when he did and should have scored witch a header in the second half. Might be our only fit striker if Holman is out for a while.
Keelan O’Connell – 6: Like Martin, I think there is a player in there. Did well when out wide and was effective when drifting centrally, playing Lewis in with a beautiful reverse pass.
Ali Omar – N/A: Came on at 2-0 down, got outpaced once and took a Moleman style shot to the nuts. Not much more to say.
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MAN OF THE MATCH – Shaun MacDonald:
It was a masterstroke by Gary to bring him back, after Halstead and Marcin failed to impress. He was excellent today, making a number of key saves to keep the game at 2-0, one particularly from Cheek that was superb. Could do nothing about either goal, and brings a calmness to the defence. He was also the most vocal United player on the pitch, berating whoever was the latest player to make a mistake. Can we give him the armband?
Dean Moxey and the Lemon also played well. The veteran left back was always calm both in and out of possession and got forward well in the second half. Connor was head and shoulders the most skillfull player on the pitch, but the lack of any quality around him didn’t help. One turn in the second half was particularly arousing, which was probably the highlight of the game from a Yellows perspective.
Keelan O’Connell is also worth a shout out. He linked up well with Moxey when he came on and showed good pace and skill on the left hand side, more often than not beating his man and getting the cross in. Definitely worth sticking with.
United lined up in the same 3-5-1-1 formation as the game against Boreham Wood, with the only change being Chiori Johnson in for O’Connell. The back three of one centre-back and two full backs persisted, as two more full backs lined up as wing-backs. Yes, we did start four fullbacks. Lapslie, Hall and Little were in the midfield and Connor lined up behind Holman. What our tactics were when we got the ball however, were anyone’s guess. Despite having the diminutive figure of Holman leading the line, we kept hitting the long ball as if Wright was up front. It failed time and time again and the Bromley’s defence easily knocked it away. This meant we created literally nothing and were having to feed off scraps.
In a surprise to literally no-one, we created much more when we kept the ball on the ground which brought the best out of our midfield forward. By the time we changed it up, it was too late and the game was gone. We looked most dangerous going forward when Armani and Lapslie drifted into the space outside, which meant there was space for Holman and the Lemon to operate. This happened more and more often as the game went on, but the quality was not there to punish the home side. Bringing on Omar in the 85th minute meant we switched to a back 4, with just a fluid mess of the other 6 up front.
I’m sure this is written every week about our opponents, but Bromley were nothing special. Outside of the mad rush at the end when we were pushing for a goal, they created very little all game. What they did have, on the other hand, was the quality to take the chances, or half chances, that came their way. The first goal was a brilliant, yet opportunistic, finish and the second was right in the postage stamp which no keeper in the world could have stopped. They also had the ability and discipline to sit on their lead and see the game out. Despite only being there a few months, Andy Woodman has done a cracking job there and can see them being in the running come the end of the season.
Gareth Rhodes was pretty dreadful, but did not influence the outcome of the match. There were times when a foul was definitely blown the wrong way, or he fell for an obvious dive by a player who should not have gone over so easily, but that’s par for the course at this level. He gave us a couple of yellows, which seemed harsh, but did not really have a big call to make all game. The penalty shout looked a penalty from where I was standing, but heard differently from those watching on BT Sport.
The first goal after 16 minutes really stands out for me. At the moment, we don’t look like scoring for love nor money. And what is the worst thing a team like that can do? That’s right, concede first (bring in a striker who hasn’t really played in two years is a close second). The only real quality that they showed in the game to this point, led to their first goal. Some nice interplay in midfield dragged us horribly out of position. This let Cheek run free down the right, who crossed it in the middle to a waiting Sablier. The cross was actually fairly poor but, fair play to the kid, he adjusted himself to be able to volley the ball passed Shaun in the United goal. There were questions of offside, but Wynter both played them on and lost his man. From that point, we knew we would struggle to get back into the game and the rest of the match was entirely predictable.
AWAY DAY OVERVIEW:
Bromley is one of those London suburbs that I would never have heard of if United weren’t playing there, and I live in London. 20 minutes out of Victoria Station, it is very much a hermetically sealed, soulless place. I’m sure the quality of life is pretty good, it’s just not that interesting. Hayes Lane is not much better. One newer looking stand which was very fancy and then the other 3 stands that are right out of the non league. Because of the television coverage, the view from the away end was massively obscured by a camera stand (might have been a kindness) which meant the Yellow Army were crammed into one end of the stand, which is a bit poor being honest. The home fans were fairly quiet, and only started shouting chants of “Bromley, Bromley, Bromley” every now and then. A special shout out to the burger I had too. It looked, and tasted, like someone had been sitting on it. Would not recommend.
As I stepped off the train at Bromley South, after experiencing the best that London transport had to offer, I was strangely optimistic that we could get something from today. No idea why, this is Torquay United we’re on about. Last time I was at Bromley we drew 3-3 in an epic topsy-turvy encounter, and I would have happily taken the same again today. But, as you would have guessed by reading this match report, I did not. The commitment is there from the boys, have no doubt about it. For 90 minutes in baking October sunshine, every player gave everything they had. However, the lack of game winning quality is startling, especially when you compare it to last season. It’s not just the new boys being disappointing, but the drop off from the veteran’s is also incredible. Hall looks a shadow of his former self, Little is either brilliant or useless and Lewis is just making so many mistakes. The only player that hasn’t dropped off is MacDonald. These guys need to step up soon, otherwise we might have to start looking over our shoulders.
One of the general talking point amongst the 333 members of the Yellow Army was the recruitment, which has been a constant question so far this season. Every season, we have had a good core of a team which has been bolstered by young loanees (Janneh, Sherring, Lewis, Randell, etc…), normally announced about 20 minutes before kick off. This season, nothing at all. All of our players were brought in on free transfers, which has worked in the passed, and this season it hasn’t. I’m sure that Bristol City or Plymouth have a decent enough centre-back we could bring in, so why haven’t we? There are rumours of a lack of funding, which would explain the below average recruitment, but a youngster on loan can’t cost that much. I trust Gary, but we need some new players and fast.
This brings me onto my second point, the great man himself. One of Owers’s biggest failings was failing to interact with the fans at all (I mean, he was tactically inept and even worse in the transfer market but he also had the personality of a bag of sand), but Johnson has been brilliant at it. Until now. Even after defeats, he would always come and thank the fans and acknowledge we were there, but not today. As soon as the full time whistle blew, he went straight down the tunnel and let the players and Downes take the blame. It was also odd how he came out a good 2 minutes before the players did at half time. In all my time watching football, I have never seen that before. With the lack of loans, the odd behaviour and the bereft sounding interviews, you have to wonder if something is going on behind the scenes. This may just be wild speculation on the back of defeat, from someone hoping that there is more going on than we are just shit. But you never know.
Anyway, enough rambling, onto the FA Cup next weekend, with King’s Lynn at home the week after. In Gary we trust.