TT MATCH VERDICT
Thomas Kelly – @tommyktufc
HAVANT 4-2 TORQUAY UNITED
Torquay United failed to qualify for the first round proper of the FA Cup for the first time in four years, and for the majority of the game, were out-played, out-thought and out-muscled on a miserable evening in Hampshire. There was to be no salvation from the weather, despite absolutely lashing it down all game, the 4G surface, sadly for us, soaked up everything. For our defence, it was quite the opposite, especially at set pieces. Three of Havant’s goals came from set pieces. Whatever work they put in on the training ground, it isn’t good enough. Make no mistake, we deserved all we got and that was nothing.
Andrews & Lolos came into the squad for O’Connell and the injured Lapslie with United going 4-4-2.
Havant started the game in the ascendancy and Torquay fell behind in as little as eight minutes. The first ex-Gull to score against us was skipper Joe Oastler, his looping header propelling the home fans into celebration. The goal came from a corner which the hosts were racking up so early on. It felt like we had conceded a million of them as the first half progressed. We were on the back foot that’s for sure.
Torquay struggled to impose themselves into the game and despite having more of the ball were very wasteful. On 23 minutes, Gary made his first sub, a very tactical one with O’Connell off for Johnson. He certainly didn’t look injured.
Then just five minutes before half time, the game completely swung in United’s favour. Little delivered an excellent cross for Johnson to slot home the equaliser. Finally some belief for the Yellow Army and it got even better when Havant fan favourite Lolos got his foot to the end of a Moxey cross to give United the lead at HT.
Torquay started the 2nd half well. Little having a great chance, but hitting well wide from close range after being put through on goal.
Unfortunately for the Gulls, things were soon to turn very bad. Omar was subbed for Martin after picking up a knock and Torquay began to get pushed back. MacDonald made a superb save on 64 mins to deny Wright, only for the resulting corner to be volleyed in by McCarthy. No keeper would have stopped that one.
Then on 73 minutes, Torquay capitulated. Dan Martin stupidly got himself sent off with a challenge that made the Gulls’ task all the more difficult. It was a straight red too and after some handbags by the touchline, the game resumed.
Scott Rendell was introduced into the game and just minutes after appearing as a sub, he headed the hosts in front, tucking in from close range after United gave away a cheap free kick. The curse of the ex-player had bitten us once again and United’s FA Cup dreams were quickly heading down the drain.
On 88 minutes, with the Gulls defence opening up like Moses and the Black Sea, Tommy Wright rounded MacDonald and slotted home the fourth goal and a deserved victory for the hosts, who head to the Valley on November 6th. In contrast Torquay headed home with their tails between their legs. A sadly pathetic performance.
Shaun MacDonald: 7 – Hard to fault Shaun really. What a miserable birthday for him. Don’t think he could have done anything for all four goals and was easily our best player tonight. The only one who can really keep his head high.
Ben Wynter: 5 – Made two excellent headers away from goal in the second half to keep us in the game at the time. Probably the best of a really poor bunch in the defence.
Ali Omar: 2 – A player I really want to like, but I’m afraid he had a really tough night. His positioning needs some serious work and I honestly think we can do better. Too often he lets the ball bounce and then gets dispossessed and creates unnecessary pressure for us. Just not up to the standard required for National League football. That said his replacement did worse…..
Dean Moxey: 3 – Did his long throws a few times, provided an excellent cross for our second goal but for such an experienced defender, I expect more leadership from him and I didn’t see it tonight. At times it looked like we had no defence at all.
Joe Lewis: 3.5 – Had a torrid time. We all know the talent this young man has in him but he struggled against the Havant wingers. To be fair, he was first up to come over, clap the fans at full time and thank us for our support. Extra half star for him there.
Keelan O’Connell: 3 – Hard to rate him when he gets subbed so early in a game. After watching him against Alty I thought he was dreadful but he has impressed me in recent televised games I’ve seen. Didn’t go off injured, must have been tactical. They targeted his side of the pitch early on in the game.
Klaidi Lolos 4 – Did brilliantly to get on the end of Evan’s cross for our second. Used his pace early on but struggled a lot in the second half, gave the ball away in our own half way too often and was marked out as a threat by the hosts. I see potential in the lad though, more than can be said for other GJ signings!
Armani Little: 3 – Oh Armani. Missed a great chance at 2-1 early in the second half to potentially kill the game off. The only time I really noticed him was during the period from our first goal to his miss early in the second half. Unfortunately, he struggled to impose his presence for the majority of the game. Difficult evening for the stand-in skipper. Needs to step up.
Jake Andrews: 3 – Good to see Jake back in the side. Surprised he started to be honest. A difficult evening for him though, lacking some sharpness which is to be expected but like Little and CLE, struggled to make an impression on the pitch. I wish he would not get involved in mouthing off to the officials as often as he does. We know they’re poor Jake but just get on with the game!
Connor Lemonheigh-Evans: 3 – I’m not sure what’s up with Connor, but as one of our best players, he really looks off it from last seasons CLE. Provided a beautiful cross for our equaliser but like Little was barely in the game for large parts. Needed him to step up and he didn’t.
Dan Holman: 3 – Struggled to get a foothold of the ball. Not much more to add. Poor.
Chiori Johnson: 4 – Super sub? Well it certainly appeared that way as he slotted home the equaliser. Other than that, same as the rest of our defence really. Pretty tough going as the second half progressed. Like Lolos I see talent in him.
Dan Martin: 1 – If the ratings went down to 0, that’s what Martin would get. Came on to replace Omar, got booked and then made a stupid foul right in front of the Havant bench. A straight red card I believe as well. A silly and stupid challenge that didn’t need to be made. I wonder if we’ll see him play for us in Yellow again. The fatal turning point in a game of few positives.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Shaun MacDonald
Yep, the keeper who conceded four gets my MOTM. Why? Because he made some brilliant saves and is the only one right now that I see who has any passion in this side. Havant could have scored at least six or seven if it wasn’t for Shaun’s efforts in goal. He’s the only one tonight that comes away with any credit.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: The Travelling Yellow Army
Fair play to the travelling supporters. The weather was absolutely dreadful and yet you still turned up in decent numbers and supported the team as best as you could. No matter how bad or good we are, the faithful Yellow Army always follows and supports the team. Probably around 150-200 Gulls fans at a guess. Such a shame the performance fell so short.
Seemed like Gary reverted to 4-4-2 but after the early change we reverted back to 3-5-2. At times it felt like we were playing a 0-5-2 with the ease of how Havant cut through our sorry state of a defence. Once the Martin red card had been dished out, they found bigger gaps to run into and played the game out with ease, fully in control of the tie.
Quite simply, they wanted it more than we did. Started quick, got the early goal and frustrated us for long periods. Once again, a part-time side has made us look like a bunch of amateurs. Once we got the two goals it looked like we would go on and take the game by the horns, which we did for about 10 mins after the second started. Ultimately they deserved to beat us and I wish them nothing but good luck at the Valley in the next round. A very friendly fanbase, a great clubhouse and great facilities for a NLS ground. Best chuckle came from a few younger fans in the right corner giving it large to the away fans and their parents (I presume!) telling them off. The highlight of the evening without question!!
As you come to expect these days. Got the red card decision correct although he made some pretty poor calls, one where Andrews kept the ball in clear as day in front of the away supporters but gave away a corner. That said, we only have ourselves to blame.
Two key moments for me. Firstly, Little should have done (at least from where I was standing) a lot better with his early second half effort. How he managed to hit it so poorly I’ll never know but it was a golden chance to make it 3-1 and potentially put the game out of sight.
The other big key moment is of course the red card. 2-2, Havant in the ascendancy, the last thing you do is make a stupid tackle like Martin did. It gave Havant all the confidence they needed to go on and win the game and forced us to attempt to try and hold on, which we failed to do miserably. What else can I say really? This was all our own doing and it’s frankly unacceptable.
Torquay, the FA Cup and lower league opposition playing on plastic pitches. It’s a recipe for disaster really. All joking aside though, it is incredibly alarming to see how rapidly we are declining on the pitch. Our defensive frailties are there for all to see and our so called big players just aren’t stepping up to the challenge. If you were a neutral, you would have thought Havant were the NL side and us the NLS side. For 75 minutes in that game we were poor and Gary has a big job on his hands now to turn us around.
His failure to come over and clap the fans is also beginning to cause tremors in certain parts of the fanbase. Now I’m only reporting what I observed but there are definitely cracks starting to show and the connection between the manager and the fans is beginning to strain.
Listening to his post match interview, he sounds a beaten man however and that’s a worry. Whether there is no money to address the poor recruitment over the summer, whether he’s lost the dressing room with some of his comments to the media, without question this is the toughest period Gary has faced in his tenure as Torquay United manager.
His team he has put together is failing to deliver and it’s going to take a lot of work to turn us around. The good news, there is plenty of time to recover from our poor start and we mustn’t lose focus on that. The season is a marathon, not a sprint. There is still a long time to go and lots of football still to be played.
All I can say is keep it Yellow & keep supporting the lads. This is Torquay United and we never do things the easy way.