TT MATCH VERDICT
Danny Burnell – @dannyburnell92
BARNET FC 2-1 TORQUAY UNITED
A disappointing day for the Gulls as they succumbed to their first league defeat since Bromley in early October.
Gary made one change to the team that beat Dover last weekend, as Armstrong returned from international duty to replace Holman, who dropped to the bench. Dan Martin took his place in the 16 at the expense of Gabby Rogers.
United started the match slowly, very slowly, and looked every bit of a side who arrived just 45 minutes prior to kick-off. Long delays on the M4 scuppered the Gulls pre-match preparation, and made for a less than perfect start to the afternoon. It took just 2 minutes for Barnet to muster their first chance, as a header from a free kick was comfortably saved by MacDonald. Unfortunately for the Gulls, that would set the tone for the majority of the half, as time and time again Barnet failed to make their chances count. On the rare occasion Torquay did get the ball down, they showed glimpses of their quality. Little slid a ball through to Armstrong, but alas the weight of the pass was just too much for the on-rushing Irishman to latch onto.
The home side played to their strengths, in particular down the flanks, as left back Sam Beard and winger Mason-Clarke caused problems all day for the Gulls. And it was the latter who nearly scored the goal of the season as he controlled superbly to beat Moxey, cut inside then out, only to be denied by the Torquay stopper who, not for the first time, was called into action with a fine save. Torquay found it difficult to control the ball & possession, particularly in the final third, and were regularly second in the battle.
Barnet meanwhile, sensed blood. It was all hands to the pump defensively for the Gulls as a succession of corners were cleared. Good ol’ fashioned pinball in the box fell in the favour of the visitors not once, but twice. The Gulls net was leading a charmed life. However, it was on 35 minutes when United did have the ball in the back of the net, only for it to be chalked offside. A cross from the right was acrobatically converted by Armstrong to send the Yellow army into raptures. However, that joy was short-lived.
There was a sense of inevitably when Barnet did get their goal 3 minutes before half time. Poor marking from a corner allowed striker Adam Marriott to nip in at the near post to head his side in front. United went down the tunnel a goal down, and with work to do.
GJ wasted no time in changing things, as O’Connell & Perritt were replaced by Holman & Omar at the break. Torquay kept their shape, with Holman occupying the wing, with Ali slotting in at the back for the head-stricken Perritt. Torquay came out like a side wanting to win. A much faster tempo and quicker decision-making allowed the Yellow Army to believe points were to be had. Armani, showed his grit and desire with driving runs and telling passes, but for now, to no avail.
A penalty appeal was waved away by referee Sunny Gil, as Holman looked to have been brought down inside the box. United’s tails were up. Torquay found space aplenty and it was just before the hour mark when Little carried the ball deep into the Barnet half before being brought down. Up he got, and up he stepped. A glorious free-kick from all of 30 yards out nestled into the top left corner much to the delight of the travelling Yellow contingent. A beauty from United’s top scorer who made it 8 for the season.
Torquay were going from strength to strength and now there was only looking like one winner. Armstrong came close, but saw his shot deflect wide. Then came the sucker punch of all sucker punches. With Torquay firmly in control and on top, and with the the fantastic travelling Yellows in fine voice, Torquay fell asleep.
A long Moxey throw came out to the edge of the box, before Torquay were dis-possessed. Barnet pounced, and broke in numbers. With Bloomfield bearing down on goal, Omar went to ground, and in fairness, probably felt he needed to make the challenge. Penalty awarded. Up stepped Mason-Clarke to give the hosts a 2-1 lead with little over 20 minutes to play.
The Devon side huffed and puffed in the final stages, but failed to create many clear-cut chances. Lewis saw his header tipped over the bar, and Armstrong had a similar chance at the death, but it was not to be for the Gulls in North London. No ‘Gary time’ this week. 0 points and our poor away form continues.
Shaun MacDonald – 7 – Made some decent saves at critical points in the match. He couldn’t do anything about the goals, and gets an extra bonus point for the way he handled their time wasting antics in the closing minutes. Well, if the ref isn’t going to stamp down on it! Good old Shaun.
Ben Wynter – 6 – Standard Ben Wynter performance. Didn’t do much wrong, cut out some vital interceptions. Was unable to channel his inner-Dani Alves attacking intent this week however.
Harry Perritt – 5 – Taken off at HT presumably because of the injury sustained when they scored. Looks like he may have lost his man for that. Did OK, dallied on the ball a fair bit. Will have better games.
Joe Lewis – 6 – Doesn’t do much wrong Joe. Frustratingly the only real target from Moxey’s long throws in. Has a tendency to give free-kicks away in those situations. Still, did what he had to in the main.
Dean Moxey – 4 – Could be controversial this one, but felt Mox was regularly caught out of position, and faced a tough afternoon against a very tricky customer. An unusual off-day for the usually reliable left back.
Keelan O’Connell – 4 – Pulled at HT after an ineffective first half. Found himself in acres of space on regular occasions, but never utilised that advantage. The left-back had his card marked that first 45.
Tom Lapslie – 7 – Combative performance as ever from the terrier. Covered every blade of grass and made a fantastic last ditch challenge. Got the Yellow Army fired up when he put in a strong, but fair challenge in the first half.
Armani Little – 7 – MOTM, see below.
Byron Moore – 5 – Ineffective and looks out of position on the left. Regularly wants to cut in but not threatening enough. I’m sure he’ll come good.
Sinclair Armstrong – 5 – Will have better days. Didn’t look in the game for large parts, struggled. That overhead kick though….
Klaidi Lolos – 3 – Sorry to say but poor from Klaidi today. Couldn’t make anything stick, regularly dispossessed. Not at the races at all.
Dan Holman – 4 – Came on as a like for like O’Connell replacement. Will never be a winger, out of position and didn’t get into the game. Poor decision making in the final third.
Jake Andrews – 5 – Had the final 15/20 minutes or so. Won his trademark free-kick, only to deliver the ball half way down the Jubilee line. Did little else.
Ali Omar – 4 – Sadly not his best game. Conceded the penalty and in truth, never looked comfortable on the ball.
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MAN OF THE MATCH: Armani Little
Armani is awarded TT MOTM for the second week running. Thought his attitude and desire was spot on second half. His goal was superb once again and you get the sense that he is maybe starting to relish wearing that captains armband. Not just the goal though, some excellent through balls and switches of play, which, on another day would have led to goals. He’s not one for celebrating, eager to get on with it after he equalised, shows that winning mentality. Set pieces were on point today, can’t recall a bad corner.
Lapslie a very close second as MOTM. Very hard working performance, and does the ‘less-glamorous’ side of the game very well. Staying fit throughout the season will be his biggest challenge, but if he can, will be up there in the POTS votes come May. Eyebrows may have been raised when he came back, but Shaun Mac has relished the opportunity and made that #1 jersey undisputable. His passion is there for all to see. Lightning quick at retrieving balls too!
Just like last week against Dover, United opted for a 4-4-2. With the personnel selected, and the omission of key players such as Connor, Asa & Wright, seems the most logical formation. Was surprised to not see us go 4-3-3 when Holman was introduced.
Obviously much improved on last season’s dreadful campaign. Looked the better side for much of the first half, but feel Torquay may have contributed to that. Left back Beard was a good player, as was Mason-Clarke. Not much between the sides on the day, and on that performance, would likely see Barnet finish lower half of the table. Can’t see them pulling up any trees, but equally can’t see them going down. There will be worse teams we play.
Jekyll & Hyde performance from referee Sunny Gill today. Nothing of note in the first half, rightly waved away a Barnet penalty appeal. Poor second half, didn’t have control of the game, waved away what looked a Torquay penalty when Holman went down. Didn’t deal with Barnet’s quite blatant time-wasting antics. Cue the Mac. Can’t comment on the awarded penalty as too far away. Officials not the reason we lost however.
Tough one to take this. A strange game which in fairness probably deserved a point. The late arrival of the players didn’t help and I had a sense things would go downhill from there. The first half certainly backed up that theory. Lacklustre, caught in possession and weak on the ball. It was two relatively poor teams on show today, and on that display, each will be battling out in the 12th-16th category come the end of the season. We will play worse, and win (ala Dover), we will play better, and lose. That’s football and 6 months is a long time in football. One of these teams were a penalty kick away from the FL, and the other could have been playing in the NLS if it wasn’t for COVID. Now, we are very much on an even-keel. We move onto Aldershot.
Just a note on ‘The Hive’. Cracking ground at this level, one that wouldn’t look out of place in League One. A fantastic set up with state of the art facilities, something I’m sure Barnet are grateful for. Top ground.