TT TALKING POINTS
Rachel Malloch – @RachelVillavox
With the national weather forecast dominating the early Saturday morning news, news of snow as far south as Gloucester, a clear, chilly day with a blue sky enveloping Paignton put paid to any fear of postponement and with a final check of extra gloves, scarfs and season tickets, final texts to the Bristow’s gang and destination Plainmoor, with inevitable conversations about 2 defeats on our travels and a ‘must win’ game against a resurgent Halifax and of former nippy striker Billy Waters. The Twitter rumour mill was buzzing with a return to the squad for Asa Hall and muted murmurings of a loan midfielder all adding to the chatter.
On arrival at the ground, the easterly winds had made way for a drop in temperature and a chilly TQ1 especially up on our lofty Bristow’s perch. The match day teams were announced and Asa was indeed in the starting XI along with the back 4 of Wynter, Moxey, Perritt and Lewis with Mac in goal. No sign of any loan signings and another notable absence of young wing/midfielder Gabby Rogers who it is safe to say Gary Johnson just “doesn’t fancy”. There has been a mixed range of opinion on the young lad from Tiverton, my own view is he’s got some trickery to his game that harnessed and coached well could prove to be a decent addition to the squad. But there is the question of ‘coaching’ the lad and right now, a team that across the pitch look short of confidence and in some, fitness, and with no news on his development, and a focus on shoring up the defence before anything else, maybe he’ll soon be back at Tiverton to join other youth team ex pats Olaf Koszela and Alex Moyse.
It was the club’s initiative #HerGameToo and as proud poster girls for the Torquay United site and the matchday programme, it was a lovely sight to see the Wollens End terraces once again busy with supporters and a source of amusement that the club photographer had earlier taken a picture of 2 female supporters who sit just in front of us and with the height if not the age comparison, these could well have been the poster girls unmasked!
The game started brightly, the first 10 minutes or so suggesting that we might just be up for this game, this soon disintegrated into sloppiness, poor marking, lack of any real shape or movement, some crucial saves from Mac, clearances from Ben Wynter and a careless, oft out of position Harry Perritt. Dean Moxey too looked like he would rather be anywhere than a freezing cold Plainmoor football pitch and with Joe Lewis the only recognisable defender on the park, it was all becoming predictably pedestrian right up the goal you sensed was coming.
Heads dropped, more sloppy play, a distinct lack of movement, Armani Little desperately trying to make things happen, Tom Lapslie looking like a pre-season Trialist that on any other day, in any other side would have been hauled up but such is the paucity of real quality in this squad of players, the subs bench resembled the oak door Rose so fiercely clung onto in the fictional love story running through Titanic. Not that there’s an allegory to be read into per se, but we are sinking perilously close to the relegation iceberg.
There’s nothing really here that hasn’t been said before over the observations of this season; we are a team lacking any width or pace, short of players who can make things happen, change the course of a game with a moments trickery or fleet of foot, a squad crying out for an entertainer, aside from Shaun MacDonald we are lacking leadership, a strong will in the team to encourage and drive the lads on.
We are reckless, positionally naive, slow to react, ageing players who are taking longer to recover from injury, or matchdays. We have the usually reliable players who have hit dreadful poor form, there’s none of the pass and go, the chasing down every ball, the energy or the zest that we have associated with Gary Johnson teams over these past 3 or so seasons.
Yes, Halifax look a good side but the room and space they were afforded for all 3 goals and the lack of defensive protection that left MacDonald exposed time and time again that, but for his shot stopping, could have seen a much higher goals count. Yes he spilled a couple but when your defence in front of you fails to clear, or close down, well, thank the good lord of custodians for Shaun MacDonald, because without him, with this porous clod hopper defence, it could be a lot, lot worse.
The 2 late, late ‘Gary Time’ goals were merely an interlude and if Keelan O’Connell’s last gasp chance had found the top corner instead of the Family Stand clock then we’d have been shaking our heads in relieved disbelief. But it didn’t, we lost, were soundly beaten and we travel along the coast to Weymouth next Saturday to a team who after a promising start are fellow strugglers in this National League.
Gary Johnson is a man who has stated throughout his tenure at Torquay United that football is all about entertainment. He imbues in his teams a philosophy of crisp, passing football, of excitement, attacking front foot style and of being crowd pleasers. Right now, that philosophy has desperately lost its way and you feel in order to rejuvenate this season, not only are we in need of new players but the coaching personnel could do with some fresh ideas and motivation too.
Gary needs a helping hand and we can but hope there are plans in the pipeline to inject some enthusiasm and confidence into this squad of players with the introduction of vigour on the training pitch and in the loans market. In a word, its all gone rather stale. Something needs to change as we head into the seasonal fixtures and with every game comes tougher challenges. January might be the month to introduce new faces to the squad but right now, that seems an awful long way off. Up the Gulls.
COYY – Rachel