TT MATCH VERDICT
Lee Cloke – @LeeCloke
TONBRIDGE ANGELS 2-1 TORQUAY UNITED
A not-so-merry start to the Christmas period for the Gulls in West Kent as Gary Johnson’s side fell to a 2-1 defeat to National League South side, Tonbridge Angels.This was a weird one for me. A Torquay United supporter of 32 years but exiled to West Kent, I regularly find myself down at Longmead watching Tonbridge when I can’t get to Gulls matches. The fact that so many had made the trip from Devon made me feel a bit of a fony in all honesty. Massive respect to all those that made the trip – I’ve done that trip myself on countless occasions and it’s not a quick or exciting one!The ground was unsegregated, as it usually is at Tonbridge unless local rivals Maidstone are in town. It was difficult to tell with the Yellow Army dotted around the ground but it looked as though around 150-200 made the trip east.Gary fielded a strong side which wouldn’t look too out of place against a strong National League side, let alone a part-time National League South one.Torquay’s hosts looked up for it from the off. As we all know from our time there, NLS teams often go for the belt and braces approach – Tonbridge had a mixture of this alongside a good passing game, but above all else they had two things Torquay didn’t seem to have: desire and fight.A ninth minute header from Joe Turner saw Torquay go behind after a fairly promising start. Not to point fingers, but from a distance poor positioning from Halstead looked like it was partly to blame for the opener. The goal appeared to give Tonbridge the bit between their teeth and saw them nearly catch the yellows on the break a few times moving forward.The Angels frustrated the frontline for a while, with the back three of Miles, Hudson and Jenkins giving the heavyweight duo of Wright and Armstrong a run for their money up top, all until Danny Wright poked home the equaliser from inside the box in the 36th minute.The first half provided a (mostly) entertaining spectacle with play back and forth and the Kentish side providing the Devonian with more of a battle than some may have expected.
An A Capella version of Rick Astley’s ‘Angels On My Side’ rang around the ground at half time, which was quite frankly a bit eery. Things picked up a bit afterwards though with the obligatory Christmas songs being blared out.The lads seemed to come out considerably earlier than their hosts for the second half, which indicated the strong likelihood of a Gary Johnson rollicking during the break.The Gulls seemed to come out with a bang and tested Jonathan Henly in the Angels goal with a few long-range efforts but to no avail. Tonbridge still appeared to have the fight in them after conceding before half time and continued to match Torquay in all areas.A further bout of Torquay pressure amounted to little other than a penalty/edge of the box free kick shout after what seemed like foul play on Sinclair Armstrong. The yellows seemed to be running out of ideas which the blues appeared to pick up on and continued to frustrate them with.Not to sound a pessimist but this second half appeared oh so familiar. Torquay being outplayed, outwitted and outfought by a team from a lower division in a cup game. Yes, it’s the FA Trophy and the league is a priority this season, but Torquay simply weren’t good enough in the second 45 minutes.Things would only get worse when Tonbridge’s Ibrahim Olutade netted in the 87th minute after Halstead had dropped a cross, giving the Gulls a taste of their own ‘Gary Time’ medicine. Torquay weren’t able to come back from the eventual winner and found themselves being infuriated by Tonbridge’s ability to hold the ball up and prevent any real opportunities to equalise.Overall, a disappointing and, to some extent, slightly embarrassing afternoon in Kent with Tonbridge (in my opinion) fully deserving of the victory.We’re out of the trophy now, which may not be such a bad thing given our current league position. With the side put out I would’ve expected us to win this one with fitness playing a big part, however I was wrong, as I usually am when it comes to predicting the outcome of Torquay United matches!
Mark Halstead 4 – Pretty poor again from Halstead. Unfortunately, proving a point to all the doubters that he doesn’t really have what it takes be the number 1 choice between the sticks. Reiterated the importance of having Mac back at the club today.Ben Wynter 6 – Wynts did his job as per usual but nothing spectacular from him today.Joe Lewis 6 – Like Wynts, did his job and got us going up the pitch on a few occasions.Dean Moxey 6 – Showed his usual class but was given a tough game by the Tonbridge frontline.Dan Martin 7 – I thought Dan was good today and showed some grit on the left-hand side.Tom Lapslie 7 – As per usual, full of grit and determination. The perfect game for him up against some rough and ready part-timers. Not enough to get us through though, sadly.Armani Little 6 – Anonymous at times, but most were to be honest. Some good through balls and willingness in the middle. Unlucky with a curling free-kick going just wide.Klaidi Lolos 5 – Muscled off the ball a lot today. Seemed to play as an attacking midfielder. Just wasn’t his day.Jack Sparkes 7 – First time seeing Jack play today. Glimpses of quality – can definitely see he’s a League 2 player.Sinclair Armstrong 6 – Showed his strength up top outmuscling the Angels defence. Just wasn’t to be today.Danny Wright 6 – Lovely to see Danny back on the scoresheet, though apart from that he had a frustrating afternoon.Subs:Dan Holman 5 – Replaced Wright in the 76th minute. Fairly anonymous and hardly got a look-in.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Dan Martin
A difficult one to pick after a disappointing result but my MOTM would have to be Dan Martin today. He put in a decent shift in an overall poor showing. Starting to look like somewhere near the player we were promised now – wouldn’t be surprised to see him overtaking Mox for the left back spot as the season goes on and he begins to tire.
A couple of harsh decisions denied the Gulls of a few potentially dangerous dead ball situations, however nothing you wouldn’t expect at this level, unfortunately. All in all a reasonable performance from the referee and his linesmen.
I know the opposition well and can safely say that was one of their best performances of the season. A side that often flops in cup ties stepped their game up today for Torquay’s visit. Joe Turner was their standout player who ran rings around our defenders at times and wouldn’t be surprised if he caught GJ’s eye a little bit. Great defensive display from the back five with an impressive debut from no.7 Luke Jenkins who joined late in the week on a one-month loan from AFC Wimbledon.
COYY – Lee
HAPPY XMAS FROM ALL AT TORQUAYTALK!