Joseph Pope

Joseph Pope – @OffTheLineBlog



There were two changes to the Torquay United side that lined up against Stockport County in the last National League outing. Sinclair Armstrong was unavailable for The Gulls in what was an unexpected absence, and missed out on the squad, with Danny Wright his replacement. Asa Hall dropped to the bench, with Connor Lemonheigh-Evans coming into the side as part of the 3-man midfield. There were three changes on the bench, too, with Mark Halstead missing out after his display against Tonbridge Angels, as Gary Johnson decided against including a goalkeeper as part of the 5-man bench. Also, out went new signing Joe Felix and Accrington Stanley loanee Harry Perritt, with Ali Omar and Chiori Johnson coming onto the bench in their place.

The Gulls started the game brightly, with the United midfield really stamping their authority on the contest. A tackle from Tom Lapslie on Yeovil opponent Dale Gorman set the tone for what would be a lively afternoon. The first real chance of the afternoon came midway through the first-half, with Millwall loanee Dan Moss pulling down Jack Sparkes, which gave the returning Conor Lemonheigh-Evans the chance to swing the ball in. It was headed out by a Yeovil man, only to the feet of Ben Wynter and the full-back sent in a teasing ball into the middle to Danny Wright, who did well to steer a header just over the bar which was the first sight of goal from either side.

The Glovers had their first chance soon after, A long ball forward found Adi Yussuf and the former Blackpool man did well to head the ball into the path of the advancing Charlie Wakefield. He swivelled and unleashed a rasping low effort past the far post of Shaun MacDonald, with the scoreline remaining goalless.

The hosts dominated the remaining minutes in the first-half, but the theme was a lack of end product and that final bit of quality in front of goal, with a number of chances going begging. A fine bit of work on the edge of the area saw Lemonheigh-Evans angle the ball into the feet of Lolos, but his cutback to Lapslie on the edge of the area was overhit. Lemonheigh-Evans was again involved as another chance went and gone, with the former Welsh youth international twisting and turning before dragging a shot just wide of Grant Smith’s posts.

Yeovil Town’s best – and indeed the most clear-cut opportunity of the first-half came with a ball being fed in behind Ben Wynter into the path of Matty Worthington. The midfielder steadied himself before delivering a curling cross into Adi Yussuf, and the forward managed to work a yard of space in the penalty area and flashed a header just wide of the far upright.

The final flurry of the first-half came the way of United. A long, searching ball over the top into the path of Danny Wright was neatly taken down and Town defender Luke Wilkinson had to be at his best to put it behind for a corner. From the resulting corner, it was worked to the edge of the area and with Armani Little going down, the midfielder stepped up and attempted to curl one past the Town wall. Such was the height of the wall, Little could not quite squeeze it past and it was headed out for a throw by Max Hunt. The throw was launched into the middle for Joe Lewis, and he headed just over.

Half Time and the score was 0-0.

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The start of the second-half was short of chances and talking points, with the visitors perhaps having the best of the openings as a quickly taken free kick by Gorman was stopped at source by the home side. From the resulting corner, the ball was angled towards Morgan Williams at the back post and the former Coventry City man headed it back towards the penalty spot for Wilkinson, but he could not keep his effort down as it went over the top.

The first real talking point of the afternoon came just after the hour, with Sonny Blu Lo-Everton receiving his marching orders. The Watford loanee seemed to raise a leg – described as “petulant” by his boss afterwards – to midfielder Tom Lapslie, and the United man went to ground. After consultation with his linesman, Lo-Everton receiving a red card, and the visitors were down to ten.

The home side managed to take advantage of that as they got their noses in front, with the ball being sent into the middle invitingly and it met the head of Ben Wynter, who did well to steer the ball into the far corner of the net past Grant Smith to make it 1-0.

And, that very much set the tone for the remainder of the second-half, as the visitors struggled with a man light and failed to create going forward. It got worse soon after for Sarll’s side, with Exeter City loanee Jack Sparkes trying his luck from distance and he saw it deflect in off a Yeovil Town man and into the bottom left-hand corner. That was enough for it to beat Smith in the Town goal as the goalkeeper dived to his left and was wrong-footed.

The away side did have a couple of chances to restore some pride in the proceedings and give themselves a glimmer of hope. The first was by way of a mistimed, sliced pass from Gulls stopper Shaun MacDonald, whose pass out went straight to the feet of Town forward Charlie Wakefield, but he could not force it past MacDonald as he raced towards the goal and Joe Lewis did well to come back and apply some pressure. They went close again soon after, again by way of an uncharacteristic MacDonald error, with the goalkeeper palming a corner straight into the path of Morgan Williams unmarked in the area, but he could not fire home as he saw his effort clip the bar.

The Gulls looked to add a third and went close on two occasions, with a cross from Dean Moxey nearly meeting the head of Danny Wright while a long ball forward from Wynter into the path of substitute Chiori Johnson was blocked a well-timed intervention from Max Hunt, but their efforts were eventually rewarded with a third soon after. A free-kick was taken quickly and curled into the box for Joe Lewis, and the defender headed past Grant Smith with an unmarked header to make it 3-0 and wrap up proceedings.

Gary Johnson’s side did have the chance to add further shine to it with two further efforts late on, the first coming in the shape of a counter attack by the lively Johnson, who squared the ball across into the path of Lemonheigh-Evans and he could not quite sort out his feet as Smith collected. The second of these fell to Danny Wright, with the big forward timing his run in behind the Town defence well but could only angle a low shot into the side netting. But, that was enough for the home side to run out convincing winners, with a bad afternoon being made even worse for the away side as the referee produced the second red card of the afternoon following the full-time whistle, brandished in the direction of Grant Smith for dissent.

Full Time and the Gulls had won 3-0.


Shaun MacDonald – 6: A relatively quiet afternoon for the stopper by way of Yeovil Town’s poor attacking display, but his sliced pass outwards gave Charlie Wakefield a golden opportunity to get them back into the game against the run of play and the parried corner fell straight to Morgan Williams to do similar.

Ben Wynter – 9: Declared as the sponsors Man of the Match, Wynter was superb throughout, in particular in keeping a Sonny Blu Lo-Everton that has been in good form of late quiet for the during he was on the pitch. Strong and decisive in his decision-making passing forward, and capped it with a goal too.

Joe Lewis – 10: See below.

Dean Moxey – 9: Darren Sarll would have undoubtedly been saying to his attacking players in the run up to this game – principally trio Lo-Everton, Wakefield and Knowles – to spin onto Moxey and use their pace to exploit Dean’s lack thereof, but the experienced defender showed exactly; experience and class. No one got past him all afternoon, and he got forward and delivered some good balls in too.

Dan Martin – 9: What a resurgence this man has been on of late! The former Cardiff City youngster was most probably on his way out of the door as Gary Johnson gave his “ultimatum” to the squad earlier in the season, but he has been unplayable of late, and this was another example of that. Strong in an attacking and particularly a defensive sense, he bossed the left-hand side and his attacking threat did not wane despite playing on the left of a back-4 rather than a five against County.

Armani Little – 9: Superb. Given the armband for this one, with Asa Hall dropped to the bench, and the midfielder continued his fine individual season with a captain’s performance. Strong and robust in the challenge, brave on the ball, kept possession well and particularly used it well, and was covering every blade of grass on that Plainmoor pitch. A super display, and only missing a goal.

Tom Lapslie – 10: See below.

Connor Lemonheigh-Evans – 7: What a midfield we have on our hands! This was a little step closer to the Lemonheigh-Evans of old from last season, and he caused Town problems with his trickery and intricate play between the lines. Personally, I felt that out of the three midfielders he was the least effective in a general sense – hence reflected in the score – but he still gave Town real trouble with his quality on the ball, and if he has been a bit braver to get to Johnson’s low cross then he may have got a goal for his efforts.

Klaidi Lolos – 6: Johnson called us the “nearly men” in wake of our defeat to Tonbridge Angels, and in Lolos we have the very definition of that. Granted, the work he gets through is commendable and he is a hugely integral part of the team, and for that he continues to be included despite his lack of end product, but his passing was poor and wasteful; he gave away 4 passes in the space of 60 seconds, doing the exact same thing: trying to thread it through the eye of a needle! Keep it simple, Klaidi! Effort and work rate – very good. Being an out-and-out striker – still work to do!

Danny Wright – 7: A typical Danny Wright display. I don’t think that he was particularly dangerous in terms of getting on the scoresheet, but in terms of occupying two brutes in Max Hunt and Luke Wilkinson and doing all the “bitty” stuff like winning corners, free kicks, throws etc, then it was exactly what you expect from the ageing forward. He perhaps should have got on the scoresheet with a chance near the end.

Jack Sparkes – 8: Well, who’d have guessed! A strong academy up the road helping out their non-league locals, at long last! What a find Sparkes has been, and he was absolutely everywhere. For someone so good, he was somehow rather quiet and unassuming about the way he conducted himself, and I felt he just did all of the requisites to the absolute letter. Aggression, work rate, power and purpose – all outstanding. An absolute thunderous effort that deflected in on his behalf, and it was another fine display from the Grecian, and someone we will no doubt lose in a week’s time.


Ali Omar – N/A: The former Tyke was on the pitch for too short a time to warrant a rating, but that just sums it up as to how convincing we were when we get the luxury of being able to bring Ali on.

Keelan O’Connell – N/A: Likewise with Omar, he wasn’t on the pitch for long enough and certainly didn’t do enough during the time he was to get a rating.

Chiori Johnson – 6: For someone that wasn’t on for a great deal of time, I was contemplating giving him a 7, which would perhaps be a little harsh on those that did so well for the lions share of the game to win this. However, in the time he was on, Johnson was more threatening going forward, played with greater purpose and caused The Glovers more problems than Lolos did throughout. An impressive cameo from the former Welling man.

Don’t agree with Joseph’s ratings? Rate the players yourself here!


MAN OF THE MATCH – Joe Lewis and Tom Lapslie

I am going for two players on this occasion, as I cannot decide between either of them.

Joe Lewis once again gets a vote after another brave display at the heart of the United defence. What a player this man is becoming! Adi Yussuf is by no means an easy opponent to play against, but my god did he have his work cut out today – Yussuf, that is! For someone that is perhaps not the biggest of centre-halves, he won absolutely everything in the air, and even when he couldn’t win it got his body in the right position to cut it out and ensure that Yeovil Town could not put anything of substance together. Any ball that came into the Torquay box, it usually followed with Lewis’ head attached to it – it was like a magnet! Has he surpassed the level of *ahem* Mr Cameron? – well, if he hasn’t, he is getting mightily close.

Tom Lapslie, meanwhile, well – what a performance! Do I even dare dub him the “National League Kante”? Well, I’m going to. He was absolutely everywhere. Gorman gets the ball, Lapslie was on him! Staunton turned, Lapslie was there. Wakefield or Lo-Everton cut inside and he was there like a terrier snapping at their heels. For someone that in the early part of the season looked like he was pulling an anchor when he ran, he bounded about the Plainmoor turf with real poise. I thought that he was going to have a tough afternoon having to marshal a 3-man midfield in absence of Asa Hall, but he did it superbly. Strong, robust and determined, he set the tempo with a crunching tackle on Dale Gorman early on. “Man” of the Match in the sense of winning us the contest perhaps in doing his best Tom Daley – tongue in cheek – to see Lo-Everton depart, but even if he did go down lightly then it shouldn’t detract from what I thought was a faultless display.

A word for the men and women of the match, too, in the form of the superb Yellow Army! What. An. Atmosphere.


A slight tweak from the 3-5-2 used against Stockport County.

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To match up Yeovil Town, United switched to a 4-3-3 formation, with Martin and Wynter the full-backs and Sparkes reverting to his more natural left-side on the left of a front three.


Well – that is the big question, isn’t it?

Give him his due, Darren Sarll said that referee Scott Jackson made the right calls. Sarll said that Lo-Everton deserved to go merely for the petulance and childish nature to even give Jackson and co. even a sniff of a decision to make, and said that if Smith had indeed been sent off for dissent, then it was inexcusable.

Was the sending off of Lo-Everton harsh? Slightly, but he shouldn’t have even lifted his leg and given Jackson a chance to send him off.

On the whole, I thought that the officials marshalled a feisty and tough-tackling affair really well, and managed to keep proceedings fairly well-tempered even despite the aggression of both sets of players. He made sure that he was not suckered into the trap of sending off a Torquay United player merely because he sent off a Yeovil Town player, and he allowed an attritional game to flow as well as possible.


Given that I live away in Somerset now, I have seen Yeovil Town at closer quarters, and by no means was that Glovers side that turned up at Plainmoor representative of the Town side that have – in truth – impressed this term. There were snippets of their play that you could see was their trademark, tried-and-trusted formula under Sarll. I thought that Max Hunt and Luke Wilkinson both actually had a good game in terms of doing the basics – as eluded to by Sarll afterwards – in being strong aerially and in the tackle, and doing what you would want to see your central defenders do. I was also impressed by Josh Staunton, who showed his defensive instincts owing to his days at full-back in the Addicks youth set-up in keeping a solid base to the Town midfield.

On the flip side, usual architects Knowles, Wakefield and Lo-Everton failed to effect the game in their respective cameos, and for a side that otherwise lack that outlet going forward, that saw them come a cropper against an organised and strong Torquay United defence. There were shades of the old Yeovil Town side who you’d put your house on having a man sent off each week, and Darren Sarll indeed had no complaints with the sending-offs, both the petulance of Lo-Everton and the “unforgivable” dissent of Smith. Lessons to be learnt and a humbling of sorts that will ease their optimism of late, and most certainly something for them to make up for in the return leg, where I expect we will see a much closer representation of The Glovers than what we did yesterday.  

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