TT TALKING POINTS
Matty Hayward – @MattyHayward96
Football is good, sometimes, isn’t it? Almost 4,000 fans – many of them bloated, hungover, emotionally exhausted from the festivities – made their way to Plainmoor and were treated to a combative, feisty affair. It was my first home game since August: the competitive match combined with the raucous atmosphere was pretty much everything I could’ve asked for.
TT Turning Points
Though United probably had the share of the good play in the first half, and certainly won the majority of the midfield battles, neither side created anything of note until the turning point on the hour mark. Tom Lapslie, not for the first time in the match, got into a tussle with a Yeovil player. Sonny Blu Lo-Everton – a man whose name is too absurd to take the piss out of – retaliated by flicking out a leg (as shown below). Our number four milked the contact for all it was worth and the referee, following a confab with his assistant, sent the Watford loanee packing. It was incredibly soft, there was absolutely no reason for Lapslie to hit the floor, even less reason for him to roll around, and it represented everything that’s wrong with the modern game… is what I’d say if it happened against Torquay. That sort of frippery, tomfoolery, bastardry is absolutely what I want from my midfielder.
The reason I want that is because, and I don’t think this is too much of a stretch to say, it near enough won us the game. For the next fifteen minutes, we dominated, scored twice and put Town to the sword. I was also impressed with our levels of professionalism. The game was scrappy – in the sense that there were scraps, not that it was bitty – throughout, but United never really bubbled over and nobody in black and white picked up a booking. Some former Gulls would’ve lost their heads and got themselves sent off in that scenario, but the current lot were mature enough to control their aggression, and that was key in the victory. To have any chance in this league you need to be horrible shithouses and professional enough to see games like that out; yesterday, for the first time this season, we showed both qualities.
Jack Sparkes is really really good. This time, he lined up on the left of a midfield 4 (with an impressive and fit-looking Lemon and Wright duo ahead) and his combinations with Dan Martin proved dangerous all game. A robust recovering challenge in front of the Popside set the tone for the afternoon, and the City youngster’s tenacity persisted throughout. He’s very clearly too good for this league. He has plenty of quality but, much more than that, his attitude, versatility and composure make him a seriously good signing for as long as Exeter want to let us have him. If we look at him as a direct replacement for Jake Andrews, and this is with all due respect to Jake Andrews, we have to consider that a superb bit of business.
Get us on side!
More than anything, I think yesterday goes to show how well Torquay fans respond to a proper performance from their team. There’s been a bit of daftness at times this season, and we’ve probably all been guilty of overreaction and over-criticism in the stands occasionally, but Boxing Day’s clash proved that when our side get stuck in, look up for the fight, and play some decent football, the crowd can create a proper atmosphere. In turn, you’d hope, that positive support breeds better performances, and the cycle should continue. Of course it’s also our job to lift players up from slumps, but that job is made a lot easier when those on the pitch show the fight and guile that they did yesterday.
I’d like to give a shoutout, also, to whomsoever has appointed themselves as official songwriter in the Yellow Army. Three years ago, almost to the day, I first heard Reidy is a Shagger in the queue to get into Dulwich Hamlet. This was a ditty that caught alight and captured the essence of the joyous National League South season and a year or two beyond that. Neither the Lolos/Armani Little song, nor the (brilliant) Chiori/Gary number, nor the (excellent) Lapslie one, nor the CLE one*, reach that incredibly high high-water mark, but I’m thrilled to see that the creative process is in safe hands and a new generation of chants are being birthed and are catching on. I’m also an enormous fan of “if you’re not bouncing you’re a Grecian,” and want to jump around to it in every non-league shithole we visit this season. I should add the caveat that there were rumours of some very unsavoury singing from the Popside. I heard nothing, but obviously this section is in no way condoning that alleged grim behaviour.
*(If you don’t know the words to these ones, listen out at Eastleigh and Yeovil, you’ll pick them all up soon enough).
Where do we stand?
Literal answer: in the pissing rain behind the goal under no roof at Yeovil in a week’s time.
The actual answer is trickier. We’re probably still going to have a very average, boring season and finish mid-table. It really is important not to get carried away. I’m excited by yesterday’s showing, and by the three-game winning streak we’re on, but we’ve also recently lost to two sides in the league below us, and we’re a long way off the team we were last season. For now, we just need to keep plugging away, trying to turn this streak into a run, and see where we end up. It is possible to be awful for 80% of the season and still get into the playoffs, but it’s also possible to finish miles off them.
The important part is this. If 2021/22 is to be a boring, mid-table season, then afternoons like yesterday are what we’ll cling onto and remember. When game’s results become inconsequential due to league position, performances and experiences become far more important. They really are what football is about: bouncy atmospheres, intensity, wanker signs and full backs, renditions of Goodbye Horse. My first home game since August, and it felt like I’d never been away.
COYY – Matty