TT TALKING POINTS
Matty Hayward – @Matty Hayward96
Matty dissects the talking points from Altrincham 1-2 Torquay United
My main talking points from my trip to Altrincham were its combined railway station/bus station/tram stop “hub”, the fact that the walk between said station and the ground was about fifteen minutes and that there were pubs at each end of that walk. If Carlsberg designed away day towns… Unfortunately, the remit for the talking points blog requires at least some focus on the football, and slightly less on town layout and boozing logistics, so I’ll save those thoughts for my weekly slot on TransportTalk.
Lies, Damned Lies, and what Gary Johnson says about his squad’s availability
In the build up to the weekend, Gary Johnson told Devon Live that he had a fully fit squad to choose from for the upcoming fixture, for the first time this season. Now, that may have been true. It may have been the case that in mid-week Tom Lapslie, Joe Lewis and Dean Moxey were all available for selection and that something interrupted their planning in the intervening days. My suspicion, however, is that this was some filthy, admirable, high-level bastardry from our gaffer. If he had revealed in the local newspaper that his two first-choice centre backs would be unavailable, and by extension that he’d be forced to fashion a centre back pairing out of a right back and a shipping container, it would’ve given Alty both a morale boost and a tactical focus. As a result of Gary’s deceit, I doubt our opponents had planned to face Ali Omar, otherwise they’d have spent less time pissing about with the ball at the back and more time getting the ball somewhere near Ali Omar and just waiting for the balls up. Never doubt that man’s commitment to shithousing points in this league.
We do need to talk properly about Ali. Obviously, like every other Torquay fan, when I saw his name on the team-sheet I started to consider the implications of not bothering with the football and staying in the pub all afternoon. But he deserves a considerable amount of credit for his performance on Saturday. He kicked the ball, he headed the ball, he blocked the ball, and he made no obvious errors. For that he deserves enormous credit. He’s bright enough to know that Johnson has lost whatever faith he once had in him, and that his deployment at Alty was an emergency measure, and that is bound to knock the confidence. To come through that, and to put in an almost faultless display (if, obviously, with the grace of a reversing dump truck), is testament to his mindset and his emerging talent. I hope that he and the manager can take heart from that, and know that if he is required on Tuesday (I don’t think anyone is sure!), that he can do a similar job. There’s nobody at the club who doesn’t want to believe that this is the start of a great redemption arc that concludes with a winning penalty at Wembley.
The Duke of Torq
We’ve signed another player on loan from QPR! And he’s good! And yes, alright, his new gull profile will be ready soon!!
Stephen Duke-Mckenna made his debut in yellow (cyan) on Saturday and, can I shock you, I think we might have signed the best footballer in the world. Billed as a winger, the Guyana international played most of his football in a midfield two with Asa at Alty, and did so with assuredness and technique that we’ve not seen in that position since Adam Randell. Two moments stood out for me, and reassert my belief that he’s the second coming. Firstly, he pounced on a loose ball in the middle of the park and did not one, but two, “roulettes” (sorry to use a FIFA term, Google it if you don’t know Grandads) to beat a pair of Alty midfielders, before unleashing a wicked strike whose swerve and swazz had goalkeeper Tony Thompson floundering. Then, the hosts had a set piece which fell to SDM on the edge of his own box. He took one look up, and, where most would have struck their foot through the ball and hoped for the best, the loanee unfurled a delicious long pass to Stephen Wearne, beginning a dangerous looking counter-attack. My vocabulary is insufficient to describe how beautiful the pass was, but please just take my word for it. This lad is a good footballer.
Six of the Best
While all the pre-match talk was on the shakiness of the make-shift back four, worth mentioning is the aptitude of our front six. A midfield two of Hall and SDM, sitting behind a wide Stephen Wearne, and advanced Armani Little, and a tucked in Lemonheigh-Evans, all spearheaded by blonde-again Danny Wright, is probably the best line-up we’ve had all season in those forward areas. There was consternation and concern that we had too many midfielders at the club, but when all of your midfielders are either unproven (Johnson, Felix), injury prone (Little, Lapslie, Lemon, Moore), or a million years old (Hall), signing a couple of young good ones in Wearne and The Duke can only be a positive. Not only does it provide us with adequate cover, it means we can put out a side like we did on Saturday, that will be too technically good for most in the division. Those six basically rotated in roles all afternoon, CLE was nominally on the right wing but not really, Armani was nominally in the number 10 role but floated everywhere, SDM was nominally playing at the base of midfield but spent much of his time driving forward. If we can keep all of them fit, and reinforce our back four, that’s a seriously good side.
Banana Skins and Lemon Peels
Oh, Connor. Aside from his very well-taken goal, the number seven had a bit of a stinker at Alty if truth be told. A couple of misplaced passes on exciting-looking counter-attacks pale into insignificance compared to the absolute disasterclass he exhibited 8 yards from goal. You’ll have heard about it by now, you may even have seen a replay, but that miss will go down as one of the worst of all time. I, your mum, Simon Heslop at Cheltenham, would all have hit the target ninety-nine times out of a hundred. Someone of Lemonheigh-Evans’ ability puts them away in his sleep. Luckily for United, and for Connor’s physical and psychological well-being, it didn’t affect the result and we can have a laugh about it. If we miss out on the play-offs on goal difference, though, I suspect he’ll need witness protection.
COYY – Matty
“”We weren’t close enough as a unit, and at half-time we said ‘Lads – if you wouldn’t mind, please pick up your men a bit closer and we’ll start nicking the ball better than we did in the first half” – GARY JOHNSON
TT MATCH VERDICT – ALTRINCHAM 1-2 TUFC, 22ND JAN 2022
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