TT MATCH VERDICT
Rachel Malloch – @RachelVillavox
TORQUAY UNITED 2-2 BARNET FC
While the UK was getting battered everywhere we go by storm Eunice, who had become the headline distraction to the current affairs following storm Dudley, Covid, Boris, ‘Prince’ Andrew, the Winter Olympics and which football games would stand up to the mighty high winds and who would succumb, the morning pitch inspection gave the green light to the Plainmoor pitch and a coach party to set sail from Barnet and the Yellow Army to wrap up and emerge from the debris of fallen branches and recycle bin flotsam and venture over to TQ1 for a game that most would agree was a must-win to keep up momentum with the chasing play-off pack.
Current form had seen Torquay move to within 6 points of the play off zone and so a win today would continue that upward curve and keep hopes alive.
The team dispensed with a recognised centre forward, a formation that had reaped rewards against Wrexham, with Dan Holman nowhere near the starting XI or indeed on the bench. Torquay started the game full of vim and energy, some lovely passing play and in total control. As early as the 2nd minute a great chance fell to Tom Lapslie but his shot pinged high over the bar.
The excellent Stephen Duke-McKenna was surging forward at every opportunity and the link-up play between him and Connor Lemonheigh-Evans in the early stages were a joy. Barnet from the whistle resorted to niggly fouls, shirt pulls and generally could not get to grips with Torquay’s early dominance and it felt it was only a matter of time before Torquay would capitalise.
One of a series of free kicks saw Armani Little float the ball into the box and a tidy ball across the area found Lemon with a lovely finish off the underside of the bar. Duke-McKenna was by now in full flow, plenty of possession and pushing the play forward, a sublime diagonal ball that Lemon connected with but blocked. However, the same combination eventually bagged the 2nd, Duke finding Lemon with a glorious cross into the box and another fine finish from Lemon.
At this stage Torquay were completely dominant, comfortable in every area and it looked like the Duke and Lemon show would run riot. Barnet were struggling to cope with the wave upon wave of rampaging attacks and with the Barnet keeper mis-kicking and the Barnet players following suit, it felt like a comfortable score-line was on the cards.
Then Barnet scored. An aerial challenge that floored Dean Moxey and sustained an apparent head injury was allowed to go unpunished and Barnet somehow squeezed a cross into the area that was tapped in by Marriott. All very sloppy and up until that point, a very unlikely Barnet goal scored. This seemed to affect the Torquay players and from complete dominance, sloppiness began to creep in.
The second half found Torquay attacking towards the family stand and with the wind easing, this was a time for Torquay to shake off the disappointment of the Moxey head injury/goal incident and push on. Instead though, it was Barnet who came out looking the more invigorated, the goal had given them renewed zest and had given Torquay a hangover.
Despite this the Duke was still prompting and probing the team on, an all-action performance from the QPR loanee, more niggly fouls, yellow cards and then the inevitable equaliser; Torquay failing to clear their lines and Barnet back in a game that at one stage looked most unlikely. Torquay immediately made their first substitution, Tom Lapslie making way for Danny Wright. A string of corners, more yellow cards, a decent chance headed over by Joe Lewis, another sub with Stephen Wearne replaced by Klaidi Lolos and soon after Dan Martin for Joe Felix.
Then with the minutes ticking down, Armani Little ran through on goal only to be upended just outside the box. The ensuing free kick was mere inches over. With Torquay desperately searching for a winner, all but Joe Felix were in the attacking area leaving Shaun MacDonald a solitary figure and some clumsy play when it appeared Asa Hall dithered (although he may have been fouled on the edge of the box), saw the loose ball fall to Barnet who countered and but for a great stop from MacDonald could so easily have bagged the winner.
6 minutes additional time, a host of corners and then the chance that so nearly won it for Torquay, some nice build up play, the ball falling to Duke’s feet 12 yards or so out with a clear sight on goal, blazed over the bar and that was that. A promising, dominant start fizzled out to what will be viewed as 2 points dropped.
Shaun MacDonald 7 – Steady performance from our reliable custodian. Not a great deal he could have done with either goals. Superb save near the end when we were going all out, United lost possession and a one on one purveyed.
Ben Wynter 7 – Looked comfortable for most of the game. A little hesitant at times.
Dan Martin 5 – Again, started well but some sloppiness crept in.
Dean Moxey 7 – Dealt well with a Barnet front line that didn’t really threaten too much.
Joe Lewis 8 – Quality is there for all to see. Unlucky not to score.
Connor Lemonheigh-Evans 7 – Started with a bang, took his goals really well, kept driving forward, then faded.
Armani Little 6 – Set pieces were off the mark today, some free kicks he would have expected to do better with and for all the corners, delivery not at their best.
Tom Lapslie 5 – A strong start but the game ran away from him somewhat, lost possession a few times that led to unnecessary pressure on the defence.
Asa Hall 5 – Needed his motivational skills when the heads dropped at 2-1. Misplaced passes and overall not Asa’s best game.
Stephen Wearne 5 – A tired performance, unsurprisingly subbed on 75 minutes.
Duke-McKenna 8 – MOTM, so nearly a 9 but for that chance to win the game at the death. Ouch!
Danny Wright 5 – Not fully fit on this showing. Plenty effort but couldn’t get his game going.
Klaidi Lolos 4 – Offered nothing. Mistimed 2 headers and spent his time on the pitch shoegazing. Lost possession too often.
Joe Felix 6 – Lively, put in some decent balls during our desperate to get the winner phase and looked comfortable.
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MAN OF THE MATCH: Stephen Duke-McKenna
A performance that deserved a goal and one he so nearly/should have scored. Harsh perhaps but if he had buried that great chance at the end, it would have been a 9 but with the ball at his feet, the chance to grab the 3 points, a rush of blood and he skied it. However, what a terrific overall performance, all-action and the first half especially his telepathy with Lemon was a delight. He continued to keep foraging and driving forward, creative and pinging in some great crosses that led to the goals. Brilliant from the youngster.
Two well taken goals by Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, whilst Joe Lewis was in the action at both ends of the pitch as usual.
Difficult to nail down without a striker starting. Most commonly 4-5-1 with Asa Hall sitting in front of the defence, Wearne left, Duke-McKenna right and CLE running hard upfront to close down the Barnet defence.
A poor team. Niggly. Torquay contrived to make them look good for 40 minutes in the second half.
KEY MOMENT: BARNET 1ST GOAL
Torquay committing the cardinal sin of not playing to the whistle, Dean Moxey going down injured following a clash of heads, allowing Barnet acres of space and time to construct the simplest of tap-ins for the unmarked Marriott. Sloppy and at that point wholly undeserved but the goal buoyed Barnet and gave them renewed confidence. It tipped the balance of the game and took the sting out of Torquay’s dominance.
Dodgy and weak.
We really could do with a centre forward. The play-offs are looking an ever more distant possibility, but there are still 17 games to be played. So whilst today was a huge disappointment, we could still, maybe, do it. But we really could do with a centre forward.
COYY – Rachel
PROUD AWAY SPONSOR OF KLAIDI LOLOS