TT MATCH VERDICT
Danny Burnell – @dannyburnell92
TORQUAY UNITED 0-0 BROMLEY FC
Torquay played out a fourth draw in as many games as it ended goalless at Plainmoor. A distinct lack of quality in the final third from either team was the main contributor, but the 10 men can feel proud of their hard earned and richly deserved point against play-off hopefuls Bromley.
The match started with a stand of solidarity as United, led by captain Armani Little, emerged from the tunnel with a Ukrainian flag. A minutes applause followed which was well received, a sight i’m sure was prevalent up and down the country on this fine early spring afternoon.
The Gulls named an unchanged line-up from the draw at Wealdstone 7 days ago, with Messrs Hall & Martin still side-lined through injury. Bromley started much the brighter side and won their first corner after 40 seconds. Corners #2 & 3 weren’t far behind, and it was abundantly clear that set pieces were always going to the biggest threat for that Gulls back line, as the lads from Bromley Globetrotters swarmed the 18 yard box. United, as they did throughout the afternoon, managed the aerial threat well, and rarely gave their opponents a sniff.
After surviving the initial onslaught, Torquay made strides, and came close through Wright and the ever willing Lemonheigh-Evans. The latter had the best chance of the game as his scooping diving header from a Little corner found the side-netting. The Welshman went close again when his flick-on forced a fine stop from the Bromley keeper. The score remained goalless, the corner count was anything but. Both sides racked them up, but there was little threat in either box, as chances rarely materialised. Wynter then perhaps had the best chance of the game as the ball fell to him just 7 yards out, but through combination of solid defending and good goalkeeping the scoreboard remained lifeless. Lapslie found himself unmarked and unchallenged at the back post after good work from Connor, but his header could only find Steward #057 in the Family Stand.
Torquay time and time again found themselves in promising positions, whether it be Little, Wright, or Duke, but the final ball all too frequently lacked the quality. The sprinklers were getting their first outing of 2022, but someone may have wanted to warn the players. The surface was slick and the ball was running true, and more often than not, that was United’s downfall. Slightly too heavy on the final approach, which made life for Bromley’s #1 very comfortable. That said, the Gulls were getting into the positions and creating chances aplenty, but without the vigour needed to break that deadlock.
The game turned on its head 7 minutes from the break when the usually reliable Joe Lewis saw red. Normally so assured in his position, the defender was caught knapping when George Alexander nicked the ball past him. With no other option, the former Swan hauled his man to the ground, and was deemed to have been last man. The Bromley players had no hesitation in making their feelings known by surrounding the ref, and much to the dismay of the majority of the crowd, United were reduced to 10. At the time, I was livid, still am, I reserve judgement until I see the highlights, but (through gritted teeth), the decision was probably justified. Moxey did look to have the cover, but unfortunately for Lewis, it will probably be the last we see of him until Weymouth later this month (assuming it’s a 3 game ban). Unfortunate for Joe, who has been superb all season, but it’s one of those you have to take on the chin.
Wearne reverted to a rather un-familiar left back role, with Mox moving inwards. Torquay held out until the break where they could re-group for the second 45.
It was surprising to see the same 10 enter the pitch as we started the second half, but that was short lived after Little’s day had ran his course. The midfielder took a knock in the first 45, and never looked comfortable since. His exit forced a re-shuffle as big Ali Omar entered the fray. Wright took the armband, and led the line as best as he could, but it was a thankless task in the circumstances. Bromley were tall and strong at the back, and with that extra man had the possession you would have expected of them. It felt like Torquay were up against it. Arguably two of their ‘player of the season’ candidates were off the pitch, and with no Asa leadership, any point from here on out would have to be earned.
Bromley’s Connor Parsons was causing problems on the flanks, but just like the Gulls in the first half, the Ravens final ball equally lacked that quality. Johnson, Moxey, Wynter and Omar all stood strong at the back, aided by the warrior-like Lapslie to keep Bromley at bay, but in truth, they rarely threatened. Wearne went close with a rare United attack, before MacDonald made a point blank save from point black distance. The team in red still had the lion share of possession, but much to the Plainmoor relief, they did little with it. Top scorer Cheek cut a frustrated figure up top, mainly thanks to the experience know-how from the Mox and excellence of Ben & Ali.
The Lemon was chosen to be captain #3 for the day as Felix replaced the hard working Wright. And it was Felix’s energy which drove United forward. Torquay came close from a free-kick superbly won by super-sub Ali Omar. And it was in added time when shouts for a penalty were firmly waved away from the man in the middle. Bromley could have, and probably should have won it late late into injury time when Coulson worked his way into the box, only to find the steely Geordie, Shaun MacDonald, in his way. A stop that saved a point, but in truth Torquay had their chances to win it. Just like last season, it finished goalless between the two, a point neither team are overly happy about. Just like a chocolate fireguard, it’s not a lot of use at this stage of the season.
So we have dropped points for the 4th consecutive game, but Torquay remain hard to beat. One defeat in 2022 underlines that. It was a well earned point today against a side in and around those play-offs places and Gary Johnson has every right to be pleased with his team.
With each passing game in which 3 points aren’t secured, the season fizzles out the little bit more. Torquay will have to mount an almighty run to gate-crash those places in May, but realistically, it’s looking more and more unlikely. Performances like today show they are a solid National League team, with an OK National League squad. Reinforcements will be needed in the summer, that’s for sure, but with a full summer ahead, Johnson will already have one-eye on the transfer/free agent market.
The Gulls look set to battle it out with Southend, Yeovil & Eastleigh for the ‘going nowhere’ cup. As much as we would like the game at Roots Hall on 15th May to be a play-off decider, it looks increasingly likely to be the deadest of dead rubbers.
Shaun MacDonald: 7.5 – It’s becoming a running theme now, and once again Shaun MacDonald shows his value to this team. Very solid in the sticks, commands the area well. Great save at the end and didn’t put a foot wrong. Strong.
Chiori Johnson: 6.5 – No qualms with his performances. Decision making is probably one of lesser attributes. Headers not always dealt with as well as they could. Saying that, the more I see him, the more I want him to sign up next season.
Joe Lewis: 5 – Joe, Joe, Joe. Anyone dealt a red card will get a low score. No reflection on his season to date, he’s been superb. One error that proved costly.
Ben Wynter: 7.5 – Ben Wynter performance, copy and paste from the previous 30 games. I get bored of saying it, but he truly is Mr Consistent. No issues filling in the middle of defence, never put a foot wrong. Sponsors MOTM, can see why.
Dean Moxey: 7.5 – His wealth of experience is an absolute asset for this club. He knows when to get fouled and he manages the game brilliantly. To top it off, he’s a terrific defender. For opposition fans he’s a bit of a b*****d, a pantomime villain if you will. And that is why the Plainmoor faithful adore him.
Duke-McKenna: 6.5 – Not one of his liveliest games we have come to expect from the Guyana international, but still remains a threat. Thought the defensive side of his game was brighter today. Not excellent, not poor.
Armani Little: 6 – Unfortunately sustained a knock fairly early in the game. Eventually forced him to come off shortly after the interval, wasn’t able to dictate the play as he would have liked. Injury-free, he would have been a real threat.
Tom Lapslie: 8 – MOTM, see below
Stephen Wearne: 6.5 – Not too dis-similar to Duke. Looked a threat going forward, but sometimes lacked that killer ball. Again, not excellent, but not poor.
Danny Wright: 6 – Tireless task for Danny up front. Made all the harder after Lewis’ dismissal. Ran and ran with little reward. Can’t recall Wrighty having a shot, or even having a chance to shoot. Saying that, he did work hard until his substitution.
Connor Lemonheigh-Evans: 6.5 – Torquay’s best chances feel to this man. On another day, he’d be celebrating a brace, or even a hat-trick. Very impressed by his ability to outjump his 6’3+ counterparts. A decent, if unspectacular shift.
Ali Omar: 7 – Didn’t put a foot wrong in his 43 minute spell. Handled Bromley’s forward line very well and made it first to most balls in the air. His 30 second moment of magic which eventually resulted in him being fouled, presented a fine opportunity for a goal. I desperately searched for ‘is the loan window open in national league’ at half time, I needn’t worry, I genuinely think Ali is a more than able deputy for the now suspended Lewis.
Joe Felix: N/A – On the pitch for 6 minutes so unfair to assess. Did inject energy into those final exchanges to be fair .
Do you agree with the ratings? VOTE HERE
MAN OF THE MATCH: TOM LAPSLIE
Tom Lapslie’s performance was summed up by that moment of pure determination in minute 94. With Bromley seeking a winner, the terrier fought and wrestled possession back from a dangerous position, before bringing on a foul to alleviate the danger. Again, another solid performance from Tom and in a game like that, that’s exactly what you need. He has the know-how, he has game management, and he has that dislike factor that once again, opposition players, management and fans hate. But we Plainmoorians love it, and Tom is fast becoming a Gulls favourite.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: THE OTHER NINE
I think it’s unfair to single anyone out today. It was always going to be uphill when you get a man sent off so early on. It was a solid team performance. Off the ball United were compact and nullified the limited threats well. A steady 6.5/10 across the pitch, with one or two exceptions as noted above. For sure, no-one put in a below-par performance. Deserved to be clapped off after that. Onto King’s Lynn!
Looked to have started off as a standard 4-4-2. Evans was more advanced as we’ve come to see from him now, with Little trying to provide that extra support. It appeared quite a fluid formation. Duke regularly drifted infield to see more of the ball, allowing Chiori to make those right wing runs we’ve seen all to often from Wynter over the years. That in turn did formulate it’s own problems as Bromley often tried, but to no effect, exploit that space. Tactical re-rebalance after the Lewis sending off and Little injury. We found it difficult to support Wright when we had the precious few chances in the second half.