TT Match Verdict
Matty Hayward – @MattyHayward96
Halifax 2-0 Torquay United
It was a game of two halves.
The Gulls’ unspectacular seven-game unbeaten run was ended yesterday by an unspectacular Halifax side whose early defensive fortitude was rewarded with a pair of second-half goals and little resistance from the boys in cyan.
Torquay started brightly, and though it’d be a stretch to say Halifax were “under pressure” at any point, they certainly created nothing of their own, ceding possession and territory for most of the 45. A header over the bar from Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, a scuffed effort from Wright, and a seam of wasted wide free-kicks were among the first-half half-chances presented, but there was nothing clear-cut. The fear of opportunities missed, of cheques uncashed, hung in the sunlit West Yorkshire air as interval pints of Tetley (poured from a can?) were consumed.
On the hour mark, United failed to deal with a corner, and formerly-shit eye-for-goal merchant Billy Waters pounced. His finish, from a tight angle, was lethal.
Ten minutes later the game was gone. A cross came in from the Halifax left, one big lad headed the ball across goal, unchallenged, towards another big lad who, unchallenged, headed the ball past Shaun MacDonald and into the onion bag.
United mustered a limp attempt at Chesterfield-(a)-esque glory. Ben Wynter’s decision to head back across the six yard box, rather than towards goal himself, may have been a costly error. A penalty shout on Joe Lewis that struck more of desperation than genuine expectation was waved away by the referee, and that was about that.
Shaun MacDonald 7 – I don’t know? Barely made a save, but that’s because Halifax were mostly unthreatening and their two chances were tucked away.
Ben Wynter 6 – Don’t remember him doing much right or much wrong.
Joe Lewis 7 – Looked more than content at the heart of a back three dealing with Waters. Needs a haircut.
Dean Moxey 6 – Based solely on his long throws, which varied in length.
Opi Edwards 5 – Back again. Not on debut, of course, because you can’t have more than one debut. Willing to give him some benefit of the doubt (benefit of the non-debut?), but he was very bad. Barely had a kick, but then when he had a kick, looked lost. Was the first to be hooked.
Armani Little 6 – Carried a lot of the creative burden, and nothing really came off.
Tom Lapslie 7 – Carried a lot of the defensive duties burden, and did an alright job. Gets +1 for giving the ballboy a little shove.
Stephen Duke-McKenna 6 – A frustrating player. Bags of ability. Hasn’t quite worked out what to do with it yet.
Stephen Wearne 6 – Won’t ruin my dad’s story about him – read the upcoming Groundhopping blog for that. Same as usual on the pitch: hard work, very brief moments of good feet, but basically quite ordinary.
Connor Lemonheigh-Evans 6 – Never got going. Didn’t see much of the ball.
Danny Wright 6 – See above, really. Despite the first-half possession, we so rarely hung a ball in the box for him to attack. Did hit the post just before Halifax’s goal, but never really looked like it was going in.
If I was asked to write a 3-word career summary for our backup goalkeeper, it’d be…
Mark Halstead – unused.
Dan Martin 6 – looked lively-ish. On for Edwards and played left wing back.
Ali Omar – unused.
Chiori Johnson 6 – Same really.
Dan Holman – Will do him the decency of giving him an N/A, rather than rating his ten-minute cameo.
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Man of the Match: Joe Lewis
I suppose? I mean, I don’t remember him being directly at fault for any of the goals. If he was, then this is obviously a mad shout. But my basic conclusion is that everyone was very ordinary – not dreadful, not unfit to wear the shirt – but just not very good. So I’ll give it to Joe Lewis in the vain hope that he sees this and decides not to leave in the summer based solely on my award.
Torquay fans were, though fairly quiet, in decent number. A mention, too, for the late Yorkshire Gull Andy Holland, whose minute’s applause was well-observed.
Omar and Johnson made way for Edwards and the returning Lewis. After a reshuffle, it ended up as a 3-5-2. Wynter, Lewis and Moxey as the centre backs, Opi wide right, Wearne wide left, and you can probably work out the rest from this handy graphic.
I was amazed, having googled it for this section, that Halifax are third. I’ve seen us play them, Chesterfield and Wrexham this season, and they’ve all been dire. We should’ve put them to bed in the first half, but they were clinical in the second, so fair play.
A word on Billy Waters, only because it feels obligatory. He wasn’t the answer in the summer, and that fact has not changed. He was really quite bad for 89 minutes yesterday, but he came to life and scored a well-taken goal in one of them. Our problem up front isn’t a lack of Billy Waters; it’s a failure to sign a goalscorer and a decline in Danny Wright’s performances.
It is in football’s culture, for whatever reason, that it is considered OK to shout obscenities at someone for being bad at their job. I don’t think many green grocers (not that they really exist these days) or accountants or cobblers get the same treatment. Then again, I don’t really mind, because it’s really quite fun to call a linesman a C or a W or a T for flagging an offside that looked a bit tight, and as long as it stays above board and lids are kept on, I actually think it’s quite a healthy exercise for all involved.
That said, I’m bored of people blaming referees. Yesterday’s men in black weren’t very good. They made some peculiar decisions (though they were right on the penalty appeal). But they’re human, and peculiar decisions were also made by the men in cyan who, in fairness, have a lot more control over where the football is kicked and how many times it is kicked into each net than the officials.
Away Day Overview
Again, for fear of spoiling dad’s blog, I won’t give too much away. But I will say this. Halifax is ace. The sun, and the concept of it being spring, is ace. Being able to leave my flat for an away game at half 11 is ace. The Piece Hall is ace. The Three Pigeons remains the best pre-football pub in the country, and gets a podium place in the Best Pubs In The North Of England pantheon. I look forward to returning next season (which I expect is pretty likely).
The death knell on Torquay’s season appears to have been rung about a dozen times. Here I am, again, clanging away at the old thing. Yesterday was freeing, in a way. The knowledge that if we won it probably wouldn’t have a material impact on our overall campaign, meant that fear of not winning didn’t really feature. It was a day out, and there was a bit of football played, and sometimes I think I’d prefer it if my relationship with the beautiful game was always like that. Low stakes. A social occasion first, a sporting contest second. Then I remember what it’s like to win high-stakes games, and put that trail of thought to bed. For now, though, it’ll be nice to not add Torquay United to my list of worries.
When at the Piece Hall yesterday, I bought a beautiful, tiny copy of The Great Gatsby – a strong contender for the best novel ever written. Its last page, certainly, is the best I’ve ever read. I’ll leave you with a bastardised version of the final line:
And so we beat on, Gulls against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the Conference.
COYY – Matty
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