TT MATCH VERDICT
Luke Hunter – @lukehunter8
Torquay United 3-0 Weymouth
On a delightful spring day in the bay, a blossoming United team ran out clear and deserved winners against a battling but ultimately inferior Weymouth side. Tougher tests lie ahead, but with the play-off deficit cut to six, there is every reason the yellow army can look ahead to April and May with sprouting optimism.
The day started with a pre-match cider in The Gull’s Nest – humid and Earthy, I immediately wished I had opted for shorts. The Gull’s Nest crowd is a useful barometer of attendance and it filled up quickly, with many presumably enticed by Tuesday’s mauling of Aldershot in similar circumstances.
Unsurprisingly, an unchanged United eleven emerged. Familiar faces in the Weymouth squad included the ever-present Josh McQuoid and the surprising return of Matt Buse – announced shortly before kick-off as joining the Terras on a short-term deal from Wealdstone.
Weymouth, backed by a noisy 148 that had circumnavigated the relatively short distance around Lyme Bay, edged the opening exchanges without really creating much. It felt cliché to say, but the first goal was important, United were likely to run riot if they got it… and they did. A pinpoint pass from Duke-Mckenna unleashed Wearne on the left – he still had a lot to do – but the Wearsider drove forward, cut inside, and placed his shot perfectly. 1-0.
United took control and a short while later, Little found himself on the receiving end of a Lemonheigh-Evans pass in the Weymouth box, his touch-and-go was interrupted by a lunge from Weymouth debutant Ben Morgan – a clear penalty. Little stepped up and despatched. 2-0, with just 20 minutes on the clock.
At this point, my preamble seemed accurate and United were on course for a demolition job, but to their credit, Weymouth rallied. Although most of their efforts were restricted to long-range pile drivers, MacDonald was kept busy in the United goal and pulled off some classy saves. I had flashbacks to 2-0 leads squandered versus Dagenham and Barnet and suddenly found myself grateful for the half-time whistle which subsequently arrived.
Gary Johnson shook things up a little bit at the break, replacing Opi Edwards with Dan Martin – the Gulls needed the next goal and fortunately, it came quickly with Danny Wright nodding home a Wynter cross at the back post less than a minute after the restart. 3-0.
United were out of reach from that point. Arguably, the yellows could have extended their lead further but chances that fell to Lemonheigh-Evans, Little and O’Connell were blasted high or wide. The physicality of the game increased, McQuoid was inevitably booked and Duke-Mckenna took a stern elbow to the ribs that rewarded him with an early rest. Weymouth spurned one final chance in the closing exchanges that would have otherwise soured a professional second half performance and taken away a deserved clean sheet.
For the second time this week, the yellow army celebrated with Gary Johnson and the team – all we could ask for from these fixtures were six points and it was duly delivered. My eyes will be fixed on Roots Hall and the Technique Stadium next weekend – where we stand to gain games-in-hand on Notts County and Grimsby, not forgetting that we play both in April as well. For a club that inherently does things the difficult way, I am not at all betting against us.
Shaun MacDonald: 7.5 – A well deserved clean sheet for SM who made some fantastic saves at important moments. In complete control of his backline.
Ben Wynter: 7 – Solid performance, a flick-on may deny him of an assist for the third, but it was a tidy cross nonetheless.
Joe Lewis: 7.5 – I thought JL was fantastic, not a foot wrong and likely find himself taking McQuoid out his pocket once he got home.
Dean Moxey: 7 – Consistent is his middle name. Solid as a rock.
Stephen Duke-McKenna: 8 (↔) – A very neat player – untouchable at times. Looks better every week. We really do benefit from the QPR relationship.
Tom Lapslie: 8.5 – Wont get the plaudits this week, but deserves the unsung hero award. It goes without saying he doesn’t stop running, but TL broke down plenty of Weymouth attacks and rose to the physicality of the game – one of his best performances in yellow.
Armani Little: 7 – Classy performance from AL – worked hard and some neat through-balls – despatched his penalty well.
Stephen Wearne: 8 – Has the confidence to take on his man at the moment, which was lacking in earlier matches. A lovely finish for the first. Clearly benefitting from time with GJ.
Opi Edwards: 5 (↔) – Struggled with the pace in the first half and was unable to keep the ball at his feet. Needs time on the training ground.
Connor Lemonheigh-Evans: 6.5 – Not a bad game, just comparatively quieter and a little indecisive in and around the area. On another day, could have scored a couple – always in the right place though.
Danny Wright: 7 (↔) – I think he looked a little bit sharper today, has perhaps shifted some weight and benefiting from match fitness. A quintessential DW goal.
Martin: 6.5 (for Edwards, 46) – Comfortable, has a bit of a habit for turning back into danger. Exceptional development this season though.
Holman: 5 (for Wright, 77) – Little contribution but didn’t have long.
O’Connell: 5 (for Duke-Mckenna 72)- A couple of shots but entered the game at a quiet period.
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Man of the Match: Tom Lapslie
It was a really solid team performance, and I think you could argue a MOTM case for almost everybody – but I’m going with TL, he summarised the effort of the entire team and I think deserves recognition. His work off the ball was tireless, and but for a better choice of final ball could have found himself in goal scoring positions a few times.
Delightful finish from Wearne. Composed penalty from Little. Classic header from Wright. Duke-McKenna’s Cruyff-turn and shot between our first and second was exceptional, so deserving of a goal.
A fairly high-line but an otherwise a standard setup – perhaps looked to the wings a little more than normal.
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Dreadful in the opening exchanges but found some inner strength and kept the score respectable. Perhaps deserved a goal at the break, but nothing more. It seems inevitable they’ll drop – they worked hard yesterday, certainly the effort was there, but just lacking the quality. It’s a local-ish away game and I’d be happy if they managed to find a way to safety. Also, an honourable mention to David Oldfield who generated an exceptional amount of noise from the away dugout – irritating, but exceptional.
Wright scoring immediately after half time. There’s always a danger at 2-0, but that finished it off.
The embers are still burning. If this team can prove itself against the bigger opposition – as it has done on numerous occasions already this season – then we’re in for an interesting few weeks – a few favourable results next weekend and we can look ahead to Notts County with even more renewed optimism. This week had to yield six points, and the squad has delivered just that – you never, ever know with Torquay United.
COYY – Luke
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