TT MATCH VERDICT
Chris Wade – @Tufcchris
Torquay United 5-1 Notts County
Despite all of the love and passion that you have for your club, there are days you wonder why you bother when you support a club like Torquay. The disappointment, the long train journeys home, the dashed hope. Then there are days like Saturday 9th April 2022 at Plainmoor versus Notts County. A day when all of the hope, passion and desire that every fan in the stadium feels for Torquay United could come bursting out. And five absolutely gorgeous goals.
There was one change from the previous game against Weymouth two weeks ago. Chiori Johnson replaced the absent Opi Edwards at right wing back, with a welcome return to the bench for club captain Asa Hall. Notts County featured former Gull Aaron Nemane amongst the substitutes, with another ex-Gull Kyle Cameron doing some pre-match work on the pitch after injury but not featuring in their matchday squad.
It was lively from the off, with Notts County trying to play out from the back, and Torquay very clearly implementing another clever GJ plan. Whenever they had a goal kick or the ball at the back, we pressed the space within their half so they couldn’t play their intricate passing. This led to several early long balls form the back in an attempt to break our high line.
The opener came after eleven minutes. United worked the ball to the left flank, and captain Armani Little picked the ball up and wandered inside. With everybody expecting a cross, he took another step and fizzed a shot up and over County keeper Vitezslav Jaros and inside the far top corner. It was an outstanding hit and the perfect start.
It almost got better seconds later when Danny Wright inexplicably missed a free header form six yards, but it wasn’t long before United made it it two. More clever play between Little and Stephen Duke-McKenna released Wright down the inside left channel. he drove forward and put a cross-come shot across the six-yard line. Connor Lemonheigh-Evans arrived at the far post and beat Adam Chickson to a tap in. What a start?! The rest of the half passed with a similar pattern of the Magpies pressing the play and United following them everywhere, with Tom Lapslie being his regular industrious self. And the referee being annoyingly officious and inconsistent.
County made a double change at the break, with 8-foot-tall Elisha Sam and Nemane (boooo) coming on. And they both had an immediate impact. Nemane found far too much space on the right, and on his second foray forward drove a cross that Sam somehow stabbed wide from six yards out. A big let off. Stephen Wearne limped off after 56 minutes and was replaced by Dan Martin, with United switching to a flat back four and this instantly helped close the space on the County right side.
The visitors continued to huff and puff with little threat, and GJ introduced Asa Hall in place of the hard working Johnson to add some more experience to the midfield area. Shortly afterwards and County were back in it from nowhere. Ruben Rodriques broke the line through the midfield for the only time in the game and fed big Kyle Wootton on the right edge of the box. He controlled the ball, turned and shot in one movement and the ball zipped into the top right-hand corner, with Shaun MacDonald having no chance. Game on.
But they say that you are never more vulnerable than when you have just scored, and so it proved as United re-established their two goal advantage almost immediately. A swift break through the middle involving Duke-McKenna and Little stretched County, and CLE was in on the left side. He checked inside and with the goal at his mercy drove a right footed shot into the bottom left hand corner. Breathing space and a big moment.
And it only got better after that. Another break allowed Lemonheigh-Evans to dance inside the full back and complete his hat-trick with a low right footed shot into the opposite corner. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, Little broke though again in added time, danced across the penalty area from right to left and when it looked like he had missed the chance, dinked a gorgeous chip with his left foot over the foot of a despairing Nemane on the line (LOL). As a friend said, “dreamy football”.
Shaun MacDonald 7 – Didn’t have loads to do but he is so assured with his handling nowadays. He took a couple of dangerous crosses at important times and also annoyed the life out of the County fans behind the goal, another important skill.
Chiori Johnson 7 – One of his better games for United. He drove forward well and was defensively sound. A tad wasteful on the ball at times.
Ben Wynter 8 – Another strong performance from Wynts. Very positionally aware and read several dangerous situations very well. Ridiculously booked in the first half.
Joe Lewis 8 – Another leaders performance from Joe. he fought and battled a really tough customer in Wootton and came out on the winning side.
Dean Moxey 8 – So good at reading the game. Some wonderful touches on the wand of a left foot. Keep him for next year? You bet.
Stephen Duke-McKenna 8 – Getting better with every game. Drove forward well and played a hand in some of the goals. Still needs to learn when to faff about with it in midfield and when not too.
Armani Little 9 – Simply outstanding. What a player he has become. Work rate, passion, skill, fight and finishing. We have to go all out to keep him.
Tom Lapslie 8 – Just the kind of game he likes. Fought and battled for every ball and burst out and supplemented the attack more than once. Also irritated their players, another bonus.
Stephen Wearne 7 – Workman like but didn’t look overly fit and succumbed to a left leg injury in the second half. Very stylish flip-flops noted at full time.
Connor Lemonheigh-Evans 9 – Brilliant performance. My only question on CLE at times is his finishing, but not today. Three stunning finishes and another we need to desperately keep for next season.
Danny Wright 8 – You thought his legs had gone did you? Not a bit of it. Another warrior’s performance, chased after everything and was a nuisance to their defence. Fouled 37 times and not awarded a thing and kudos to Nike, who must produce very tough material as it was being yanked off his back most of the day.
Dan Martin 7 – Made a real difference when he came on and we switched to four at the back. Narrowed the pitch and got forward. His progression continues.
Asa Hall 7 – Perfect time for him to return. Won some headers and got stuck in and still has beautiful hair.
Keelan O’Connell 7 – Was only on the pitch four minutes in injury time but he can have a 7 too. Why not?!
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Man of the Match: Connor Lemonheigh-Evans
Let’s be clear here. Armani and him were basically unplayable and I can’t really split them. But it has to be a hat-trick hero, doesn’t it? Three lovely finishes and at the right time of the season. If he stays fit and, in this form, we have a chance.
Armani Little – simply outstanding. Move on…..
Gary did the job again. Their open and expansive play from the back was stifled by preparation and planning. Pressing ridiculously high from every goal kick gave them nowhere to go apart from a long ball, which only sparingly worked. Perhaps the extra planning time helped, but wonderfully executed once again.
Another fancied team in the top third of the league to be both disappointing and leave Torquay with nothing but a bag of chips. They were stifled by our tactics and I must say looked to give up a bit after our third goal. All the spreadsheets and final third entries in the world won’t help you with passion, desire and running like we saw from Torquay today.
I could moan and say how inconsistent he was, gave us nothing, booked our players for very little etc. But on a day, such as this I couldn’t care less. So, whatever. And found an outstanding 14 minutes across both halves. Excellent effort and value for money.
A saucy afternoon full of goals, assists and exactly why we all do it and care so much. The players were well up for it and executed the game plan perfectly. Ability like CLE and Armani should be appreciated and adored, and we can certainly do this for the rest of the season. Oh how I want them to stay.
In the bigger picture, the gap to the play-offs is down to seven points. Onto Woking anybody? See you there.
COYY – Chris
PROUD AWAY SPONSOR OF KLAIDI LOLOS