TT MATCH VERDICT
Torquay United 0-0 Eastleigh FC
Dear Reader, let me start by saying that I am absolutely delighted to be dusting off the linguistic cobwebs on my cranial keyboard, for the first time since December, just in time for a scrappy 0-0 draw. What luck. Grab another chocolate egg and let’s just get through this together.
The first half begins with the Gulls kicking towards what is normally the away end, but today is full of small children and middle-aged men in tracksuits. A heart-warming sight. Some early pressure from the home side results in some snatched half chances, but it is clear from very early on that Eastleigh are only loosely here to play actual football, and are also ambitiously planning to stage an amateur performance of the complete works of Shakespeare while the game is taking place. This is a challenging feat, but one that is met with some success.
The Gulls press on, unperturbed, but despite some wilful running and a couple of half-chances for Keelan O’Connell in particular, the first half is a frustrating affair full of wayward simple passes, harmless long balls up from the back and a lot of thinking about what else I could have been doing today. Unfortunately, Dear Reader, I must tell you that much like my lower back after a night spent sleeping on a sofa, things are just not clicking at this point.
Gary Johnson boldly shuns a half-time substitution on this occasion, deciding to stick with his starting charges into the second half. This would be surprising if it wasn’t abundantly clear that currently the most dangerous man on the bench is Kai Hepworth. And so we press on, into the sun, in much the same manner as before the break. Act Two, Scene One.
By this point, Eastleigh’s dramatic chops are on full display, and they tread the boards with a confidence that the referee has enthusiastically nurtured from the moment the curtain was raised. We collectively marvel as injuries are sustained and cured within mere seconds, and refereeing decisions are greeted with an impressive range of emotive body language. Method acting at its finest. Special mention must go to Eastleigh goalkeeper Joe McDonnell, whose accomplished portrayal of celebrated wilderness explorer Robert Scott, a character he slipped into effortlessly every time the ball needed to be fetched from behind his goal, is particularly noteworthy.
But unfortunately, everything at this stage is playing directly into the hands of the men in orange. The officiating is inconsistent, and at times incomprehensible. Our strange continued lack of ball boys allows every throw in, goal kick and corner to occur at glacial pace. Time and time again, we send long ball after long ball toward their towering centre-backs, and are surprised when it returns almost immediately. Aimless arrows, launched into the abyss. For all Eastleigh’s disruptive methods, as the home side and the in-form team, the onus must be on us to unlock the game and play the way we want to. Unfortunately, Dear Reader, this is not the case.
There are chances at both ends as the half develops, and while Asa Hall and Klaidi Lolos have opportunities at one end, we are indebted to the crossbar and a wonderful save from Shaun MacDonald at the other, in order to keep the visitors from nicking an ill-deserved victory. As the curtain is lowered, the company of Eastleigh take their bow.
Exit, pursued by a bear.
Shaun MacDonald – 7 – Did everything asked of him, tried to keep the energy up towards the end and produced one excellent save with his foot that would have cost us the game had he not intervened.
Ben Wynter – 7 – Solid and assured at the back. Swung at a couple of shots on the edge of the area, that we’ve seen fly in, but did his duties at the back and tried to get the best out of O’Connell.
Joe Lewis – 7 – Threw himself at everything and stayed solid at the back as usual.
Dean Moxey – 7 – The second full-back in our back three. Offers class and a touch of footballing intelligence that comes from years of experience in the higher leagues.
Keelan O’Connell – 5 – The wing-backs today were our clear weak link. O’Connell has the air of a person who knows he is operating at a level or two below some of his teammates. Frequently being instructed by those around him. Should have been subbed at half-time.
Asa Hall – 6 – Without Lapslie alongside him, had to put in a massive shift in the middle. A little slow to the loose ball on a couple of occasions.
Armani Little – 5 – Completely off his game today. More like the Armani Little of a couple of years ago. Simple passing eluded him and became more and more anonymous as the game wore on.
Stephen Duke-McKenna – 7 – A deserved MOTM award from the official judges. Gave absolutely everything in a couple of different positions, ending up covered in blood, and offered some industrious attacking intent towards the end. He’ll sleep well tonight.
Dan Martin – 5 – Some questionable marking made it seem like Eastleigh always had a man over on his side. Didn’t really look comfortable doing what had been asked of him. Shrunk during the second half when Duke-Mckenna began to offer more of a threat down the left.
Connor Lemonheigh-Evans – 6 – A frustrating afternoon for Connor. Did a lot of running but was restricted to half-chances and picked up a yellow card for voicing his discontent.
Danny Wright – 6 – A man who starts every game looking shattered and progresses from there. Still a threat in the right positions, but rarely found himself in those today.
Ali Omar – 6 – Didn’t have much impact, on for the injured Moxey, but cleared the danger on a couple of occasions with some robust headers.
Klaidi Lolos – 6 – Offered a more direct option at ground level and did get a chance late on.
Do you agree with the ratings? VOTE HERE
Man of the Match: Stephen Duke-McKenna
Handed to Duke-McKenna at the ground and would not disagree with that. Looked lively both in the middle and out wide on the left in the closing stages. Chances are, if we were going to nick it at the death, he would have been involved.
5-3-2 (or 3-5-2 depending on where you put the wing-backs). Never been a big fan of wing backs, and unfortunately these two did little to change my mind. Thought we should have replaced O’Connell with Opi Edwards at half time. Gary obviously disagreed.
We’re a patchwork team with players dropping into unfamiliar positions. As soon as we pick up a couple of injuries, our depth is exposed. The elusive Plan B appears just out of reach.
A perfect example of anti-football. If I had to watch that every week, I’d just walk into the sea.
A hugely timid and inconsistent performance from the referee today. Should have been on top of Eastleigh’s antics from the beginning, but wasn’t and in fact seemed deeply concerned at every single stub of a toe. Seemed to want to set the record for number of uncontested drop-balls in one game. Not a fan of his work, to be honest.
We’ve all enjoyed the recent turn in form, but the truth laid bare today is that we have the quality and strength in depth of a solid mid-table side, and that is probably where we deserve to finish up. We have two or three really capable players, and if one of them has an off-day, we struggle.
The most accurate analogy I could imagine would be to say that this game was as frustrating as turning up to watch a festival headliner enthusiastically rattle through a setlist full of B-Sides.
COYY – Rob
PROUD AWAY SPONSOR OF KLAIDI LOLOS