TT MATCH VERDICT
Rachel Malloch– @Rachelvillavox
Torquay United 2-0 Chesterfield FC
You can get an idea of the likely crowd size in the fact you are parking almost by the model village, as over 3,000 (and an impressive 800+ away fans) came along to watch the Gulls’ final home game of 2021/22, a season that hasn’t had so much as ups and downs just steady progression after a poor start. That poor start had really put the kibosh on the season’s end but a valiant unbeaten run of 2022, some annoying draws when we really should have won…..but we are where we are and on a beautiful midday in May Plainmoor basked in glorious warm sunshine under the glare of the BT Sport cameras, with Mr Hargreaves poised mic in hand at the far end Family Stand to give insight and punditry to the game. This match was all about Chesterfield getting their play-off slot firmly secured and a side order of how Torquay United would fair with no pressure having bowed out of the race weeks ago.
It was the nearly men who came storming off the blocks, Torquay having much of the play, Danny Wright winning the aerial battles early on, trademark hold up play and generally working his vintage socks off. There were chances aplenty, an early half volley from Tenacious T Tom Lapslie, QPR loanee Stephen Duke McKenna from distance, Lemonheigh-Evans got on the end of a cross field ball only to skewer wide, Asa Hall too with a thunderbolt shot the Chesterfield keeper Loach did well to parry out for a corner. Chesterfield attacked in fits and starts but it was the impressive Torquay United who took control, particularly through the skills and trickery of the Duke, who when he wasn’t on the ball was yelling out for the pass. An Armani Little free kick almost saw Wright get on the end of it but it bounced high and over.
Half time and a confident air around the ground, the Yellow Army were now out-singing the play-off chasers, the 50-50 draw was the predictable doh! I got 3 numbers. The blue skies were lending to the feelgood atmosphere and whilst conversations turned to the good half not so good half Torquay, the players were out again.
Second half predictably saw Chesterfield with a bit more urgency, the large physical presence of Joe Quigley was at the centre of Chesterfield’s threat but it was ably dealt with by the Torquay defence. In the midst of this, Asa Hall suffered what looked to be a nasty head injury and after some lengthy on field treatment, slowly left the field clutching a bandage to his face and was replaced by Chiori Johnson.
Johnson was immediately involved in a lovely move, a slick pass to Ben Wynter who had a good effort just run wide. Another free kick sent over by Armani finding Wright who controlled it well but his shot was high and wide. Then the breakthrough; a lovely through ball from the excellent Ali Omar found Wright who passed inside for Duke. The loan man steadied himself and hit a beauty from outside the box into the far bottom corner to score a sublime goal.
Torquay were looking strong and Chesterfield increasingly cagey, despite the need to redeem something from the game. A free kick from Danny Rowe cracked against the far post with some power and MacDonald beaten.
Another pacy slick Torquay attack almost on the 80 minutes mark found Little who was upended in the box. Penalty. Armani Little stepped up and despatched the spot kick with aplomb, making it 15 goals this season for our midfield maestro.
Joe Felix came on for Tom Lapslie, and the introduction of youth academy product Olaf Koszela who looked strong and had a lot of the ball in his 10 minutes cameo replacing the tireless work horse Danny Wright. 9 minutes of injury time gave the Torquay supporters more hope of adding to their tally than the Chesterfield fans to recover anything. In fact it was very nearly a fairytale ending for sponsors man of the match Ali Omar who almost got on the end of a dangerous Armani Little free kick deep into those added minutes but just couldn’t quite connect.
A resounding win and a satisfying game.
The players and their families showed their appreciation to supporters with a lap of the pitch, the votes had been cast for the supporters players of the year, the honours going to Joe Lewis for young player and to the mighty Shaun MacDonald for our player of the year, certainly no surprises, although Armani Little was close following his terrific season.
Shaun MacDonald 8 – Great handling, confident, vocal, clean sheet, congratulations to our player of the year. He has been invaluable.
Dan Martin 8 – Impressive game from the full back, another player who has stepped up and been a big part of this season.
Ben Wynter 8 – A wonderful player, athletic and intelligent. Another assured game.
Joe Lewis 9 – Had a tough battle out there today, a bloody nose and a cut to the forehead his war wounds, but he held firm and was immense as he has been all season.
Ali Omar 9 – What a performance. Strong and firm in defence but playing some deft passes and proving what a very, very good footballer he has become.
Tom Lapslie 8 – A great game from our terrier in the middle. Nipped and bit and Chesterfield’s heels. Brilliant!
Armani Little 9 – Thought Armani was superb today; not everything came off but the beauty of the player is the amount of work he puts in and the miles of pitch he covers! some of his free kicks warranted more, took his penalty beautifully. A lovely player, a joy to watch.
Danny Wright 8 – Typical hard working performance from our lone striker, held the ball up well, unlucky not to get on the scoresheet, but a tireless performance from our no. 9.
Conor Lemonheigh-Evans 8 – A great game from Lemon, another who was unlucky not to find the net, showed great balance and skill and on days like this a joy to watch.
Stephen Duke McKenna 9 – Lad’s going to be huge. A super talent. A quite magnificent goal. Energetic, athletic, skills in abundance, a terrific player who clearly loves playing football.
Asa Hall 7 – Did well today, unfortunate to go off with a nasty head injury. His absence from the players awards notable and we all wish Asa a speedy recovery.
Olaf Koszela 7 – Did well on his introduction. Lively and looked strong on the ball.
Joe Felix 7 – Again, did well, made some clever runs.
Chiori Johnson 7 – Another who did well on his introduction. Some nice link up play with Ben Wynter and did a good job playing a wide midfield role.
Do you agree with the ratings? VOTE HERE
Man of the Match: Armani Little
Sponsors went with Ali Omar and agreed he was immense, but for sheer enjoyment of watching a player orchestrate everything that was good about today, Armani Little. Very unlucky not to be crowned player of the season, today he oozed quality and confidence, something that he and a few others did not have in the early part of the season. Armani is all about confidence and on his day, when he is in full flourish, he is lovely to watch. Today was one of those days.
The whole performance deserved applause, Joe Lewis was immense today, Duke ran the show, Lemon had a good game, Tom Lapslie was a thorn in Chesterfield’s midfield, Dan Martin had a cracking game, Asa Hall led the team always encouraging, the whole team get a big slap on the back, honourably!
Torquay ball to feet reaps so much more reward than any hoof ball. They played some delightful football today.
Surprisingly lacklustre for a team going all out to ensure their place in the play-offs. Some big strong attacking players and pace in midfield, with some hulking lads at the back, but whether it was a nervous Chesterfield we saw, they looked a team short on belief. Perhaps Tshimanga’s absence has hit them. A prolific goal scorer is worth its weight in play-offs gold.
Thought the referee and his linesmen did a competent job. Over the course of the season we have had some shocking officialdom so it was quite good to have a ref who was keen to let the game flow and perhaps not be too card happy like some. He can come back again!
So that’s the last we are getting out of our season tickets for another year. It’s been a funny old season all said and done. The early start hit us hard, we steadied the ship and but for 2 or 3 more players to rotate and bring on to change games, who knows. Oh and a centre forward to support the trojan Danny Wright. A striker, a striker, my kingdom for a striker. But there have been some outstanding individual performances as well as a few like this game too. With our youth academy winning the league title and 2 cups, the women’s team finishing strongly in their league and a heroic Devon cup final win over adversaries Exeter, the future at TQ1 is looking bright. It’s looking Yellow and bright.