TT MATCH VERDICT
Matty Hayward – @MattyHayward96
Stockport County 1-0 Torquay United
A depleted and exhausted Torquay United side caved to defeat on Wednesday night, as Stockport County’s almost inexorable march to the National League title continued with a dominant one-goal win. It was League One striker Paddy Madden who netted, tucking away an unmissable chance created by definite non-novice Elliot Newby.
The scoreline is kind to the Yellows who, while spirited at the back, offered less than a Waitrose in a wasteland on the ball, and seemed to be begging for the final whistle from minute one. If it wasn’t for a couple of decent saves from both TUFC goalkeepers, and a series of stoic stops from Ali Omar (one of which was off the line, after he had skied a clearance inside his six-yard box), the County jitters could have been put to bed long before a stoppage-time Ben Wynter flick and a goalkeeping flap struck the Stockport crossbar within seconds of each other.
Both teams left the field with their heads held high: Stockport being one step closer to their deserved Football League status, while the men in magpie stripes – who finished with ten men, after Armani Little limped to the touchline without replacement – can look themselves in the mirror and acknowledge that they gave it their all against a side far far their superior.
Shaun MacDonald 7 – Was kept busy, and made some impressive stops to prevent humiliation.
Ben Wynter 6 – Was kept busy, and made some impressive tackles to prevent humiliation.
Joe Lewis 6 – See above.
Ali Omar 6 – Still can’t work out if he’s a fortunate lump or the best thing since Right Said Fred. My pal, at her first TUFC game, said he was her favourite and that he “did some really good blocks”. This analysis is accurate.
Stephen Duke-Mckenna 7 – See MOTM
Chiori Johnson 6 – The one fringe player who I’d like to keep on. He’s not blessed with bags of talent but he runs a lot and cares. Couple of rash challenges went unpunished.
Joe Felix 6 – I mean, he’s not a central midfielder. He’s shorter than most of my year 7s, and struggled to make an impact on the game. Maybe he can be moulded into a dangerous winger – he clearly has good feet – but playing against the best midfield in the league alongside Chiori Johnson is not where he should be judged.
Armani Little 6 – Not his night: nearly gifted Stockport a second with a misplaced pass on halfway. Looks to be running out of legs, and I don’t blame him; he’s carried this team all season. Might be crocked for Sunday as well.
Dan Martin 6 – Felt for him. Newby gave him a full going over. Not sure if it was Dan being out of position or the system allowing Stockport overloads, but most of the danger came down our left and Martin looked stranded for most of that. One of the few bright lights going forward though.
Connor Lemonheigh-Evans 6 – He’s just shattered, isn’t he?
Danny Wright 6 – See above. Was superb in the air.
Mark Halstead 7 – Nowt he could do about the goal, and made a couple of good saves. Got the ovation of someone who’d been plucked out the crowd and put between the sticks, but that 45 minutes will do his confidence no harm.
Keelan O’Connell 6 – Offered as little as the rest of them.
Olaf Koszela 6 – I think if you’re playing at the league leaders, and your replacement for your line-leader is a young(ish) forward who scored a couple for Dorchester this season, that probably says more about your squad depth and recruitment than the substitute’s talent.
Opi Edwards and Alex Moyse – Unused. Future pub quiz answers (in a very niche pub quiz about Torquay United dead rubbers)
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Man of the Match:
Stephen Duke-Mckenna is far too good for us. The Scouse Scholes tried to win it for us on his own at times. Gary has clearly decided that he prefers him at right wing back, and that’s ok, but I think our midfield would have benefited from a bit of his quality yesterday. He’s just really really really good, and if rumours of his release from QPR are true, he should be the tent peg that holds down Gary Johnson’s marquee of signings.
Stockport fans were ace, in fairness to them. A pre-match procession preceded an almost uninterrupted chorus of riotous roars from their nine-thousand-strong home support. Pissing on their chips would have been beyond hilarious, but they’re more than deserving of their victory.
Hall and Lapslie out, Johnson and Felix in. Doesn’t fill you with confidence, does it? They did alright, though, despite barely having a kick.
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This game should come as a warning and a reminder to Gary and Torquay United FC in general: you have to be very very good at football to win this league. Despite perhaps lacking the final touch (or a bit of luck) at times, Stockport had everything else. As my perennially pithy pa pointed out, the claim in their song that they “don’t know” how they’ll get to the Football League is quite absurd: they’ll get there by spending the defence budget of Bhutan on the wages of footballers and a manager who shouldn’t be seen dead in this league. But get there they will, probably, and they’ll achieve in buying the league what many have failed.
Final point: it really is daft to keep 120-odd Torquay fans enclosed after the game. Either invest in an exit route that doesn’t involve walking in front of your crap temporary stand, or just let them out and see that absolutely zero trouble will be caused! If you treat people like potential criminals, don’t be surprised if they behave like them.
Barely noticed them, except when Little went down in front of the assistant referee, holding his head, and the man in black refused to flag to stop play. At that point, the lino was reminded that he was a C-word, and he responded with a friendly thumbs up behind his back. Nowhere else can you sing that someone is a C for making a small mistake in their workplace, and I, for one, absolutely love that about football.
It’s funny how the same game of football can mean the absolute world to one person, and almost nothing to the next. I was looking forward to the game as a means of escape from a stressful week, as an evening of fun with my friends and old man. The chaps we spoke to over a post-match pint said they’d been worrying (they actually used a much more bowel-based term) for days about it. As a Torquay fan who works in Stockport, I probably should be more irate about this defeat. And while it would have been deeply hilarious to spoil the party – and, crucially, avoid the ire of the Hatters fans in my year 9 class – on my final day of the season, it’s hard to come away from a town so inundated with delight and not feel a spring in your step yourself. If only because it means we won’t have to compete with their muscle next season.
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