Rachel Malloch – @RachelVillavox
Rachel blogs about the game at Plainmoor
TORQUAY UNITED 0-0 OLDHAM ATHLETIC – MATCH SUMMARY
Summertime, and the living is easy, fish are jumping and the nation’s mood is high! A summer that has seen the England women’s national football team reclaim our credibility in the game, a fantastic Euro 22 tournament of excitement and thrills and a none too shabby standard of football either. Torquay Utd manager Gary Johnson has always advocated the front foot attacking style and often reminds us in his interviews that football, after all, is an entertainment business. Well done to the Lionesses who not only entertained us but broke viewing figure records to boot. Let’s hope this propels the women’s game to greater heights, with investment, endorsement, sponsorship, recognition and we can all look forward to watching Torquay United women’s team at TQ1 sometime soon.
No sooner had we caught up with the variety of emotions that season 2021/22 gave us, the poor start, the steady mid-season and the dare to believe run in that spirited us to an 11th place finish, the players farewells on social media, that we were once again attending the pre-seasons and a chance to peruse the new players who have joined the club. A consistent run of performances, Plymouth Argyle capitulation aside, with some impressive displays for some along with the fence sitting verdicts on others. One thing that couldn’t be overlooked from previous seasons, we’ve gained some height in the squad!
The afternoon’s visitors to kick start the 2022/23 season were Oldham Athletic; once a premier league team – founder members of the Premiership no less – a club I had watched both in the premier league and championship on away days with Villa, ignominiously starting their National League campaign and embarking on their non-league journey for the first time in their long history. A club that has been managed by familiar coaches such as Jimmy Frizzell, Joe Royle, Graeme Sharp, Neil Warnock, Iain Dowie, Brian Talbot, Gary’s lad Lee Johnson and now John Sheridan for his 4th stint at Boundary Park. A club that in that first season in the Premiership had a strike force of Andy Ritchie, Graeme Sharp and one time Villa favourite Ian Olney who finished their top scorer that season, a season that saw them keep their premier status including a 3-2 victory over Liverpool.
Plainmoor basking in glorious sunshine lay host to a big opening day crowd of over 3.600 supporters and the hosts almost had the perfect start when in the opening exchanges defender Ali Omar’s headed knock down found Will Goodwin whose shot hit the underside of the crossbar. Torquay for the first 15 minutes were piling on the pressure but Oldham steadied themselves and Torquay goalkeeper Mark Halstead needed to be alert to a wave of attacks. A side that looked almost unrecognisable from last season with a new look defence, midfield and attacking formation had an indifferent afternoon that came with a heavy price as injuries mounted to an already early list.
Torquay forward – on loan from Stoke – Will Goodwin had the better of the Oldham defence and following his strike against the cross bar also saw a dinking run produce a good save from Oldham keeper Magnus Norman. The otherwise impressive Dylan Crowe lost possession in a dangerous area and Oldham were on the attack only to misfire wide when presented with a good scoring opportunity. This would be a sequence of the afternoon. Brett McGavin was finding a lot of the ball and a lovely through ball to Corie Andrews saw the striker upended by the Oldham keeper, a clash that saw the centre forward have to leave the pitch soon after to be replaced by Olaf Koszela.
Oldham would consider themselves unlucky as a string of attacking moves were met with poor finishing and some steady hands of Torquay keeper Mark Halstead.
Cardiff loanee Kieron Evans was scythed down following some good football and needed treatment, a tackle that eventually curtailed further involvement in the game following half time. Despite some possession play from Oldham, Torquay left the pitch considering themselves unlucky not to be ahead.
Second half and the game continued as an evenly contested game with some feisty tackles and belligerent exchanges. New winger Ashley Nathaniel George was a surprise introduction to the day and he found himself involved in the game with a good run only to have a shot cannon off an Oldham defender. What could have been a pivotal moment came in the 65th minute a tackle by Oldham’s Dan Gardner on the all but flawless Dean Moxey brought a second yellow card and an early bath for the Oldham midfielder. Substitute Koszela was replaced by Asa Hall soon after, a tactic that could only be for aerial prowess leaving the tireless Will Goodwin as the lone striker for the remainder of the game.
A clash of heads saw the ever menacing Fondop and Ali Omar felled that would lead to a groggy Omar leaving the pitch. Fondop raced onto a loose ball late in the game but Mark Halstead was a match for it, saving at his feet despite a roar of disproval from the away support and some relieved Torquay supporters when the referee deemed it a fair challenge. A game that huffed and puffed but neither side could blow the defence down and a goalless full time score the outcome.
Mark Halstead: 7 – a steady game from the Torquay keeper. Did well when called upon.
Dylan Crowe: 7 – heart in the mouth moment when dispossessed in a dangerous position aside, did well in attempts to push forward.
Ali Omar: 6 – a few shaky moments but overall held the line and aerially kept focussed.
Ross Marshall: 6 – much like Ali, had a few nervy moments.
Ben Wyatt: 7 – a couple of good moments and slick passing moves.
Dean Moxey: 8 – a real warrior on the pitch. involved in both attacking moves and some vital crunching tackles. MOTM today.
Brett McGavin: 6 – will have better games, kept pushing and battling.
Ryan Hanson: 5 – a poor game from the midfielder, often losing the ball in good areas.
Kieron Evans: 5 – subdued and substituted after taking a knock.
Corie Andrews: 5 – a great chance when through on ball. injured and substituted.
Will Goodwin: 6 – plenty effort, a couple of good chances, hit the crossbar first half.
Olaf Koszela: 5 – plenty of effort, very little end product.
Ashley Nathaniel-George: 5 – a couple of good runs, lost possession and lucky to see the counter attack fizzle out.
Asa Hall: N/A.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Dean Moxey – involved heavily in both our best attacking moves and crunching tackles defensively. A superb performance that had a packed 10th anniversary celebratory Bristow’s Bench chanting Deano at the full time whistle. He was head and shoulders above any player on the pitch today. Terrific game.
Mark Halstead – There is definitely a more confident air to Mark, from pre-season performances to today’s game. Encouraging signs of a keeper that at this juncture last season was bereft of confidence and assurance. He was Mr Safe Hands today.
Another National League referee, another series of baffling decisions and a linesman that relished in flagging Olaf offside on a regular basis
Both sides were ready to have a go but equally lacking in real finishing quality in a game that no team really deserved to win.
Oldham are finding themselves in unchartered waters down in the National League and but for better finishing probably would consider themselves unfortunate today but Torquay too had plenty possession and a couple of chances to score. First impressions, Oldham look a side that defend in numbers, have a congested midfield and somewhat lacklustre strike force.
The injuries are already piling up for Torquay in what is a wafer thin squad. It was a hotly contested match today in front of a big opening day crowd. Both sides look short of competent attacking intent and there was conversations at the full time whistle of the need for further improvement and potential loans to compensate both for the injuries and the lack of attacking threat. It was a hard earned point today but there was a feeling that full strength Torquay could have come out the victors today.