Matty Orton – @MattyOrton1
Matty blogs about the game at the Shay
FC HALIFAX TOWN 0-1 TORQUAY UNITED – MATCH SUMMARY
Then, as the sands of time were disappearing into the sunshine, the Colossus Sun God Helios, aka Mark Halstead appeared over The Shay.
Let’s start with the obvious (to get it out the way) but I’ll do well if I don’t come back to it. Injuries. You’d be mistaken to think we’d had a large portion of the season under the belt to find ourselves in such a crisis. But it’s sobering to be ticking off game TWO of forty six and feeling like we’re already beaten like a dirty rug in springtime. By the time mentioned, the newly assembled squad already felt battered and bruised (including the team bus by the sound of it) before the wheels had even left Plainmoor. However, there was some optimism when the team sheet came through, with Asa, Lapslie and Donnellan returning to the starting line-up. There were also two new signings announced before the game, Nelson Iseguan and Tommy Hughes joined the bench having come in on loan from them there up the road and Ipswich.
The band of ragtag newbies arrived in Yorkshire, to a ground that has handed over some good results in recent seasons. Despite the Shaymen enjoying a relatively entertaining last campaign (although not ultimately successful), they themselves went into today’s game with a comparably different team and manager. With the season still in its infancy, both clubs were looking to get off the mark with a goal, and a first home or away win for either side at stake. Here comes the next obvious. The weather. Paul Bastard clearly hadn’t checked the forecast and courageously endured the entire game in almost 30°c heat in his woolly hat, just as he will in his shorts come February. The officials allowed for scheduled drinks breaks in each half, with the time taken for each added on at the end. With the fixture poised as it was and elements of injuries and weather hanging over the game, a high press, high intensity start that we saw against Oldham was never going happen.
The game started fairly gently. No real ramping up from either side as both teams were probably thinking about how they were going to endure the next 90 stifling minutes. But as the game began to find a bit of a pattern, it was Halifax who started to edge out as the stronger of the two sides. Halstead made his first save as he pushed the ball behind for a corner. Then once again he was called into action to save against Slew. The period half way through the half saw some Halifax pressure, and once again the ball was out for a corner. It was swung in and met the head of Mani Dieseruvre only to be denied by Halstead at point blank range. The score was still level, and the referee blew up for a drinks break. It came at the right time for us. It broke the rhythm of pressure. It was a chance to get the team gathered in and regroup. Johnson visibly wasn’t happy as he went round each individual (East Thurrock style) but it seemed to do the trick as there was a discernible response from his side.
Then just before half time, a long throw from Dean Moxey was launched goalward. It flicked off the head of a Halifax defender, where it dropped to McGavin who was unmarked and delightfully placed to fire into the net for the first goal of the season. The second half saw us come out with a more resolute performance. Nothing pretty, no fancy football and a dogged team that was proving hard to break down.
A double substitution saw Asa and Wyatt replaced with new signings Nelson Iseguan and Tommy Hughes. Iseguan immediately injected some running into the game and his pace was felt but, unfortunately, in another whip of the injury tail he went down and had to be replaced by Kieran Evans. Then it came. It was like Stone Cold Steve Austin coming down to the ring as a whirlwind of saves followed. Halstead palmed away Alli’s effort before almost immediately denying Dieseruvwe a goal. Halifax began to have one more siege in search of an equaliser. Somehow, once again, Halstead managed to get down and save a shot from point blank range. Then, once again, he stood up and denied Dieseruvwe just as the referee blew for the final whistle.
1-0 to the Gulls in the blazing Yorkshire sunshine.
Mark Halstead – See MOTM
Shaun Donnellan – Nothing pretty. Industrious. 7
Ross Marshall – Solid at the back. Wasn’t a day for messing about. 7
Dean Moxey – Another class display from Mox. Long throw initiating the goal. 7.5
Dylan Crowe – Unfortunately for Dylan is wasn’t set up for a game of getting forward in the traditional wing back sense. Nonetheless, fought hard. More to come from this lad. 6
Tom Lapslie – It was neck and neck for MOTM up until Halstead’s flurry of world class saves. He was all over the pitch, tackling, battling, winning the ball seemingly out of nowhere at times. A real terrier spirit about him and had the Yellow Army flinching. You’ve just come back from injury Tom, please, please take it easy. 8
Ryan Hanson – Again it wasn’t particularly pretty but got the job done. 6
Asa Hall – An hour in the bank for Asa in the searing heat will have done him good considering the amount of pre season he hasn’t had. If absent, it was a game that we would have been crying out for him. 7
Ben Wyatt – It was a bit of a frustrating afternoon for Ben in the same way Dylan couldn’t get forward and influence the game in a full back sense, although comparably, I think we certainly have a good player on board. 6
Brett McGavin – Got his goal and was unmarked in the box between Halifax’s Jack Senior and Tom Clarke. Either of which would have presumably got pelters during the half time team talk. Nonetheless, right place, right time for Brett who composed and finished nicely on his left foot from 6 yards out. A very good player and established already as a first team regular. 7.5
Will Goodwin – Felt for Will a bit this afternoon. He needs someone to play off/with and the lack of creativity didn’t offer him much to work with. Still though we’ve got Andrews to come back who will help him with some of that. 6.5
Kieron Evans – Came on and helped win the game. Again, I’m sure there will be more to come from him over the course of the season. 6
Nelson Iseguan – It was a shame he had to go off. He almost immediately injected a bit of pace in a game, which understandably on such a hot day, was severely lacking it. Let’s hope the injury God’s aren’t once again laughing at us but from what we saw he looked good. 7
Tommy Hughes – Didn’t notice too much of him after he came on but a more determined team performance in the second half must have meant he contributed to that. 6
MAN OF THE MATCH – MARK HALSTEAD
Time now to get off his back. He’s answered his critics and has answered them hard. He was phenomenal today. Think Exeter in pre-season then upgrade it to business class. Mark has won us the game there. Only marking him down one because his distribution wasn’t on a level with Paul Scholes or Kevin De Bruyne. 9
Ben Oliver. It was sad to hear the passing of such a young Gulls fan this week. It was nice to see all observing the applause for Ben on the 15th minute. Forever and Always a Gull.
You’d have been incensed by them if you were a Halifax fan, and I can understand why. Although we had a couple, maybe a small handful of decisions not go our way, I sat there quietly more than once thinking ‘we’ve got away with that’. We’ve been on the receiving end of that so for once it was our turn to sit it out.
Three at the back, with Crowe and Wyatt operating wide although pushed back so at times it looked like we were playing with a five. Asa sitting fairly deep and Lapslie given the freedom to run around like a pent up 7 year old on Christmas morning with Goodwin up top.
They weren’t bad, they weren’t good but they weren’t bad. Johnson believes they’ll be around the top teams this season and I can’t disagree with him. What do I know. They have had a large overhaul similar to ourselves and I’m not sure what the expectations are for them this season but they’ve definitely got enough about them to win a respectable number of games.
It wasn’t pretty. No nice passing triangles. No neat one two’s. It was obvious that we were lacking the creativity and link up play from midfield – but, we weren’t set up for that. This was an ugly win, a battling, industrious, hard working, grinding, exerted type of win. We shithoused them basically. I was, and wasn’t surprised at the heckles I got from the Halifax fans as I left the ground. We rattled a team that should have won and were upset with how we ‘time-wasted’, how we ‘cheated’, how we should be ‘embarrassed’, how our ‘keeper is good but the rest of our team is shit’. Yeah OK, there were some handbags after the final whistle, we might have employed some dark arts, we might have wound a few of their players and crowd up, we might have gathered five more bookings than them, we might have got away with a few things we shouldn’t have, but, why does that have to necessarily be deemed as bad? Some may agree, others may not but I personally don’t think we’ve done enough of this in recent years We are now physically a bigger side, we know how physical this division can be at times and we have just proven, we can potentially be a difficult team to beat. We have had a few seasons now of enjoying the creativity of, respectfully, smaller players like Lemon and Little, so that will be lacking to begin with, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat. This isn’t to say we don’t have any decent footballers, we do, and with some tweaking and a sprinkling of Johnson’s magic dust as he says, we’ll come good.
However, on a last note, we need to keep the injury table as free as possible. Corie Andrews travelled with the squad yesterday and was the first to run over and congratulate Mark on his performance. We still have Jarvis to return and Ali Omar along with Dan Martin. But at least, as of yesterday, the injury list wasn’t as long.
4 points from 2 games. We’re off the mark.