Ian East – @Easters86
Ian reports back from the Silverlake Stadium
EASTLEIGH FC 1-0 TORQUAY UNITED – MATCH SUMMARY
Well I suppose no one is that surprised that after a trip to Eastleigh we come away with nothing again, a place where The Gulls are now winless in 8 visits, but it’s another worrying defeat that keeps Torquay rooted to the foot of the table and now 4 points from safety, with a daunting trip to Notts County at the weekend.
I wanted to sleep on this before I wrote the verdict from yesterday’s game, not because I was over emotional but I just wanted to process everything I watched and try my best to accurately summarise the good, the bad and the ugly because we got all 3.
No major surprises with the team selection, Halstead returned in goal after his eye infection and the only other change was De Silva back in after his 1 game ban for the now suspended Ross Marshall. It meant Torquay started in a familiar 3-5-2 with De Silva as the left wing back, Donnellan was at centre back with Okoli and Moxey and everything else was as it was against Altrincham. Still only 4 subs of which 1 was Lovett and 2 were defenders, but we’ll get to that.
The first half started as it meant to go on. Aaron Jarvis was booked 30 seconds into the game for a flailing arm as he went up for a header. Almost immediately after that Eastleigh created their first chance but a header from Whitehall went over the bar. There was no let up for Torquay as we were pinned on the back foot from then on, we just about cleared a corner only for Goodwin to carelessly give the ball away on the edge of the box, but thankfully Halstead brilliantly pushed aside a long distance shot to give Eastleigh a corner.
There was more to come, Okoli inexcusably missed a straight long ball in the air allowing Abrahams a clear run on goal, thankfully his effort was close enough to Halstead who made another good save to his right this time to keep us level. Halstead again was forced into another save as Eastleigh broke away this time down the United right flank. It felt like the attacks were coming from all around the pitch
and that Eastleigh would inevitably score at this point. The defending was in the desperate category, too many times not stopping the problem at source, not getting close enough to stop shots and crosses mainly from our left side. Everything was a last ditch block or deflection on a shot that would lead to umpteen corners for the home side.
Still, after the initial barrage we seemed to just about weather the storm, in fact we had a couple of half chances ourselves, both created by the lively De Silva. Goodwin couldn’t quite get enough on a back post header which Eastleigh scrambled clear and we had another decent ball across the face of goal that no one could get near. The fact I’m chalking that up as a chance kind of says it all.
Then 2 minutes that would ultimately shape the game, Eastleigh attacking down our left hand side put a smart move together, the low fizzed cross into the box was going away from goal but the Eastleigh striker made a good run across Okoli who showed every bit of inexperience to lunge in across the man towards the ball, nailed on penalty and subsequently given. Whitehall dispatched it and we were 1
Literally moments after the kick off Jarvis, who had got away with another not great looking aerial challenge moments before, caught an Eastleigh defender with another flailing arm and that was his night done. 2 yellow cards for the exact same foul in under 40 minutes. United a goal down and for the 3rd time in a row down to 10 men.
We got to half time without any further damage, Gary made a half time sub bringing Lapslie on for Smith and changing the shape. We went 4-4-1 with De Silva moving onto the right side with Lapslie left and Moxey going to full back. It was the right thing to do in my opinion, we had to get De Silva further forward to try and support Goodwin as much as possible.
In fact in the second half Torquay were much better, this is where if you want some positives there are some. The team are still playing for the manager, they are still trying their guts out and they are still playing within the framework set up by the management. This isn’t a rag arsed rovers, players not knowing what to do then quitting when it gets tough situation when you absolutely know you have a problem with the management.
It felt like to me Eastleigh didn’t really know how to play against 10 men. They’d had all the success in the first half dictating the game and playing with a high tempo, they were happier to sit in allow us to have more of the ball and try and play on the break. We forced a few early corners and long throws that threatened to get us back in the game but that’s all they were, we never forced McDonnell in the home goal into getting his kit dirty.
As the minutes wore on and Eastleigh missed a few breakaway opportunities I couldn’t help but wonder what if we just had someone on the bench we could throw on now and have one last go at it? All we could do was take off McGavin and bring on Ali Omar. A centre back on for an attacking midfielder, admittedly McGavin hadn’t had a great game but Omar didn’t go up front, he went into the back line and Donnellan was pushed into midfield.
United huffed and puffed and we had 2 half hearted appeals for penalties, a shot from the edge of the box was blocked by a defender throwing his body at the ball to block it, it may well have hit an arm but it would have been harsh. Nevertheless Lapslie got himself booked for moaning about it. Goodwin who’d worked tirelessly up front in a mainly lost cause, was wrestling with a defender and hit the deck was very much 50/50 and again unlikely to be given.
We forced a late couple of corners and had one that the hosts struggled to deal with but again couldn’t get any good contact on and that was that, after 5 minutes of added on time Torquay had slipped to another defeat.
Mark Halstead 7 – Played well, made 3 good saves in the first half 1 in particular, caught everything. He’s our best keeper, we need him fit for the duration now.
Dylan Crowe 7 – see MOTM.
Dean Moxey 6 – Usual decent game from Moxey, the only one with any composure or class back there, was clearly not 100% and went off towards the end hopefully nothing serious.
Shaun Donnellan 5 – OK, he’s better at centre back than anywhere else, if he’s the 4th choice option there and on the bench to fill in whenever needed on the field then that would be fine. The problem is he has to play every game at the moment and he’s limited.
Chin Okoli 4 – I’ve watched this lad twice, I don’t think he is any improvement on what we have and all it’s doing is taking minutes off one of our own young defenders and giving it to someone else. Gave the pen away but even some of the basic stuff like mistiming free headers, not passing it 5 yards. It was horrible. Only a month loan we need better here.
Dillon De Silva 7 – He’s our only outlet, the only one in the entire side who can run with the ball at pace and might create something. His final ball is erratic that’s why he’s playing for us but any small chance we had in the 2nd half was down to him on the right hand side. He needs to play further forward.
Scott Smith 5 – Unless he was injured I didn’t really see the benefit of taking him off at half time, he hadn’t impacted the game all that much at that point but nobody in the midfield had, and I felt we could have used his legs in the 2nd half.
Asa Hall 6 – Better in the 2nd half like the entire side, still one of our most likely goal getters but he’s on his last legs and at times the immobility in our midfield was exposed in the 1st half.
Brett McGavin 5 – I can see the frustration with McGavin, there’s a footballer there but whether it’s confidence or whatever he just doesn’t do things quickly enough, again he’s not naturally athletic but he does have some quality on the ball. If we had some better options, I think he’s one that we have to upgrade in the short term and try and bring him along…if and when the team is playing better.
Aaron Jarvis 2 – I mean what can I give him? All the inexperience, petulance and dare I say stupidity in this team was summed up in that 2 minutes. Okoli tackle for the penalty then Jarvis who’d got booked inside of 30 seconds gets sent off moments later for the exact same foul. These stupid decisions by our players not the officials, Marshall last week and Jarvis this week are costing us, not just the game they get sent off in but the next games they miss because of it.
Will Goodwin 7 – Worked his socks off, up front on his own working off absolutely nothing he chased and harried, did all the stuff forwards have to do in those situations. Thankless and you ask him to do it every week at the moment because there is no alternative. We have to get him some help.
Tom Lapslie 6 – Did ok, played on the left hand side of midfield again completely not his position but sums up the lack of options, got booked for dissent which is unacceptable.
Omar and Tomlinson N/A – both on for less than 10 minutes.
MAN OF THE MATCH – DYLAN CROWE
I felt this was a difficult one because no one was outstanding, I feel like Halstead did his job, De Silva and Goodwin had good games but I’ve gone for Dylan Crowe because I thought that was his best game I’ve seen from him from a defensive viewpoint. I watched him closely in the first half when he was by us and he was stopping crosses at source, winning his tackles and trying when he could to get forward. I think he’s worth persisting with, he like a few others just need some more help.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS –
The fans, 259 of us there last night it’s unbelievable really that so many just go to these games. I expected 1500 total and about 120 of us, 2100 and 259 of us. There’s next to nothing to shout about at the moment, but truly great support.
While the ref was liking to be a bit busy, I lost count of the amount of times he’d stop the game and run off just to chat to someone, he got the big decisions right. We can have no complaints over the red card and none over the penalty. Could we have had a penalty? Maybe but you’d have been fuming if it was given at the other end.
3-5-2 to start with, I think everyone would have named that starting XI to begin with there isn’t a lot of choice otherwise. Once the red card happened we changed shape at half time to 4-4-1, again I think the right thing to do we had more success with it mainly down to De Silva playing further up the pitch and Eastleigh sitting back happy with 1-0 more so than in the first half. If we had more options I’d like to see us play 4 at the back personally but we’d need Wyatt/Martin back so we could play Moxey at centre back to do it. Or bring in new players of course.
Don’t want to say a game of 2 halves but I can’t think of a better description. The first half we looked all over the shop defensively, created nothing, the inexperience and stupidity shone brightly again with 2 moments of madness that litters our games at this current time. But then in the 2nd half you see the spirit, the effort and desire that makes you think yeah they haven’t given up. My big takeaway though and I’ve thought this since the opening game of the season, there’s just not enough quality in this group as a collective. It’s not 1 or 2 players, there are big problems in all 3 parts of the side, defence, midfield and attack. It’s fixable but it’s more whether those players are available and would come to us. We desperately need a more seasoned centre half than the raw kids or makeshift defenders (Donnellan) that we are fielding, we need one of the left backs back to give us a bit more balance, then we need another attacking midfielder to help share the load with De Silva, if we added those 2 along with another forward option just so we could rotate them a bit or bring someone on it would give us a fighting chance.
After the game I don’t tend to hang around too long win or lose but something told me no they deserve some applause. This isn’t an easy period for anyone, the players are really trying they gave it everything they had in the 2nd half the problem is as a group they just aren’t talented enough. There aren’t enough players like De Silva who can carry the ball, create something and change a game. Not just that but defensively as well, Torquay were really poor in the first half just as they were against Altrincham, and only a mixture of poor finishing and Mark Halstead meant the game wasn’t completely dead in the water at half time.
Some supporters, and when I say some I really mean 2 or 3, decided to give Gary both barrels as he came to applaud everyone. I get it we are bottom of the league, since we last won we’ve had 2 monarchs, 3 prime ministers and 4 chancellors I really get it, but I don’t feel yesterday was the game that they deserved that. 3 games on the spin with 10 men and no one could honestly say they didn’t try or that they gave up in the 2nd half. It’s just a lack of quality and a lack of options which can only be addressed with some new signings. Gary needs to beg steal and borrow whoever he can quickly if Torquay hope to improve this dreadful run of results and perilous league position.