Dom Roman – @DomRoman
Dom discusses the Gulls!
Checking the phone on Saturday, I almost had to take a moment to believe what was happening at Victoria Road. An actual away goal for Torquay United! Was this reality or just a hoax? A few extra glances confirmed it was true. Then during the long and fairly drawn out second half, the checking continued whilst out for lunch with the family (pity my poor wife for what she puts up with!), half expecting a Daggers goal (or two) that never occurred. 6 minutes added on, but the Gulls remaining stoic in their defensive resilience. The winning formula and feeling that Gary Johnson has been flailing for had finally been reached, and it was for once a celebratory Saturday. Social Media joy and Whatsapp merriment, after what we’ve endured this season, a weekend including 3 points is something we all deserved…especially the hardy loyal 145 Yellow Army who made the trip.
The secrets to our success? Luck going in our favour cannot be dismissed, but it was earnt by a team throwing themselves into the battle. With the excellent Mark Ellis leading by example from defence and Ross Marshall coming back well from the side-lines, a first clean sheet at last was ours. With Kieron Evans and Dillon De Silva giving us pace and energy, we had actual counter attacking speed to bother the Daggers. Meanwhile upfront Will Goodwin deputised ably for Aaron Jarvis and stormed into the 6-yard box to hustle in the winning goal. Away wins have to be won through utter determination and a clincal edge in front of goal, just for once it was a tick in both boxes.
Since Gary Johnson took Torquay United back into the National League the team has generally been better with only one upfront, bulking up in midfield for the engine room tussle that so often dictates who will win the game. Goodwin proved at the start of the season that he’s happy to accept that challenge, and Aaron Jarvis has done the same. The next question is whether GJ wants to fit both of them back into the starting line-up for Oldham (assuming Jarvis is ready to return)? I’d suggest the answer should be no. Overall the strength of the team’s system and structure is more important than the individuals, and we do not want to go back to leaving massive holes in midfield again, no thank you.
It’s still baby steps for this Gulls team, one win doesn’t cure all our ills and momentum can easily shift downwards again with one defeat. But it’s a feather in the cap for the much-maligned likes of Dylan Crowe and Ross Marshall to contribute solid performances towards a big win. As we’ve mentioned before, the summer signings must show something this season if we are to avoid a relegation scrap. Against Gateshead another much-criticised player Brett McGavin also played his best game for Torquay. These lads may be starting to find their feet at Plainmoor, and could start to reward Gary Johnson for taking a chance of them. Still plenty to prove, but I live in hope!
The heat is off Gary Johnson for now. Even at his age, and with his CV, he has to prove himself as a manager. That’s football. By tinkering tactically last Saturday to deal with the Daggers, coping with an enforced line-up change and finding a crucial result, this was a victory for him as much as the team. Add to that some much-needed game management in the 2nd half to get us over the line and he deserves credit. The set-up of the team has been an issue for much of the season and weaknesses have been too easy to exploit, thankfully this is a reminder that Johnson can still work out the best solutions and get the players mentally right for kick off. We simply just need him to get it right more often.
Onwards to Oldham we go, a Sunday kick-off on BT Sports. By then we’ll either be glowing after an England World Cup win or griping after an England World Cup defeat. Either way the show must go on for Torquay United. With only two more National League games left in 2022, two wins would do much to rediscover the faith of the Yellow Army and have us singing a merry tune. On the other hand two defeats would see us lurching into 2023 with grimaces all round, wondering whether we can put up with another wet New Year’s afternoon in the Yeovil away end. Big games on their way (and the FA Trophy), has Gary Johnson started to turn his faltering Yellows ship round? Are we about to become a half-decent NL team? Your guess is as good as mine.