TT BLOG – THE YEAR IN REVIEW By Danny Burnell

TT BLOG

Danny Burnell – @dannyburnell_92

JANUARY

The New Year started off with a bang as a resurgent Gulls’ completed the double over local rivals Yeovil, courtesy of a late Dan Holman strike. Transfers-wise, the January transfer window sparked panic, and in Torquay’s case, fending off interest for Joe Lewis, Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, and top goalscorer Armani Little would become the utmost priority. Huish Park would prove to be Sinclair Armstrong’s last hurrah, as the hugely popular striker returned to parent club QPR.

Torquay did reinforce throughout the month, firstly in the shape of Stephen Wearne from Sunderland, who played his in the 2-2 draw with Dagenham, before scoring on only his second start in a 2-1 away win at Altrincham. United then returned to strong affiliate QPR, who sent Stephen Duke-McKenna on loan to Plainmoor for the remainder of the season. The two wide-men would become crucial in the final third of the season. The last game of the month at home to Solihull proved a bridge too far as United succumbed to a 0-2 home defeat, leaving them 8 points adrift of a play-off spot.

Key moment: The signing of Duke-McKenna caused excitement among the Yellow Army. The Guyana-international would showcase his talents for the remainder of the season.

Form: WDWL

League Position at month end: 11th

FEBRUARY

The Gulls’ first match of the month couldn’t have gone any better. High-flying, big spending Wrexham were in town, but only to witness a solitary Asa Hall header nestle into the net. The great form continued as Torquay eventually saw off the league’s whipping boys Dover, at The Crabble. It would be an unbeaten month for United, but had to settle for 3 draws on the bounce. Firstly, a 2-0 lead against Barnet was squandered at Plainmoor, before a lacklustre 0-0 against Boreham Wood 3 days later. The month ended with a 1-1 draw with Wealdstone in front of an empty stadium, due to crowd safety concerns, as Ben Wynter levelled the scores late on. Although the month yielded a return of 9 points, the Gulls’ were one point further away from the play-offs come the end of February.

Byron Moore was deemed surplus to requirements midway through the month, as the midfielder departed for AFC Telford. A signing which promised so much, produced so little. He played just 5 times.

Key moment: With the Gulls’ in cruise control against Barnet and leading 2-0, referee James Durkin (of course) didn’t stop play for a Dean Moxey head injury. The Bees’ were allowed to play on and score in hugely controversial circumstances. United never recovered and were made to settle for a point.

Form: WWDDD

League Position at month end: 11th

MARCH

Torquay continued to push hard for a play-off spot as we approached the Spring, with a further 15 points up for grabs throughout March. A third consecutive home draw (Bromley) did little to aid United’s cause, but that was followed up by a nerve-wracking 3-2 away win at Kings Lynn. Duke-McKenna with the pick of the goals there. The Yellows unbeaten run did come to an end at The Shay where Billy Waters was inevitably amongst the scorers in a 2-0 home win. But back-to-back hammerings of Aldershot & Weymouth at TQ1 did give the Yellow Army renewed hope of a late late play-off surge. The slow start back in August/September was really coming back to haunt United at this time. The Gulls’ remained in 11th position, but crucially, were just 6 points off of 7th place.

The Gulls’ made one last ditch signing with the return of Opi Edwards on loan from Forest Green mid-way through the month. It was hoped his pace and tricky could be the difference between one point and three.

Key moment: On 38 minutes at home to Bromley, Joe Lewis was shown a straight red for a last-man foul on the Visitor’s striker. That dis-advantage severely hampered United’s quest for 3 points.

Form: DWLWW

League Position at month end: 11th

APRIL

The month of April started off with a Plainmoor masterclass as promotion chasing Notts County were hit for five! Top goalscorer Armani Little continued his fabulous form helping himself to a brace, but makeshift front-man Connor Lemonheigh-Evans stole the limelight with a delightful hat-trick on a very pleasing afternoon at United HQ. Good Friday turned out to be a great Friday as Little struck once again at his old club, Woking. That early goal was enough to claim victory, in what would prove to be the last away win of the campaign. A frustrating goalless draw with relegation threatened Eastleigh on Easter Monday dampened spirits in a game Torquay did everything but score. But the real sucker-punch was the following week at Grimsby, where the Gulls’ were pegged back from being ahead, to lose with virtually he last kick of the game courtesy of a penalty. Defender Joe Lewis salvaged a point at home to Maidenhead a week later, but it was becoming apparent, time was running out to secure a season-extending 7th placed finish.

12 points from play-offs with 15 to play for. It was highly unlikely anything but a mid-table finish was going to be the result.

Key moment: Grimsby’s last gasp penalty took the wind right out of United’s cells. It was billed as a must-win to remain hopeful going into May, but it wasn’t to be for the Gulls’.

Form: WWDLD

League Position at month end: 11th

MAY

Four games to go as we approached the last month of the season, and there was little to play for. United travelled to the Daggers on bank-holiday Monday to play out a fairly uneventful 0-0 draw. They did put on a show in front of the BT camera’s however, when Chesterfield rocked up to Plainmoor. A delicious Duke-McKenna strike was added to by Little from the penalty spot to secure what would be Torquay’s final win of the season. United travelled to champions-elect Stockport mid-week, with the home side knowing a victory would propel them into League Two. The Gulls’ couldn’t spoil the party and duly lost 1-0, before a final day draw at Roots Hall with Chiori Johnson grabbing the last goal of a topsy-turvy season.

Torquay finished where they had been most of the calendar year, in 11th spot. 66 points wasn’t enough, as they fell 8 points short of play-offs.

Key moment: We all knew Duke-McKenna was destined for bigger things, and he delighted and dazzled in front of the camera’s where he took Chesterfield to shreds.

Form: DWLD

League Position at month end: 11th

JUNE/JULY

It wasn’t long before the retained list reared it’s head, and it made grim reading for the Yellow Army. Experienced heads Asa Hall & Dean Moxey signed on for another season, to add to the already contracted Lapslie & Halstead. Ali Omar earned himself a further deal but there were major changes afoot over the coming months.

Expectedly there were departures, but not quite on the scale anyone was prepared for. Little & MacDonald found clubs in League One. Lewis & CLE departed for Stockport. Danny Wright sought other opportunities on the South Coast, and perhaps most shocking of all, Ben Wynter swapped Plainmoor for Barnet. Others such as Felix, Johnson & Lolos were not offered to further their TUFC careers, as they moved to NL & NLS clubs respectively.

A manic-Monday style announcement tried to get the pulses raising. Jarvis, Goodwin, Hanson, McGavin, Evans to name but a few all embarked on their Torquay careers.

A largely new look United arrived on day 1 of pre-season training as they geared up for the usual gruelling Summer training schedule. Throughout the pre-season campaign, further additions such as Tomlinson, Andrews & Marshall were announced as they looked to establish themselves in the starting XI.

Narrow wins over Buckland, Exmouth & Truro and a heavy defeat by Plymouth was the story of pre-season, with the high point undoubtedly being a 1-0 win over local rivals Exeter.

AUGUST

Newly relegated Oldham would be the first team on United’s hit-list as the season started in earnest in early August. In true United fashion, new signing Nathaniel-George was a surprise inclusion in the match day squad, for the already injury-stricken Gulls’. An uneventful start for the fresh-looking Yellows’ as the two ex league clubs played out a 0-0, but it was jubilation 7 days later were a similarly new look Halifax were downed thanks to a Brett McGavin first half strike. That would be as good as it got for Torquay as 4 losses on the spin sent them spiralling down the table. Bromley, Boreham Wood & Maidstone all running out 1-0 winners, with Woking taking all 3 points back to Surrey on their Bank Holiday jaunt to Devon.

United tried to bolster their squad with the loan additions of Nelson Iseguan and Tommy Hughes. Both of whom showed very little quality. Nathianel-George lasted all of about 4 games before he was sent packing into the wilderness.

Key moment: James Alabi’s 87th minute winner for Maidstone caused huge concern within the Yellow Army. It would be 3 straight league defeats, 0 goals and a team lurking dangerously close to the relegation zone.

Form: DWLLL

League Position at month end: 20th

SEPTEMBER

As Autumn loomed, United ended their poor run with a hard fought 2-1 win at Southend. Ryan Hanson & Will Goodwin both scoring their first goals for the club. But again, that’s as good as it got for the month of September as Solihull rampaged to a 4-1 Plainmoor victory, and Wrexham took no mercy on the lowly Gulls as they dispatched them for six. A draw at Wealdstone provided minor relief in between, but the signs were there for all to see. This would be a very long, hard season for this new squad of players. GJ would need to work his magic, and fast. It had shades of last season all over it, but quite rightly the Yellow Army had even more causes for concern as we entered October. By month end Torquay had plummeted to the bottom. Rock Bottom.

Throughout the month Wigan midfielder Shaun Smith came in on loan with Milwall defender Chin Okoli as United tried to plug gaps in this misshapen team. Neither had the desired effect.

Key moment: The rejuvenated Mark Halstead put on a masterclass at Roots Hall to help secure United’s second win on the road.

Form: WLDL

League Position at month end: 24th

OCTOBER

A crucial month lie in wait with no fewer than 6 league games + FA Cup lined up. Struggling Scunthorpe came to Plainmoor and United were expecting a home win. They once again had to settle for a point as Dan Martin’s goal was cancelled out in the second half. Maidenhead made the mid-week trip to Devon and despite being twice behind, struck late into injury time to claim all three points. There was no change at York as they cruised to a fairly routine 1-0 win.

Attentions turned to the Cup where Torquay rallied late on to earn a replay at Hampton & Richmond. The confidence-stricken Gulls’ did manage to win the replay, earning a lucrative first round tie with Derby. But attentions turned back to the league where 8 goals were shared between Torquay & Altrincham. A game which ebbed one way, then another, Dylan Crowe equalising for the 10-men deep into stoppage time. Not before Ross Marshall’s red card assisted in helping Alty go 3-4 up. Routine defeats at Eastleigh and Notts County brought the month to a close, as United lay bottom, 5 points from safety.

Reinforcements were necessary and the management team acted bringing in no fewer than 5 new players throughout the month. Stephen Wearne returned for another spell, alongside Mark Ellis, Lucas Ness, Dillion De Silva & Connor Thompson.

Key moment: Aaron Jarvis’ header for the 10-man Gulls’ sent them through to the FA Cup 1st round, as ex-Premier League side Derby lay in wait.

Form: DLLDWDLL

League Position at month end: 24th

NOVEMBER

November could hardly have started any better as the Gulls’ put Aldershot to the sword. Aaron Jarvis helped himself to his first United hat-trick as the Gulls’ lifted themselves off the bottom. Derby County and the ITV cameras were there to see a shock, and it looked highly unlikely as the Rams raced into a 0-2 lead. But aided by a Cashin red-card, Hall’s penalty and Will Goodwin’s late late leveller earned a replay at Pride Park 10 days later, where eventually they succumb to a humbling 5-0 defeat. In between, a point was rescued by Mark Ellis at home to Dorking as the two played out an entertaining 3-3. But it was anything but entertaining 3 days later as Chesterfield ran rampant at TQ HQ, running out very comfortable 1-5 winners. The month didn’t really improve as Barnet secured a 1-0 in their own back-yard, before Gateshead were the visitors in another six-pointer, only for the spoils to be shared, despite Jarvis’ opening the scoring with 20 minutes to go. Still bottom, now 6 from safety, as we entered a pivotal December.

Key moment: Dillion De Silva showed his promise with a brilliant brace against Dorking. After putting the Gulls’ one up, he had to find the net again in the second half to help mount the comeback from 1-3 down.

Form: WDDLLLD

League Position at month end: 24th

DECEMBER

With the World Cup in full swing, it was all hands to the pump for the Gulls’. Once again, the month started with so much promise, as a solitary Will Goodwin goal gave the unlikeliest of wins at Dagenham. Lucas Ness and Shaun Smith were recalled early in the month to leave the Gulls’ short-staffed. Unfortunately Torquay weren’t able to follow the Daggers win up at Oldham as they narrowly lost 3-2 at Boundary Park, despite a second half resurgence. With snow and ice gripping the nation, it would be 10 days before the next game. Chippenham were the visitors in the FA Trophy, and although they took a 0-2 lead, a Stephen Wearne inspired comeback sent the Gulls through to face Taunton Town next month. The month ended in much of the same vein. Yeovil embarked on their regular Boxing Day pilgrimage to Plainmoor, and earned a draw, after Malachi Linton’s equaliser in the second half. A slightly, just slightly, better month, with the Gulls’ gaining one place, now 2 points from safety.

Key moment: Mark Halstead was inspired once more as Yeovil could and should have really taken all three points. The shot-stopper, not for the first time, securing a point for the Gulls’.

Form: WLWD

League Position at month end: 23rd

2022 STATS

Home record (League only)

Played: 23, Won: 6, Drawn: 12, Lost: 5, Win %: 26.09%

Away record (League only)

Played: 23, Won: 8, Drawn: 4, Lost: 11, Win %: 34.78%

Total – home & away (League only)

Played: 46, Won: 14, Drawn: 16, Lost: 16, Win %: 30.43%

Longest unbeaten run (league): 7 (05/02/2022 – 12/03/2022)

Longest winless run (league): 9 (13/09/2022 – 29/10/2022)

Biggest win: 6-1 vs Aldershot (h)

Heaviest defeat: 6-0 vs Wrexham (a)

Goalscorers (League): 8 – Lemonheigh-Evans, 7 – Hall, 6 – Jarvis/Goodwin, 5 – Little, 4 – Wright, 3 – Wearne/Duke-McKenna/De Silva, 2 – Lewis/Lapslie/Ellis, 1 – Holman/Wynter/Moxey/C. Johnson/McGavin/Marshall/Hanson/Omar/Martin/Crowe

COYY – DANNY

GALAXY TQ

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