TT TALKING POINTS – Yeovil Town (h) by Matty Hayward

TALKING POINTS

Matty Hayward – @MattyHayward96

Matty discusses the Boxing Day draw at Plainmoor

The first memorable action of my 2022 was sheltering my hangover as I clambered into my dad’s car. We were bound, in the pissing rain, for Yeovil. At least, I thought it was, but in the process of writing this article I’ve discovered that the game was played on January 2nd, not the 1st, so either the hangover was phantom, or an increasingly common two-dayer. Anyway, we were pretty poor up there, but left with a real spring in the step after Connor Lemonheigh-Evans’ corner found its way in, and Dan Holman banged in from an angle in the dying minutes to salvage three points from a losing position.

It crossed my mind, this Boxing Day, that Corie Andrews could be about to play the Holman role. A (rightly) much-maligned centre forward who signed the previous summer with a big bum and one exciting season on his CV coming off the bench to finally make an impression on the Gulls faithful. Indeed, when he strode forward and led a dangerous-looking counter-attack I thought this prophecy was closer to coming true. Then he just smacked the ball across the field, straight into the path of a Glovers midfielder, and the second-half onslaught continued. I wonder if he’s fit to lace Dan Holman’s boots, and if criticisms can come more cutting than that.

A GAME OF THREE THIRDS

There are definite positives to be taken from this game, and I’m going to do my best to focus on as many of them as I can for as long as possible, if only for the sake of your mental health and mine. We were the better team for the first half, and the first section of the second half was largely even. Evans, Wearne and particularly Jarvis will all feel they could’ve done better with chances in that period, and there were other moments where attackers either took the wrong option or misplaced the crucial ball. The fact that we created those opportunities, and are getting in the right areas, against a team whose defence is (statistically, though it wasn’t entirely evident yesterday) sturdy, is a good thing.

I don’t have any great concerns about us as an attacking force. Since we signed some wingers (a novel concept!), we appear to be able to move the ball well and cause most teams some problems. Likewise, Jarvis and Goodwin are very capable strikers at this level. It’s a cruel irony that, intermittently, we’ve been crying out for one forward as good as them since I’ve been supporting Torquay. Now we’ve got both, and they’re playing in a team that is as porous as the lovechild of a colander and a sieve, so they both need to score a brace each to give us a chance in a game.

ANOTHER HEAVILY VEILED POSITIVE

Mark Ellis was absolutely supreme yesterday, I thought. He is one of the best headers of the ball I’ve ever seen in a Torquay shirt. Despite Yeovil’s primary second-half plan being route one to two big lumps, the Kingsbridge Keown was consistently unflustered and won pretty much everything in the air. His goal, too, typified the bloody-minded desire for which our team has been crying out. I’d like to place on record my personal thanks to Mark for completing his knee slide right in front of where I was forced to stand due to a congested ‘Singing Bit’: I’m choosing to believe that he had earmarked my spot for his celebration.

Here comes the veil. Our imperious defensive leader led a post-set-piece charge with moments to go, and dropped to his knees as he turned to evade a full back. It looked very much like he’d done his hammy. If that’s the case, one would expect he’d be out for at least a month. I think it’d probably be the right call, but it’d take a brave gaffer to stump up the required funds to permanently sign an ageing defender whose availability is hamstrung, but the alternative is that he goes back to Barrow, recovers, and then presumably goes somewhere else when fully fit.

THE DIAGNOSIS

You’d have every right to have left Plainmoor on Boxing Day feeling utterly dejected. After 45 minutes of relative positivity (not dominance, but better-team-ism), the men in beetroot looked utterly woeful for the second period. A tactical switch for Yeovil saw two physical strikers given licence to battle and bruise, and saw Torquay completely devoid of answers. We were less on the ropes and more on the canvass in the final twenty minutes, and have to be grateful for a point in the circumstances.

Those around me spent most of the second half imploring Gary to make a substitution, to react to Cooper’s switch. It took every inch of my self-restraint not to a) answer back, and b) swear.

“Which of the pub footballers on the bench would you like to see brought on? The clinically inept centre forward to replace one of our few actually good players, perhaps? Or maybe a game-changing swap at centre back, removing a solid stalwart and replacing him with everyone’s favourite circus performer? A like-for-like switch, where soon-to-be double-relegated central midfielder could come on for soon-to-be double-relegated central midfielder?”

The only reasonable option was to bring Lapslie on, which Johnson did. Nothing changed.

I don’t think it’s fair to say that Johnson was at fault for this shambolic draw in isolation; I actually think he picked the right team and did what he could with the available resources. However, the reason we’re in this predicament, the reason he had no options with which to change the game, the reason we were completely on the back foot for large parts of the game, is that throughout our squad we have a core of footballers who are completely incapable of performing at this level. Some are really good, some have potential that needs honing, and others are just not of the quality required. While he may be able to blame budget, or geography, or all manner of things for this shortcoming, a large amount of responsibility must be placed at his door.

IMAGINE THERE’S NO INEPTITUDE

Imagine. You’re playing for Torquay. Congrats, by the way, I know it’s your dream. Your team is down to ten men thanks to a defensive injury, is in the relegation zone, and is clinging on to a point it barely deserves. Sorry, I know this wasn’t the dream. I’m also sorry to say that, in this imagination, you’re not going to score a late winner. In fact, you’re in the tragic position of being Torquay United’s right back. But your task is eminently simple. The ball has been played in behind you, and is bound for the corner flag. The opposing left winger is winning the race, but is probably going nowhere. Oh, by the way, you’re on a yellow card, you silly goose!

DO YOU:

A) Let him go. You should be able to catch him up, and even if you don’t you’ve got defensive cover around you, your ‘keeper is having a blinder, and it’d be some feat for the lad to get from the corner to a goal-scoring opportunity. You’ve got to play it safe; you’re on a booking for goodness’ sake!

B) Get in a tangle and pull him down.

You went for A, didn’t you, because you’re not fundamentally daft. Do you fancy a contract?

IMAGINE THERE’S NO DEFENSIVE OPTIONS

It’s feasible that we’ll go into New Years’ Day with the following defenders unavailable: Ellis (hamstring); Moxey (unknown, but presumably injured); Martin (long-term injured); Wyatt (who has ridiculously managed to play about 60 minutes this season but still amass five yellow cards – though the cut-off for this is unclear and we may get away with it); Crowe (suspended: incompetence). Assuming they remain unavailable, we may well be looking at picking four from Omar, Marshall, Tomlinson, Donnellan, and Hanson (who has played at right back?). I’m unsure how you squeeze that rabble into a functioning defence, but we’ll have to find a way.

I seem to remember a few years ago we had a similar predicament, and started the game with Kyle Cameron at left back, a centre back pairing of Asa Hall and Robbie Cundy, and the much-missed Ben Wynter on the right. We lost 6-2 that day, and those frailties were exposed. There’s no doubt in my mind that Omar, Marshall, Donnellan and Hanson will secure a far better fate!

COYY – MATTY

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