TT BLOG – A Battling 3 Points by Dom Roman

TT BLOG

Dom Roman – @DomRoman

Dom discusses the Gulls

BATTLE AND BOTTLE AT PLAINMOOR

As I left home on Saturday to drive to the game, the skies got noticeably darker. Black clouds gathering perhaps warning of impending doom and saying I should go back indoors. Well this was a Torquay United home game after all, and doom has been pretty much the story of the season so far. Undeterred (and cursing the weather), I arrived near the ground and the heavens had properly opened. It was clear at this point that Torquay v Halifax wasn’t going to be a pretty afternoon of football!

And so it proved, the weather rotating from grim rain to sunshine and then back to rain, with some sleet and howling wind thrown in for good measure. The Haywards scampering up the Bristow’s rows to join us and get a bit drier! But thankfully on the increasingly muddy Plainmoor pitch this was a Torquay United XI ready to scrap and ready to give everything for the cause. The Gulls have been regularly trying this season (very trying…), it’s been a recurring note from many games, but to win National League fixtures you have to do more, and on Saturday for once, they delivered.

This was a game for warriors, a game for proper men to push us forward and stop the nasty rot at TQ1. And so they did, with the likes of Asa Hall, Tom Lapslie, Shaun Donnellan and Dean Moxey leading by example from the first slippery kick of the ball to the last. As the Shaymen started the second half better, there was a feeling of de ja vu on Bristow’s, a feeling of ‘here we go again’, but credit to United, they pushed harder as the weather got worse, they squeezed up, forced the issue and got their rewards.

Asa Hall unsurprisingly bagged the official man of the match award. One of our main issues in the last two years is finding someone who can take on Hall’s mantle and allow the skipper to rotate in and out of the line-up, without picking up injuries…but as we enter 2023 we still desperately need the skipper in the starting eleven. For his vital experience around the midfield, for his ability to win headers and loose balls, and also for his ability to score the odd goal. On Saturday all of that was on show, and the winning goal was a clever flick around the corner to delight the Yellow Army. Games will pick up pace in the coming weeks and Asa’s fitness will again be questioned, meaning poor recruitment could yet again come under the microscope.

Speaking of fragile fitness, Tom Lapslie was a hive of activity throughout, refusing to give up on any lost cause and even sliding awkwardly into the Bristow’s hoarding boards at one point, ouch! His work in the last 20 minutes most impressed me, pressing down Halifax players and not allowing them to build up a head of steam in possession. Too often United teams with a lead backtrack and let the opposition stride forward, the likes of Lapslie, Evans and Jarvis made the effort to stop this happening. When Gary Johnson spoke of his players giving 100%, unselfish extra running and pressing of that nature is what he is referring to.

In defence Shaun Donnellan and Dean Moxey shone for different reasons. Donnellan has grown in stature as the season has progressed, becoming more of a leader in the squad and making some crucial tackles as the Shaymen briefly threatened. Meanwhile the Mox may be nearly 37, but he still has all the passion and fire of a 25 year old, battling on the left flank to win possession, rushing to take throws and clipping in dangerous crosses. Much like Asa Hall, our failure lies in not finding younger versions of these players, guys who can make Torquay United into a progressive squad rather than one dependent on veterans, desperate to find wins and desperate to find answers.

The win gives us some belief, belief we can keep a strong shape and beat teams above us in the league. However, there are far too many concerns to believe we are suddenly going to climb the table. Can Lapslie and Hall continue to put in the work and intensity week after week? Unlikely as previous months and years have shown. Can the likes of Ali Omar and Dylan Crowe come up to scratch when we play better teams? Previous evidence would suggest not. Will young lads Aguiar and Crose make an impact considering their lack of previous experience? Perhaps, but like any youngster coming down the leagues it can take time to adapt. And is 3-5-2 the way to go in upcoming matches? The way our tactics have juggled this season I wouldn’t bet on it, but at least our midfield has numbers and the team have a solid base to build on.

Questions, questions, questions! Let’s be honest losing Will Goodwin is not ideal, our top scorer up to this point, he has been one of the few plus points in this relegation scrap and has made an impact straight away at Cheltenham. Meanwhile it’ll be interesting to see how the departing Corie Andrews does at Wealdstone! I’ve been very critical of Corie, a chap whose fitness was lacking right from the start, and a striker whose attitude always looked iffy at best at Plainmoor. In contrast to Corie, Dillon De Silva and Stephen Wearne have both shown the right application and whilst losing Stephen is a shame, De Silva can be a game changer for us. A winger who gives us pace and skill, and hopefully going forward more goals and assists, our season relies on players like him and Kieron Evans delivering.

Overall very cautious optimism to take into the rest of January. Gary Johnson still has a lot of work to do to prove we are on the right track and with Bromley, Boreham and Woking looming, tactically and performance-wise the Gulls have to carry forward the positives of Halifax (h) – effort, energy, battle, organisation and game management, and build on them. Otherwise points will be sparse. With other teams signing players and jostling for points we cannot count on favours and therefore must make our own luck. There is hope this season (and Maidstone on the 28th), but this month could prove very crucial to us still being in the National League for 2023-24. See you at Plainmoor on Saturday for Taunton (h), let’s hope it’s not a warm up for next season….

COYY DOM

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I simply live and breathe Football and have supported Torquay United since 1989. I am a season ticket holder on Bristows and a Trust member. I set up TorquayTalk in 2017 to give true supporters a voice and honest opinions on their club.

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