Dom Roman – @DomRoman
Dom discusses talking points ahead of the NL clash
THE ACID TEST (PART 2)
First things first, it was a good point on Tuesday night at Woking. With more attacking intent and some impact subs to call on, who knows it could have been more. But it would be churlish to complain about ‘only 1 point’ away at the 3rd placed team, so I won’t! Onwards we go and tests don’t get much harder in 2022-23 than Notts County. Kyle Cameron and all are having a fantastic season, and a result against them would be a major feather in the cap of this much-maligned United squad and Gary Johnson. Unlike a month or two ago, I do feel like Torquay will give County a game and with the defence feeling stronger, the away team will not be able to stroll through and score at will. This is the ultimate test of our recent resolve and any result would give us a great feeling heading into the rest of February. Nothing is impossible.
MARK HALSTEAD V COUNTY’S ATTACK
Who are the key men for Saturday? Well the whole team has to be on their game from the first minute to the last. But let’s discuss Mark Halstead shall we. The goalkeeper looked a little uncertain at the start of the winter months, but then again with a shaky Torquay defence giving up space and opportunities to the opposition, it was no wonder confidence was low. In recent games he’s been very assured. His handling has impressed me, from making saves (including a smart late stop to keep a Woking header at bay), to taking crosses, Mark is doing everything with aplomb and is a big reason why the Gulls have only conceded 1 goal in the last 3 NL games. Against Notts County we’ll need him to be on top form, because despite Donnellan, Lawrence and Moxey playing well, you’d still expect an excellent County team to find gaps and find the target. Some heroics required from our number 1!
Played 29, Won 20, Drawn 8, Lost 1, Goals For 72, Goals Against 26 and unbeaten in 20 games! Notts County will come to Plainmoor expecting to win, and rightfully so. Manager Luke Williams arrived in the summer and has ushered in a much more attacking approach, whilst signing Macaulay Langstaff, a striker who already has 23 NL goals to his name in 2022-23. Langstaff will of course be our main concern, but they also possess playmaker Ruben Rodrigues who scored two penalties in mid-week and Cedwyn Scott, a former Gateshead striker who has 13 NL goals to his name. Barring line-up changes two ex-Gulls will also be on show, with Aaron Nemane prospering at wing back and Kyle Cameron on the left of a centre back trio. County like to push high, command possession and the tempo of games, meaning (as Gary Johnson referred to after the Woking game) United will have to do a lot of chasing and harrying to win the ball back. Turning over possession in dangerous areas and moving the ball quickly could unlock this County defence, but a tough task awaits in all areas of the Plainmoor pitch.
I can’t imagine they’ll be many changes from the Woking (a) line-up, with the back three looking happy and a 3-5-2 pretty much set in stone. In midfield Ryan Hanson got his first NL start in a while on Tuesday, and with Brett McGavin loitering on the bench, it’s possible that Gary Johnson will change one for the other. Otherwise at wing back the defensive abilities of Dillon De Silva are a concern this week. That’s not his fault I may add, he’s an attacking winger so there’s no reason to expect much better. If we had stronger options at RWB, then De Silva might be dropped to the bench for this type of game. As it is, I’d expect to see him start and hope we can get him involved in attacking areas. I’d expect to see new signing Lewis Collins at some stage. From what I’ve heard the new boy has pace and is a hard worker, so let’s hope Collins can make more impact than Crole and Aguiar managed in their brief loan spells at Plainmoor.
A FIGHTING CHANCE
What is notable in the last 3 National League games is a stronger mentality and approach from Torquay United. It feels like we have found some kind of identity with the 3-5-2 formation, and in Nico Lawrence we have a strong Joe Lewis-type centre back who could be a key player for the rest of the season. We also have characters like Shaun Donnellan, Dean Moxey, Tom Lapslie and Aaron Jarvis who are leading by example and taking the fight to the opposition. These factors give me quiet optimism that we can avoid relegation and a dreaded return to the NLS. Whatever happens against Notts County, the team have to continue to play with this level of fight and spirit, grinding out results and grinding our way above 21st. Gary Johnson is closer to a formula he’s been searching for all season, a TUFC team who will turn up week in week out and put in battling performances…time will tell if that will be enough. See you at Plainmoor.