Chris Wade – @TufcChris
Chris discusses the game at Plainmoor
TORQUAY UNITED 1-2 NOTTS COUNTY – MATCH SUMMARY
Torquay’s upturn in form would be tested, with 20 matches unbeaten leaders Notts County arriving at Plainmoor on a cloudy but dry Saturday afternoon. Tuesday’s point at Woking had given the supporters a real lift, as the safety of 20th now only two points away seemed closer as over 2000 Yellows clinked through the turnstiles.
In a rare occurrence, Gary Johnson was able to name an unchanged team, with new loanee Lewis Collins named among the substitutes. Brett McGavin again dropped out through injury.
It was a bright start to the game, as boos rung around the ground whenever a couple of ex Gulls went anywhere near the ball. Torquay were clearly up for it and set about pressing and disrupting the visitors attacks at every opportunity. Some early tackles were punished with free kicks, some fairly and some not, with Ryan Hanson seeing a yellow card for a forceful tackle that took ball and man. The Gulls nearly took the lead when a wayward back header from a pink shirt required an outstanding left hand from keeper Sam Slocombe to push it away. Tope Fadahunsi then almost got in on a long diagonal ball from Dean Moxey.
Although United were working hard and closing the space down well, it wasn’t hard to see why the Magpies are top and beaten only once this season. They popped the ball around with pace and ease and were prepared to take a risk to break the press. And from the first moment of quality in the match, they hit the front. Connell Rawlinson strode out from the back and fed the ball into National League top scorer Macaulay Langstaff just inside the box, who turned and fizzed a shot into the bottom left-hand corner before Mark Halstead could move.
Fadahunsi was immediately somewhat mysteriously withdrawn, with Collins introduced for a debut. And the tight rope that Hanson was walking after his early booking got wobblier when he slid in again and was given a final warning. Johnson had seen enough and Ross Marshall was readying as United equalised. Shaun Donnelan whipped a cross into the box and the indefatigable Tom Lapslie controlled the ball and drove it passed Slocombe as he came out. Hanson was then withdrawn and Marshall was introduced with Donnellan moving into midfield as half time came and went.
The key moment of the match occurred a minute into the second half, as County worked the ball around the corner on the left edge of the area and Aaron Nemane stepped inside United left back and birthday boy Ben Wyatt and collapsed to the floor. The referee awarded a penalty without thinking. Soft at best, a dive at worse. The otherwise quiet Ruben Rodrigues stepped up, stopped in his run up (which isn’t allowed) and rolled the ball to Halstead’s left as his illegal stop had seen the keeper committed. All very frustrating.
But undeterred, United kept pushing. Several opportunities to deliver dangerous crosses were wasted, mainly by the wasteful Dillon De Silva, but the drive and desire remained as the leaders were reduced to ten men just after the hour in strange circumstances. A free kick form the United right was over hit and way beyond the far post, Rodrigues stuck out an arm and it struck his hand. The assistant on that side flagged immediately and frankly didn’t do the referee any favours as it was silly but all pretty needless. After a short consultation, the second yellow card was produced swiftly followed by a red. United had new hope.
But the solid nature and at times, dubious tactics of the visitors made it hard work for Torquay to get any momentum going, as Jarvis and Collins battled against three every solid defenders. Several yellow cards for time wasting were issued as the game was broken up and Plainmoor became more and more frustrated. County ran the clock down and Torquay kept pushing, including Halstead coming up for a corner deep into seven minutes of added time. But it was to no avail. A defeat but lots of positives to take from it.
Mark Halstead 7 – a frustratingly quiet afternoon for the United number one given that he ended up on the losing side. Had no chance with the quality of the first goal and will be annoyed at the stop in the action of taking the penalty.
Shaun Donnellan 7 – Another solid display from one of United’s most consistent players. Looked comfortable in midfield and delivered an excellent cross for the equaliser.
Nico Lawrence 7 – he looks like a real prospect, doesn’t he? Gave Langstaff little change and won a lot. But he will learn from the yard of space he did give him. One touch and goal.
Dean Moxey 7 – Just Dean Moxey. Solid and battled well as ever.
Dillon De Silva 5 – Another frustrating afternoon. Full of tricks and potential but has to improve his delivery. Lots of opportunity to deliver quality into the box and didn’t do it once. Has to work at that.
Tom Lapslie 8 – Player of The Match. Please see below.
Ryan Hanson 5 – Battled hard in midfield, but a little too hard you might argue. Dived in on three occasions and was lucky not to see a second yellow and was withdrawn in the first half. That’s the second time this season he has been taken off to avoid being sent off. He has to learn.
Kieron Evans 6 – Lots of industry and work rate from the Welshman and led the press well. But, again, lacked any quality and end product in his game.
Ben Wyatt 6 – Was unlucky to have a penalty against him in my view and gives the team more balance now that he is back. Not the birthday he would have had planned.
Tope Fadahunsi 6 – Worked hard again and nearly got in over the top as at Woking. But was then withdrawn after 35 minutes with no obvious injury. Very odd.
Aaron Jarvis 6 – A tough and battling afternoon for the United number 9. He scrapped and battled hard and could have had a penalty in the second half. But got little change from three good centre backs.
Lewis Collins 6 – Introduced in the first half and worked hard. Tall and with pace, he tried to get down the sides but struggled to impact the game.
Ross Marshall 7 – Good stuff from Ross. Won his headers and stepped up to challenge well. He is growing as the season goes on but needs to maintain his discipline.
Dylan Crowe N/A – introduced in the last ten minutes.
MAN OF THE MATCH – TOM LAPSLIE
Another never ending and battling display from United’s number 4. Scurred around the pitch, closing and pressing and gave it everything. Wonderful touch and finish for the equaliser and never stopped running. Keeping him fit will be key to getting out of the bottom 4.
Nico Lawrence is growing with every game, but will also have learnt an important lesson about how you deal with real quality with Langstaff’s goal. Ross Marshall was good again and seems to be improving. Shaun Donnellan impressed again and provided an excellent cross for our goal.
Really hard to judge really. There seemed a real plan to penalise dirty Torquay trying to stop beautiful Notts County from playing, but it seemed a bit harsh at times. Hanson was lucky to escape a red card, Rodrigues perhaps a little unfortunate to see one, and the penalty was so soft and looked a dive at first glance. But he did stamp on one of my bug bears of allowing time wasting. He booked three players for clear time wasting and didn’t stand for it. But it wasn’t a game that warranted to see nine yellow cards and one red.
It was a battle of two 3-5-2 formations. The visitors had the extra quality in their team, but Torquay matched them and faced up to everything that was thrown at them. De Silva has real pace and skill and we have to find a way to get him more involved in games. His crossing simply isn’t good enough from out wide, and getting him further in field to play in between the lines could be the way forward.
It really isn’t hard to see how they are where they are. They zipped the ball around with quality and worked the space well. But there is no need to behave as they did. They are too good for that. Time wasting, diving, pushing, slowing the game down, breaking up the play. They are things that sides near the bottom have to do to get results. Teams at the top with the quality they have simply do not have to behave like that. It was in their set up and plan. No need for it.
An ultimately frustrating afternoon for Torquay, but lots of positives to take from it. The way that we played, faced up to the best team in the league, battled and fought and could have got something out of the game were it not for a dubious penalty decision. But the fixtures get no easier with back to back games against in form Barnet in the Trophy and National League, before a potentailly pivotal game at free falling Dorking. And it was good that no ground was lost in the relegation scrap with other results.