Dom Roman – @DomRoman
Dom discusses the Gulls
NO IMPACT FROM THE BENCH
Ross Marshall and Dylan Crowe are two keen enthusiastic young footballers, two guys whose tangible flaws epitomise our collective struggles this season. As subs they will come on and try to make a difference, but what they are not in any shape or form are game changers. Game changers are chaps who can be unleashed from the bench and give your side an extra boost when you need it most. So the introduction of these two in the second half on Saturday (and the previous Saturday…) told a story. A story of a squad painfully lacking in depth, a squad frustratingly bereft of attacking options all season long. Those substitutions were met with rightful disappointment and grim faces from the Yellow Army, how have we come to this point?
It all goes back to our last two summers of discontent and it’s frankly hard to believe that a squad could be constructed so poorly by such an experienced manager as Gary Johnson. Hoards of underwhelming incomings since the despair of Ashton Gate have given us a workmanlike group of chaps at best, helped in quality by some loan signings. It would be interesting to find out how many total loan signings Gary Johnson would make if it was a limitless option? 7, 8, more? Keep them coming QPR, Southampton, Newport…I’ll take em!
Time after time this campaign the bench has been lacking any oomph. In attack we spent much of the early season with only two strikers (Jarvis & Goodwin), and with Andrews constantly injured or unfit, no-one suitable to replace them in the closing minutes of games. More recently it’s been Jarvis and one or two other strikers in the squad at best. How many other teams in the league have been so consistently limited in attack? Not many I doubt (if any). Having two attackers on the bench to throw on is a must, and always has been. We had four strikers signed on last summer, but the other one is Olaf Koszela, who was given a new contract, one match to impress and then shuffled out on loan. Utterly pointless I’m afraid.
Games will need chasing in the last 20 minutes that’s for sure, and the squad desperately needs one or two new faces. With the latest loan striker Lewis Collins most likely out for a couple of weeks, will another guy come in or will James Crole return from injury? It just feels like we need to achieve one very important thing, and that’s score the first goal. We haven’t come back from a goal behind all season to win a game, and I’m not sure we can. Pressure on the defence to keep the opposition out, and pressure on our best striker Aaron Jarvis to find us a winning goal. GJ desperately needs more variety and more firepower, but where is it coming from?
The good news is we did match Barnet for much of Saturday’s game, similar to the Woking draw there was no noticeable gulf in class between us and the play-off contenders, and we can beat them next weekend. But will we? It just feels like Barnet’s knowhow, size and strikers will give them the edge again. The Bees made smart signings in the summer and built a steady squad with a strong mentality, and enough goals to be play-off contenders. Quite a contrast to Gary Johnson, who has overseen well over 30 players pull on a Gulls shirt in 2022-23 so far.
All in all the United efforts continue but the final third remains our Achilles heel (United have not scored 2 against NL opposition since mid-December). Defensive resilience enhanced to give us hope, but issues linger agonisingly. The sequel is rarely better than the original, on Saturday let’s hope the trend is bucked (Terminator 2 style!) and 3 points can be grinded out against a Bees side licking their wounds from a loss to Notts County. It could take some luck, a dubious penalty, offside decision or red card to sway a huge win our way. Keep your fingers crossed Yellow Army, see you at Plainmoor.