Andy discusses the game at Plainmoor
SCOUTING AND MANAGEMENT
The script appears to be the same every time Torquay play at Plainmoor. Barring the Aldershot home game and the first FA Cup game against Derby County, the rest of the season has been full of unentertaining dross. Some of it is down to Gary Johnson’s less than Guardiola-esque tactics and the remainder down to a squad which is a mixture of just-about National League standard players and others who would be better off in the Isthmian or Southern Leagues. I feel like I have written about recruitment so much this season but some of the decision-making has made me wonder if players are actually being scouted. If that was the case, then a manager with the experience Gary Johnson has would NEVER have thought about playing Jacob Mensah at right wing-back. It’s almost inexplicable and I actually feel sorry for him. Southend’s best player – Notts County target Jack Bridge – had an absolute field day and poor Jacob went off after 45 minutes, potentially never to be seen again. Easily an entry in the top-10 worst full debuts I’ve seen but you can’t blame him – this one is on the scouting and management team…yet again.
BACKCHAT FROM TOM
People will know I am a big Tom Lapslie fan, but I was angry at the way he played on Saturday. It was fairly clear from the start of the game that referee Gary Parsons was not going to stand for any nonsense, yet Tom still wanted to help him officiate the game. An early warning, which also involved Dean Moxey, was ignored and eventually the obvious yellow card came along…followed by another call to the captain that one more infraction would have led to a sending-off. That would have been just what this team needed and potentially produced as much ire as Ross Marshall’s ridiculous dismissal against Altrincham earlier in the season did. Just stick to football Tom – you are pretty good at that compared to the rest of the squad.
THE WINNING GOAL
Continuing with that theme, I don’t like seeing Torquay United players sent off, but surely Brett McGavin needed to take one for the team on Saturday to try and stop what turned out being Southend’s winner. I’ve seen a lot of people blaming Shaun Donnellan and, I suspect, if he had his time over, he might just have scythed Cavaghn Miley down, but if McGavin had any pace in his slowly-turning legs he would have brought his man down and taken the second yellow he deserved. There wasn’t that much time left, and I’d have fancied us to hold on for a barely-deserved point which might be very valuable at the end of the season. Such a shame he hasn’t lived up to the hype from pre-season, but he’s not the only one…and I need to stop going back to recruitment or I’ll have another migraine.
Nico Lawrence has quickly emerged as a rock at the heart of Torquay’s crumbling defence. With Marshall struggling for long spells alongside him and Dean Moxey not always playing on the left-side of a back-three, it has been left to the 19-year-old Southampton recruit to hold things together. He was immense at Dorking (where Marshall let him down) and kept a good fifth-tier striker in Jake Hyde very quiet on Saturday. He’s quick, reads the game well, and perhaps his only slight weakness is being outmuscled by a stronger opponent, but that side of his game also appeared improved against the Shrimpers. Kudos to the young lad – he’s got a massive future ahead of him at least at Championship/top League One level. Very similar player to another former loan favourite Nathan Smith, who is closing on 350 games for Port Vale since his Plainmoor loan spell in the 2015-16 season.
Finally, I have to say I was a little upset by some of the behaviour of both sets of fans on Saturday. I hear there was trouble before the game and after, but it was more the chants from Torquay’s supporters about Southend’s sketchy future which got me. I do have a couple of close friends who support the Blues, and I know they were pissed off – given the pre-game chat of combined chants against their owner Ron Martin – that the singing quickly turned to “going bust in the morning”. Anyone who was singing that needs to remember how easily we could go from our current position to being in exactly the same boat as Southend are. Not a single one of us knows what Clarke Osbourne’s thoughts are about the long-term future of the Gulls and we should be very concerned about that. Those wanting fellow football fans to lose the club they support should remember that karma can be a bitch.