Andy discusses the win against York
Five wins on the bounce…who’da thunk it three weeks ago? But what none of you knew was that I was about to leave the country on the morning of the Boreham Wood game and that usually means a turnaround in fortunes. So it proved as waking up at 7am or 9am for 3pm kick-offs (depending on time zone) was met with surprise win after surprise win. I was getting so convinced I was the problem, I almost didn’t go to Saturday’s game but glad I went in the end, even if it was another one of those rollercoasters I don’t like!
I’ve done a few of these pieces this season, and been critical of recruitment in just about all of them, but I have to be fair now as the last handful of signings Pete and Gary Johnson have secured have been huge catalysts in turning the season around. Really only the Frank Nouble signing seemed to make sense when it was made, but Nico Lawrence, Kevin Dawson, Lewis Collins and Jack Stobbs have all made significant contributions since their arrivals at Plainmoor.
I doubt either Collins or Stobbs has much experience playing a wing-back role, but both have adapted to it well, and Collins was one of our star players on Saturday. Dawson never stops running and Lawrence was confirmed as young player of the year despite being here for less than half of the season. Considering “good riddance” appeared to be the over-riding message when Dawson left Gloucester and Stobbs departed Oldham, it’s been a surprise to see what supporters from those clubs couldn’t see that we are now benefitting from.
Talking of bad signings, Mark Ellis wasn’t generally regarded as one when we brought him in on loan. But just go and look at the stats when he was here, and then go and look at the way he failed to deal with hat-trick hero Aaron Jarvis and Nouble on Saturday. Some of our worst defensive displays of the season happened when the veteran stopper returned to the Gulls and our goals conceded went through the roof. Weirdly, it was also the time when the impressive Lucas Ness was in town, and he’s gone on to take a semi-regular place in a bad League One side (one which concedes goals for fun, of course!) Ellis did little but moan at referee Ryan Atkin during Saturday’s game (for good reason on occasion) but his only real contributions came with long throw-ins and losing Jarvis for the opening goal.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Jarvis was a shoo-in to be named man-of-the-match against the Minstermen but I might have been tempted to give it to Mark Halstead. I’ve had a chance to watch the replays now and still have no idea how he made one first-half save on Saturday when a ball ricocheted off Nico Lawrence and appeared headed into the bottom corner, only for Halstead to turn into a non-league Gordon Banks and push the ball to safety with his fingertips. I actually had a better angle of it from my seat in Bristow’s and wish someone had taken a video from that spot…it’s a better save from there than it will ever be in the replay because you get defenders and York strikers in the way. It wasn’t the only good save he made either.
Talking of York strikers, if we happen to end up in the National League next season and need one, I’d be all for us trying to sign Lenell John-Lewis. (His name is a shop…or Waitrose to his friends). I thought he gave our defence a torrid time on Saturday and his captaincy was excellent. No moaning, unlike some of his team-mates and 100% professionalism at all times. I rarely am impressed by an opposing player, but I’d be delighted to see him forming a three-headed rotating giant with Jarvis and Nouble in 2023-24’s perfect world.
PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
I wasn’t for the club presenting their Player of the Year/Young Player awards before kick-off, but at least on this occasion it was done with the minimum of fuss and took barely 90 seconds out of preparations. Although Nico Lawrence didn’t have his best game, looking like an inexperienced 19-year-old at times, Aaron Jarvis had a day to remember as he became the first Torquay striker since Robin Stubbs to get two hat-tricks in a season (per TUFC on Twitter). The Plainmoor Giroud came to the club with little fanfare and a scoring record which offered little in the way of excitement. He’s up to 15 goals now, a fine contribution considering injury delayed his start to the season, and you can only hope he’ll be here next year whatever division we are in.
THREE GAME TO GO
So now it’s on to the final three games and although we’re still in the bottom four, it’s gone from being two of Yeovil, us or Aldershot to probably one of us, York, Aldershot or Maidenhead. And given that York take on Aldershot next Saturday at least one of them is going to drop points. Heaven knows what the next twist in this tale is…but it’s certainly more fun now than it was three weeks ago.