WHY DID IT GO SO WRONG?
I’m writing this on the basis that we don’t put 4 past Wrexham and Gateshead do the same to Maidenhead. But even if it did, it all still stands. It’s been a shocker of a season.
I’m an exile, so home games are few & far between, but seeing a number of away games, streams and listening to the thoughts of friends, there’s a lot to dissect.
You’d think that having bounced back from regional football once, there would be a real determination within the club’s ivory towers to say ‘never again’, especially having been a shootout away from the EFL in the meantime. And yet somehow, here we are. The are clearly major issues with the ownership of the club, but even so, we shouldn’t be finishing in the bottom 4.
So this is about what I’ve observed on the playing front. Squad building, tactics, stats.
Let’s go back 2 seasons, particularly the start of it, when we were blowing teams away. A repeatable formation, 4-2-3-1, pace out wide with Whitfield and Nemane. The scintillating early season form dipped a little when Nemane was injured and there was no direct replacement – but we had much better players then, and got by. I refer back to 20-21 because when things go well, surely you look to repeat the formula? Without even knowing if the summer recruits were doing to be a success or not (I think we all know the answer), there was a notable absence of any width. That was a real head-scratcher, clearly GJ had decided a back 3/5 was his preferred formation.
THE POOR START
My first sight of the new line up was game 3, at Bromley (off the back of a smash & grab at Halifax). We were largely outplayed for an hour, Marshall was sent-off, Halstead was eventually beaten & we got what we deserved. I was impressed by Goodwin (Jarvis was injured), but he had so little service. I was underwhelmed. It was the start of 4 successive defeats. Then at Southend, we managed to take a 2 goal lead, conceded a late one but held on. I’d seen a win! But deep down, I knew that type of performance wasn’t sustainable. We were creating so little, ponderous. And because of the lack of width, there was no Plan B.
We wouldn’t win again until November and were starting to ship goals. GJ was clearly losing confidence in his summer signings. In that time, Dillon De Silva was brought in. I found this a little confusing – why bring in only one wide player? Surely you need a pair? I think it was the Altrincham game that I thought a change of manager was required. The way we fought back showed that ‘losing the dressing room’ was never an issue. But that first half was one of the most embarrassing I’ve ever seen. We’d picked 4 central midfielders (McGavin, Hall, Smith, Donnellan) & Alty were just running through us at will. It could have been 6 at half-time. Then similar happened at Oldham, why weren’t we learning? We had 2 forwards, but nobody that could get the ball to them, the defence was unprotected. It was baffling So that summarises the first part of the season, to the point that we should have made a change in my opinion. By the end of November we were bottom – still plenty of season left though.
RELYING ON FRAGILITY
Do you know how many games Moxey, Hall & Lapslie started together? Seven W1-0 v Halifax L0-4 v Notts County W6-1 v Aldershot L0-2 v Yeovil W1-0 v Halifax W2-0 v Eastleigh W1-0 v Maidenhead Can you spot a pattern? They started together in 16% of our games, which accounted for 5 of our 12 wins. But let’s face it, we could never rely on this trio to all be fit at the same time. We were probably lucky they made it on to the pitch together at all. There’s a fine line when it comes to relying on experience, and being over dependent on fragile players.
We’ve had 17 loan players this season. Seventeen! Nico Lawrence has been an undoubted quality addition, let’s hope the experience doesn’t scar him. I liked Goodwin, who was hurt by the lack of any creativity in the team. De Silva was hit & miss. The grown-ups that joined us late in the season were good. We had to rely on so many because GJ never believed in many of permanent additions over the last 2 seasons. How many of them are actually better? That’s the primary purpose of the coaching team, to improve young players.
This is what’s been my personal biggest gripe. Aaron Jarvis was the deserved Player of the Season. The only choice. Injured for the start of the season, he didn’t start until game 10, the hammering at Wrexham. We were lucky his fitness held out for the rest of the season. Anyone notice what happened when we started feeding him crosses? Whilst we were awash with defenders and central midfielders, there was a bizarre reluctance to have any forward cover. Even when Nouble was brought in, it was Tope that was sacrificed. Since Andrews left in January, there has been only ONE game in which a striker has been on the bench. Incredible.
So how were we meant to change games if there’s nobody on the bench with any attacking ability.
More stats – Goals by subs this season – Most 15 Dorking 13 Oldham 11 Wrexham, Chesterfield Fewest 2 Scunthorpe 3 Maidenhead, Maidstone, Torquay For a club like Dorking to lead the list points to two things, good coaching and game management. It was certainly in evidence when we were beaten there.
That just leaves me with this shocker – Goals 76-90+ min this season. Scored 8 (fewest in the NL) Conceded 26 (only Maidstone also conceded 20+) Garytime is a distant memory. I think it’s the appropriate time to move on.
2 thoughts on “Why did it go so wrong? by Mark Hirst”
Everything you have said I agree with you 100 per cent
I have been a Torquay fan for 52 years and am very upset in the way the club is heading
A brilliant summery with scary but revealing stats !!