Review: Torquay United 2-2 Burton Albion

Torquay came back from two goals down to draw their opening game of the season with Burton Albion. This was the first chance I have had this season to see Martin Ling’s new signings and how he wants to shape the team.

The Game

*You can see the goals on the BBC’s Football League Show here*

The first half was fairly quiet. Torquay started well but failed to really create any solid chances. The defence looked solid in the first half but cause two huge errors in the second to give Burton their goals. The first was a simple long ball over the top of the defence, which was all over the place, and Joe Oastler was outmuscled to the ball by Richards to score. The second Burton goal was an overall defensive cockup which is almost too difficult to describe. Burton’s winger was let in too easily on the left, squared the ball back, which deflected off Oastler to the Burton striker who would have been offside had it been played by one of his teammates, to flick the ball over the keeps’ jump.

However Torquay responded well, and seemed to gain an extra gear and drive than before going two down. Kee and Stevens started to drive forward, and O’Kane’s passing started hitting its targets which it was failing to in the first half. Torquay’s first goal was a well worked passing move between O’Kane, Mansell and new signing Rene Howe, who excellently rounded the keeper to finish for 1-2.

Torquay’s equaliser was forged by an excellent through ball from Eunan O’Kane to Lee mansell, who slid the ball under the advancing Burton keeper to finish. It was no more than Torquay deserved.

Danny Stevens and Formation

Danny Stevens had a very poor first half but improved towards the end. I do wonder about Stevens’ best position. He is perceived to be a winger but I don’t think at this physical level he has what is required from a winger. He is small, technically a great passer, has the ability to go past a player but does not have terrific pace to act as a out an out wide player. Martin Ling has stated his wish for Stevens to show what he can do this season, and I am starting to wonder whether his best position would actually be in behind the striker, or as the man at the top of a five man midfield.

I think Stevens can really have a place in a team in this position, and it also gets me to wonder about whether a different formation may suit Torquay in league Two, with the style of football played in this division. Goals rarely come from win play, but from teams having a weak middle. I think there may be some benefit from Torquay having the ability to switch to a 3-5-2 and allowing Stevens to play in behind the front two (or O’Kane in his absence).

Other than familiarity, I often question what benefit there is to teams in League Two of sticking to 4-4-2.

Overall Verdict

A promising start going forward with some defensive frailties at the back to sort out. Bobby Olejnik in goal looked strong. Rene Howe up front is massive. His strength is a benefit and he is good at holding the ball up and winning flick headers, but you do just wonder whether a bit less bulk would help him with extra pace.

This is going to be a tough season in League Two this year, and if we don’t reach the play offs again I would not blame Ling. The division is a lot stronger this year with Plymouth, Bristol Rovers, Swindon, a resurgent Bradford, AFC Wimbledon and Crawley both up, and I am sure strong challenges coming from Gillingham, Rotherham, Shrewsbury, Southend and Dagenham & Redbridge. But there is promise in this team for a good season ahead.

Bristol Rovers away next week. See you there.

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