Plymouth Argyle 2-0 Torquay United

Just back from Home Park, watching Torquay lose to Plymouth Argyle. It was a disappointing performance, one of a series recently, and summing up the season as a whole. The crowd were getting on Manager Alan Knill’s back towards the end and calling for him to be sacked, some of them, let’s say, extremely impolitely.

I’m not normally one to call for managers to get the chop, but there is very little sign of things improving at Plainmoor, and there are a number of decisions and tactical moves which leave me consistently perplexed, without any chance of them changing.

I’ve mentioned this before, but the 4-3-3 formation which so many teams down the leagues have copied from the Premier League is not as effective in League 2 due to the standard of player at this level. The way in which the wingers are inverted – with the right-footed player on the left and vice versa – makes the team extremely narrow,  reduces the amount of crosses into the box and stunts the fluid movement of attacks as players need to turn back onto their stronger foot to cross.

In the past two games, once behind, we have switched to 4-4-2 and brought Benyon on up front to partner Hawley, and he had an immediate impact, especially in setting up Hawley’s goal against Exeter and generally in holding the ball up.

There’s a bit of a mystery for me in midfield selection, too. Firstly, our central midfield is lacking a defensive quality – the player to sit in front of the back four. Mansell is industrious and has impressed when playing further forward (as shown with his mini goal glut a couple of years ago), but he is not a holding player. We have one. Damon Lathrope. But he has been sent on loan to Hereford.

Secondly, the repeated exclusion of probably our most talented player, Nathan Craig. I would think his inclusion essential if you are playing this 3 man midfield system, which requires neat passing. I think, in a 4-4-2, he could be even more vital if the team was allowed to play with more width. Ling and Taylor never liked to play him in the centre however, despite this clearly being the position where he dominated play, instead choosing to play him inexplicably on the right wing. Obviously something happened in the past which led to him being dropped, but that must surely be over now. Craig has made a number of sub appearances lately, but far too late to influence the game as he should be able to. Stick him in the middle, and build the team around him. 

 

 

Torquay United 0-0 Plymouth Argyle

A  short report today, not too much to write! It was a Devon derby which Torquay will feel they should have won. Overall they controlled the match, although Michael Poke was forced into a few decent saves from long range shots, but nothing challenging for a keeper of his quality. A few little points…

Nathan Craig
Craig played very well today. His passing is excellent, and he shielded the defence well in Damon Lathrope’s absence. It’s great to se him coming through and becoming a real first team choice this season.

Danny Stevens and tactics
Danny Stevens was back today after injury. I thought he played well, but his return does highlight a problem Torquay had last season when Stevens was in the team. Stevens, who’s tight footed, prefers to play on the left and come in onto his right foot. However this means that the opposite winger has to do the same. Last season, this was often Ian Morris, and I feel it was detrimental to his game. It also means that crosses do nto come into the box as quickly, which is not the most effective way to use Rene Howe.

In the last few games, with Thompson on the right and Bodin left, you could see the difference in the fluidity of attacks. I don’t think it’s Stevens’ fault, but it does affect the overall balance of the team. Actually in the long run, I still think his best position is in behind Howe as the top of the three midfielders, where O’Kane largely played last year.

Still, overall a good performance, and still unbeaten in the league.

 

Update on Torquay United transfers

Good news to start – Damon Lathrope has signed a new contract. He’s been excellent this year and I actually voted for him as Player Of The Year (though big batlle in my head with Mansell, Olejnik and Ellis).

Ashley Yeoman has been given a year to prove himself. Ling touting him as a possible O’Kane / Benyon replacement. Seen him a couple of times for the reserves. Will reserve judgement.

Lloyd Macklin has been transfer listed, which is no surprise, but Ling was very critical of his attitude in his statement

Chris McPhee has also been listed, which is again no surprise. Torquay have a very small squad, so player like Macklin, McPhee and Rowe-Turner who are constantly on the periphery always likely to have to make way for others pushing for the first team.

Ellis offered a new contract but Ling doesn’t sound massively hopeful of keeping him. Sounds like vultures are swooping…

Match Report: Torquay United 0-0 Southend United

A very quick one today.

A close game yesterday, and 0-0 probably the right result in the end. Southend brought a very physical game to Plainmoor, which Torquay have found difficult before (notably home to Bradford earlier in the season).

Quality was lacking from both sides on a very difficult day in torrential rain. Southend hit the crossbar form a free kick, and Jarvis went close for Torquay, but chances were few and far between. There was no lack of effort however.

Shrewsbury’s win makes them favourites now for 2nd place, and leaves it virtually as a straight battle between Torquay and Crawley for 3rd.  Presuming that Crawley can get past Northampton on Tuesday in their game in hand, it will leave both clubs level on points with 3 games left, but Crawley having the superior goal difference.

It will go down to the wire.

Match Report: Oxford United 2-2 Torquay United

Oxford-2-2-Torquay

Oxford-2-2-Torquay

Just back from a long day on the coach to watch Torquay away at Oxford. Tense game today. The way things panned out, I am perfectly happy to come away with a point, although sadly other results didn’t go our way.

Torquay got off to a great start when Rene Howe pounced on an error by an Oxford defender and calmly slotted under the keeper. Torquay had another chance soon after but O’Kane blazed over from 10 yards, similar to Aaron Ramsey’s effort yesterday.

But Oxford came strongly back into the match, and apart from the goal there was very little to separate the sides at half time.

Oxford came out the better in the second half and equalised direct from a corner as the blustering wind (3-sided ground an intentional tactic?) confused Olejnik and the ball went straight in.

Torquay has a goal disallowed for offside after Howe had rounded the keeper, had his shot blocked and then squared the rebound for O’Kane to slot in on the line. Torquay fans were largely irate but I thought it was just offside. Still awaiting the TV replay though.

Oxford scored a neat second, working the ball well out to the right. A terrific cross in from the right back met with a bullet header. Chances continued to come fro Oxford, as Torquay’s usually tight midfield three allowed too many shots from the edge of the box.

Pressure started to show, and eventually Ian Morris was sent off for two quick fire yellow cards – one for a poor challenge and one for getting involved in a fracas. This seemed to galvanise Torquay though and Taiwo Atieno, on for the injured / exhausted Howe, scored just before the end with what seemed like another keeper error – the ball squirming under the crossbar afetr the keeper got his hand to Atieno’s shot.

All in all, a draw a good result for Torquay. They now need to regroup before facing Southend at home on Saturday.

Match Thoughts: Torquay United 2-1 Port Vale

Will keep this short this week – less of a report and more just some thoughts.

Formation
Torquay started with the regular 4-5-1 formation with limited success, but switched to 4-4-2 with half an hour to go in an attempt to change the game. And it worked. It made the team more attacking – two target men and wide players getting crosses in. The 4-5-1 doesn’t always allow this to happen with. I don’t think this is the fault of the wide players as such, but that they are played on their ‘opposite’ wings. This means they always have to come back onto their better foot to cross, and the moves lose momentum.

We should stick with the 4-5-1 as it has been successful, and especially away from home the 3 man centre midfield is excellent. It has of course been integral to our excellent defensive record. But I think we should play more with Stevens and Morris switched to their correct wings.

However at home, especially when there has been a need to attack more, the switch to 4-4-2 has been very effective. Against Port Vale on Saturday and Bristol Rovers on March 10th, the formation change has resulted in Torquay scoring two goals twice in quick succession. I wonder whether the 4-4-2 could be used more from the start, for home games.

Ian Morris
Apparently Ian Morris was being booed but some fans as he was substituted  on Saturday. Have to say I didn’t hear too much, but then I was applauding. Morris didn’t have a great game on Saturday but his performances do not warrant booing. As per above, I believe he is playing out of position on the right. At the beginning of the Rovers game, when the wingers were on their ‘correct; wings, and after moving to the left when switching to 4-4-2, I thought he was very effective, probably the best player on the pitch.

Fans were getting frustrated on Saturday, but I believe it is the position doing a disservice to Morris, and not Morris to the team.

Still, failings or not we are second in the league, which is an unbelievable result so far. So let’s get behind the team, and every palyer, for the last 7 games.

 

Plymouth Argyle 1-2 Torquay United

A terrific result for Torquay United in the second Devon Derby of the season, meaning the double over their rivals Argyle.

United started with the same team as against Oxford, except for Bodin (back from suspension) coming in to replace Morris (freshly on suspension).

In truth Argyle probably had the better of the first half, although the best chances fell to United, with a couple of headers well-saved.

The second half started fairly evenly but then Torquay started to get into gear, and scored twice in five minutes to really swing the game in their favour. The first was a good finish from a free kick by Billy Bodin after a nod down by Chris Robertson, the second an equally good finish by Lee Mansell after good work down the left between Nicholson and O’Kane. Some intricate passing following short throw-in resulted in Stevens finding Mansell excellently in space in the area, who slotted into the corner of the net.

Argyle pulled one back with a well worked headed goal, but the Torquay defence held strong to hold out for the win.

Defence
Torquay’s back line is playing terrifically well at the moment.  The back five of Olejnik, Oastler, Ellis, Robertson and Nicholson rarely looks like conceding, and if Torquay get a lead, you can be quite confident of keeping the points. Nothing personal against him but I am concerned that Brian Saah’s return could affect this.  Saah is a decent player, but I hope Martin Ling, whilst this run continues, knows when he is onto a good thing.

Going Forward
The displays going forward over Xmas have not been outstanding overall displays.  We have missed Rene Howe up front, and the defence’s solidity has earned us the points. But the best chances for Torquay (Mansell’s goal today, Morris’ chance against Oxford among them) have come when we get the ball down and play, which the team are well capable of doing.  We have some good ball players in the team – O’Kane, Stevens, Nicholson the standouts – and we should mould our style of play to suit them better.

Joe Oastler – my new star
Whilst most plaudits are going to O’Kane (deservedly), I have to give a mention to Joe Oastler, who has been excellent this season. The first few games I was unsure about him. He was being regularly skinned and caught out of position (especially away to Bristol Rovers). But he has been one of the best, most consistent performers of late, does not put a foot wrong, and has talent going forward. I know, like O’Kane, that he has dropped down from the youth system of a better club, but I think his future lies further up the leagues.