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FANS' ZONE 18/02/2022




CAN UNITED’S CURRENT FORM TAKE THEM INTO THE PLAY-OFFS? AND TIME FOR FAN COACHING?


Last week readers were asked about Torquay United’s chances of making the play-offs with seventeen games left. It’s fair to say that a month ago there were more who said a resounding ‘no’ but a look at United’s recent form has seen a turnaround in opinion.

Although it would have been a massive shock and disappointment had the Gulls lost at relegation bound Dover on Saturday, they came away from Kent with a comfortable 3-1 victory which, by all accounts, should have been more comprehensive. So, here are the facts. United are six points off the last play-off place and given their wretched start that in itself is no mean feat. They are fourth in the current form table, having only lost once in the last six notching thirteen points from a possible eighteen.

Three out of the next four fixtures are at home, including FA Cup giants Boreham Wood. On the negative side a number of teams around and above United have games in hand, Boreham Wood for example have as many as five but points already accumulated can be of greater value in the long term than matches still to play.

Gary Johnson has said there’s always a team that “comes out of the pack” to surprise everyone so in that category don’t discount Southend whose start was even worse than Torquay’s and Southend, under new management, after a late 3-2 win at Woking on Saturday night, are unbeaten in their last nine.

With only six points between top and fifth, and nine points between top and seventh it promises to be the closest most exciting end to a season. Down to thirteenth there are ten former Football League clubs battling it out with ‘never been in the EFL’ Bromley and Boreham Wood in with a great chance to follow Sutton United who themselves are in the frame for promotion out of League 2.

With all these former League clubs, many of whom are pulling in regular gates higher than those in League 2, and many in League 1, the case for an extra promotion place gains momentum by the week.

On Saturday Asa Hall led by example once again with a quick-fire goal; his experience and leadership are a cornerstone of the club. Congratulations to Connor Lemonheigh-Evans for making the Non-League Paper’s ‘Team of the Day’ and the Vanarama ‘Team of the Week’.

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Non-League Crowd Watch: Tuesday night’s top of the table National League clash between Stockport County and Chesterfield, finishing 2-2, was watched by 10,236 ( 1,581 away) and Southend defeated Bromley 2-0 in front of 8,070.

In the Northern Premier Scarborough had 1,615. On Saturday ex-EFL Macclesfield, on their journey back up the leagues, currently in the North West Counties Premier, had 3,745 to see them win 4-0.

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Following a number of disgraceful scenes at various grounds up and down the country the Premier League and EFL wrote to all their member clubs telling them they were carrying out a mid-season review of crowd behaviour, “to determine whether there were any common patterns or issues across football clubs and, in turn, how best to address any identified issues.”

There is a growing concern in football circles of a return to the terrible times of the 1970s and 80s. Even at Plainmoor this season there have been some unsavoury incidents which have been the subject of investigations but, as yet, with no outcomes. Surely, to deter others, we need to know if those responsible have been apprehended and suitably punished, for example, with banning orders.

Then there was disgraceful vandalism at Barnet on Saturday following the visit of local rivals Wealdstone.

But in the longer term are banning orders sufficient deterrents? Should there be stronger sanctions? Points deducted? A Fan Behaviour Charter?

In Belgium they have a ‘fan coaching’ programme, teaching children from a young age not just how to play the game but, crucially, how to watch it, how to respect the opposition and the referee.

Now there’s a challenge for clubs and schools to set up.

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What’s happened to United’s third choice keeper, Marcin Brzozowski, a summer signing from QPR? He went on loan as an emergency loan to Lee Mansell’s Gloucester City in their FA Trophy 5-0 defeat to Wrexham in December but since has neither played a game nor been on their subs’ bench.

So, where is he?

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Torquay United’s Women went top of the table following their 5-0 win over the women from Royal Wootton Bassett with inevitably Esme Kilburn-Thompson once again amongst the scorers aided by Ellie Bishop (2), Beth Everson and Katie Bariball also on the score sheet.

Meanwhile United’s Under-18s are homing in on a title challenge in the South-West Counties Youth League after an 11-0 demolition of Wimborne Town with Brandon Quinn grabbing a hat-trick.

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Commiserations to the ‘other’ Yellows as Buckland Athletic were moments away from a famous FA Vase win going out on penalties. But good news for Tim Sills’ Hamworthy United going through to face Southall in the Vase Quarter-Finals.

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So, 65% of replies feel that a play-off place is a possibility and with 51 points still available United’s current form suggests they can give it a good go.

Next up are Barnet who are on a wretched run losing five of their last six followed by the meanest defence in the league, Boreham Wood next Tuesday.

Who’s your standout player so far? Asa Hall, Joe Lewis, Armani Little, Shaun MacDonald? Send your choice to: fanszone.tu@gmail.com or to Twitter: @FanszoneT.

COYY


 

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