FAN ZONE 21/05/2022
UNITED’S RETAINED LIST SHEDS LITTLE LIGHT ON ANY DEPARTURES WHILE SAM’S 122 LAPS OF PLAINMOOR HELP TO SET UP A JUNIOR DISABILITY LEAGUE
Yesterday’s retained list released by the club shows thirteen squad members have been offered contracts alongside three still in contract, keeper Mark Halstead who came good when called upon recently but for most supporters surprisingly Gabby Rogers and Keelan O’Connell. Rogers spending much of the season out on loan and O’Connell finding National League football a challenge.
Of course, the wait is now on to see how many of the thirteen will sign again. There are strong indications that Connor Lemonheigh-Evans is on his way to join Stockport and several of the others are likely to be tempted away. It promises to be an interesting few weeks ahead.
With nothing riding on the match, other than pride to finish the National League season, Torquay United and Southend played out a 1-1 draw on Sunday in front of 6,294 while those watching on BT Sport saw Stockport County crowned champions but more importantly booked their return to the EFL after an absence of eleven years, much of which was spent in National North. The carnival atmosphere was bolstered by an attendance of 10,307.
When manager Dave Challinor took over, County were tenth but with the help of a hefty budget, the former Hartlepool boss found that winning formula, something United’s Gary Johnson is anxious to re-create in 2022-23 after, by his standards, a disappointing eleventh place finish. Too many times this season Johnson’s side have dominated their opponents in the first half of matches, creating chance after chance but failing to capitalise, then only to run out of steam in the second half.
Sunday’s ‘dead-rubber’ was a case in point where the three points should have been wrapped up inside the first forty-five minutes. On too few occasions the team have clicked for both halves as witness the home game of the season, the 5-1 demolition of Notts County.
In the end Torquay fell eight points short of claiming a play-off spot but with fourteen defeats for the season, that’s four more than Stockport, those ‘missing’ twelve points would have seen United comfortably playing for that final EFL place.
As it is Wrexham, for all their spending power, only finishing one point ahead of third team Solihull Moors together with FC Halifax, Notts County, Grimsby and Chesterfield, who clung on to seventh watched by 9,013, are battling it out through the lottery of the play-offs for that ‘golden ticket’.
Once again, the focus should be on the National League being granted a third promotion so that there’s three up, three down between it and League 2, something which Gary Johnson has been advocating for a long time.
Maybe this can be achieved in the near future once the Fan-Led Review recommendations appear in a Government White Paper announced in the Queen’s Speech when the Prince of Wales opened the new Parliament last week.
Step forward fund raiser and long-term Torquay supporter Sam Balsdon. It was almost three years ago, May 23 2019, that Sam, in his quest to raise £2,500 to cover the wheelchair section of the away end of Bristow’s Bench, ran an astonishing 122 laps of Plainmoor.
Manager Gary Johnson joked at the time, “This is probably a lot more than most of the players have done this season, even though we’re still the [National South] champions.”
Balsdon added, “It was about raising money for the disabled section, particularly the away end, because the home end has been done.”
When the pandemic hit any work was put on hold and eventually the club carried out the project but that left around £1,500 from the sponsorship funds.
TUST is pleased to announce, after much discussion, that these funds will set up a first ever Junior Disability League in conjunction with the Torquay United Community Sports Trust (TUCST) under manager Matt Anthony.
The first event will take place at the Paignton Community & Sports Academy on Saturday June 11 starting at 10am. TUCST are looking to run four events over the remainder of 2022.
Anthony said, “We are delighted to finally have in place a start date for this brand new Disability League and are grateful to Sam and TUST. Running these events for Juniors with Special Educational Needs will provide opportunities for participants to take part in competitive and friendly matches, allowing individuals to showcase their talent and ability.”
Good to see the Club encouraging families to Plainmoor, with the emphasis on the younger generation to become long-term fans, through next season’s ticketing policy. With Under-18 season tickets available at the Early Discount rate of £100 and Under-12s for just £46 - that’s £2 per home game - there are no excuses for not snapping these up.
With marquee signings on the horizon, season 2022-23 promises to be exciting and, just maybe, the season we’ve been longing for after that play-off final disappointment. Who’s joining the National League? We know Oldham Athletic and Scunthorpe United are dropping down from League 2, Gateshead from National North and Maidstone United from National South but which other two?
The North play-off final is between two former football league sides York City and Boston United. Back in February York were 15th in the table but have put in a great late charge; their eliminator 2-1 win over Chorley drew 6,394. On Saturday they beat Brackley, who finished second and 21 points ahead of York, in the semi-final.
The South play-off final is between Dorking Wanderers, who finished second and third placed Ebbsfleet United who put out Elliot Benyon’s Oxford City. Both finals will be played on Saturday.
It’s the time of the year for presenting awards. Norfolk Gull Pete Groom, with TUST’s support, helped organise the first ever Yellow Army Exiles’ Away Player of the Season with the winner, Shaun MacDonald, awarded his trophy after Sunday’s game at Southend.
TUST’s Ian Twitchin Trophy, given to the United player who’s made the most appearances goes to Ben Wynter, who played in every game - an impressive feat.
Best goal of the Season? Surely Joe Lewis’s strike in the home match against Wealdstone.
Congratulations to ex-Gull Chris Hargreaves on his appointment as the next manager at Yeovil Town.
Exeter City and Southend have already sold 2,000 season tickets, so for Gulls’ fans to catch up a few decent signings in the next couple of weeks would give sales a boost.
What do you do to occupy your time in the close season? Gardening, DIY, cricket, bowls? Let me know: email@example.com or Twitter: @FanszoneT. COYY!
Shaun MacDonald receiving the TUST sponsored Exiles Away Player of the Season Award from Pete Groom and Paul Bastard.