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FAN ZONE 30/07/2022




MARK SAVES THE DAY. KEEPER HALSTEAD IS A STAR AS FIVE NEW FANS WILL NOW FOLLOW UNITED FROM SPAIN


Torquay United’s three Plainmoor pre-season friendlies in a week against EFL opposition drew an impressive 6,300 spectators in glorious July Riviera weather. A win, a draw and a loss indicate that this United group of players are looking stronger than last season’s hastily put-together squad.

On the evidence so far Gary Johnson can be pleased with his recruitment with a number of signings catching the eye and destined to make a name for themselves….dare we suggest to become marquee players?

But it has not been plain sailing for one, Number One for that matter, goalkeeper Mark Halstead who, hopefully unbeknown to him, has had to endure a torrid time on social media for having let in five goals on Tuesday night last week against a rampant Plymouth Argyle.

From my position in the Family Stand there was no way any keeper, not even Argyle’s outstanding Michael Cooper, could have saved the first three after those in front of him parted like the Red Sea.

That he proved his critics wrong with a string of fine saves in a Man of the Match display in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Exeter City was a great way to show he has what it takes.

Maybe these two matches being billed ‘Devon Derbies’ helped hype the games to a level not needed in a friendly. Had, for instance, Tuesday’s 0-5 defeat been against Lee Johnson’s Hibernian nobody would have been surprised, disappointed yes.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and in football ‘banter’ is a crucial part of a fan’s make-up but there’s a line to be drawn.

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Stepping into my MatchDay Ambassador role I noticed on Tuesday night five Spanish lads here in Torbay for a month to learn English. They had walked to Plainmoor from the Town Centre and three of them had been in the club shop to buy shirts and scarves. One of them, a 15 year-old, told me he is a journalist writing match reports about his team (in the Spanish Third Division) for his local paper and he wondered how he could interview a Torquay player for his paper after the game.

After talking with Gary Johnson to get his approval, we stayed behind after the match waiting for the players to emerge from the dressing-room. Needless-to-say they were kept in there for some time before emerging for their warm-down.

After a 5-0 drubbing it’s fair to say the squad were pretty subdued and showed little sign of interest in talking to a 15 year-old Spanish boy except…Mark Halstead who agreed and patiently, politely and professionally answered all the questions with good humour and seriousness.

By now the lights were going out and stewards keen to lock gates but five Spanish lads, reviewing the phone footage of the interview, went on their walk back into town happy with their success.

And the club now has five more supporters.

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In the absence of Asa Hall it’s looking like Dean Moxey is to be given the skipper’s arm band. With the addition of Will Goodwin, on loan until the New Year from Stoke City, Johnson has an exciting group of strikers to pick from but could Brett McGavin end up being top scorer?

And now he’s added defender Ben Wyatt, recently at Sutton United.

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How did other National League sides do on Saturday? Here’s a round-up of results from the friendlies: Aldershot Town 3 Crawley Town 2, Altrincham 0 Stockport County 2, Barnet 1 MK Dons 3, Chesterfield 3 Bradford City 0, Dagenham & Redbridge 2 Leyton Orient 2, Dartford 2 Boreham Wood 2, Eastleigh 2 Brighton U-23 1, Farsley Celtic 2 FC Halifax 1, Gateshead 1 Harrogate Town 3, Leatherhead 3 Dorking Wanderers 2, Macclesfield 4 York City 0, Oldham Athletic 0 Mansfield Town 3, Scunthorpe United 1 Peterborough United 1, Solihull Moors 0 Walsall 2, Southend United 0 Gillingham 1.

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The following story appeared in Wednesday’s Herald Express: This Friday, July 29, sees the club’s first ever Community Fun Day and it promises to be just that.

First of all, from 11.00am United season ticket holders can watch a training session from the Family Stand and then chat to the manager, his staff and players afterwards.

Then from 1pm, on the Plainmoor Lawn, there are football games, including the Speed Goal run by the Torquay United Community Sports Trust, and entertainment as well as food and ice creams; Boots & Laces is open too. All this is to raise money for a very worthy cause, the purchase of a defibrillator.

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The club’s 1899 logo is not only on the team shirts, now worn by both the men’s and women’s sides but also it’s now appearing on one or two legs… step forward United’s women’s captain Danni Wyatt; that’s taking leadership to another level!

In their second pre-season friendly goals from Mia Preston and a brace from Danni Garland gave United’s Women a spirited 3-3 draw with visitors Portishead Town Ladies. Two of last season’s Devon FA Cup Final winning side, Ocean Latto and skipper Emma Hunt have moved on to join Exeter City Women.

Meanwhile England’s Lionesses faced Sweden in their Euro Championship semi-final in Sheffield on Tuesday night running out emphatic 4-0 winners. Without tempting fate it’s 56 years since a national football team won a trophy - could football be coming home with a morale boosting victory over Germany on Sunday?

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Hooray, the opening league match of the new season, on Saturday August 6 when recently relegated Oldham Athletic are the visitors, sees the return of the half-time crossbar challenge, always good for a laugh and the occasional piece of skill.

Might the 50-50 draw be made on the pitch too? And could Gilbert the Gull make an appearance?

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Changes are coming to the National League’s TV partner BT Sport. A new £633m sports joint venture run by BT Sport and Eurosport will launch within weeks after the competition watchdog waved through the deal.

As a result BT and Discovery will join together to form a new company at some point in the future, potentially providing even more sport to watch. ********

Gary Johnson was the star attraction at a local curry house to meet supporters prompting a flurry of curry themed United players: Roghan Josh Rees, Papa Don O’Riordan, of course Tony Currie and in goal who else but Martin Rice!

Can you do better? Send yours to: fanszone.tu@gmail.com or Twitter: @FanszoneT

Saturday sees United play their last pre-season friendly against Truro City at Plymouth Parkway’s Bolitho Ground.

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