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FANS' ZONE 02/04/2022



STUCK IN ELEVENTH TWO WINS IN A WEEK EDGE UNITED CLOSER TO THE PLAY-OFFS WITH THE TWO STEPHENS DRIVING THE TEAM ON Two home wins inside five days, seven goals scored with none against and six valuable points as Gary Johnson’s squad chase down that elusive play-off place. It seems like the Gulls have been stuck in eleventh place for weeks but the crunch is coming with nine games left, twenty seven points at stake and there’s a key fixture looming - a home tie against sixth placed Notts County on April 9. And surely this is destined to be United’s biggest gate of the season.

No more incoming players, though, as the National League transfer window closed last Thursday. Last Tuesday Torquay dealt comfortably with a poor, out of its depth, Aldershot and in truth the result could have been higher than 4-0. On Saturday the 3-0 victory over Weymouth looks to have been similar but the visitors can count themselves unlucky not to have scored a few themselves, in fact the stats show they had more goal attempts than United’s - double!

Weymouth boss David Oldfield had this to say, “We’re not doing that well enough. We’ve conceded too many simple goals so any good play - we did create chances and have shots - is really once the horse has bolted.”

And to be fair, credit to the away fans at the far end of Bristow’s for noisily supporting their team from start to finish.

On a sunny Torbay Tuesday evening only 1,800 attended but on Non-League Day against Weymouth an extra 700 turned up.

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Tuesday’s match was a special occasion with the game being played in memory of Frank O’Farrell with many of his family sitting in the Directors’ Box as guests and they participated in the wonderfully respectful minute’s applause. O’Farrell’s daughter revealed they had been at the previous weekend’s West Ham versus Spurs fixture. That leaves visits to Weymouth, Leicester City and Manchester United.

Sitting with them was another Torquay footballing legend, Bruce Rioch who, as well as kindly autographing matchday programmes, regaled us with his memories of life at Plainmoor and signing Dennis Bergkamp for Arsenal.

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Talking of signings, what an influential duo are Sunderland loanee Stephen Wearne, two goals in two games, much to the pleasure of his father who travels from the north to watch all his games, and Stephen Duke-McKenna ‘The Duke’ on loan from QPR who’s looking more and more like a real prospect - in fact he’s so good they should make a film about him! And he’s in the Vanarama Team of the Week.

Wearne, not only Man of the Match, was named in the Non-League Paper’s Team of the Day.

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Former United skipper Angus MacDonald, now at promotion chasing Rotherham United, has two England ‘C’ caps to his credit but not when at Plainmoor, at the time of his call-up he was at Salisbury City.

MacDonald had this to say, “England ‘C’ gives you a confidence boost and a platform” so no doubt Armani Little and Ben Wynter will both have enjoyed that honour when they stepped out on Wednesday for their international debuts against Wales but not the result.

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Non-League Crowd Watch: 8,578 watched a thriller at The Racecourse when on 63 minutes the score was an improbable Wrexham 2 and already relegated Dover 5 but after 90+8 minutes it was Wrexham 6 Dover 5.

But there was an amazing 10,334 - including 2,719 away fans - for the 1-1 draw between Notts County and Chesterfield.

National North York City had 3,317; top of the table in National South Maidstone snatched a 96th minute winner in front of 2,518. At the top of the Northern Premier South Shields, under Kevin Phillips, won 2-0 with 2,676 watching.

Well done to Bury AFC Champions of the North West Counties First Division North on their journey back up the pyramid with 1,885 cheering them on.

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Congratulation too to the Torquay United Under-18s on claiming the South West Counties Youth title following an emphatic 8-0 win over New College Swindon with four goals from Theo Cadby leading the rout. For those at Plainmoor on Saturday the Under-18 squad and management received a great half-time applause.

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This season has so far been one for refereeing standards to be heavily criticised and not just in the National League. Why is this? The Premier League introduced VAR essentially to support referees but even this has come under attack.

At Torquay there have been a number of controversial decisions but is this because referees are at fault or that the ‘average’ fan doesn’t understand the laws of the game and how they are enacted?

So, what does it take to become a referee?

The minimum age for a refereeing course is 14 with specially designed courses’ aims being to provide an introduction to the laws of the game as well as developing the practical skills required.

There are five modules to cover including: laws of the game, role of the referee, positioning and movement at set pieces/open play, managing game situations and a written element.

Then there’s the actual game situation where a trainee has six games in which to show what they’ve learnt. After that they reflect on their experiences in a three hour workshop; all candidates are re-examined within a month. Finally, there’s an annual refresher training programme.

So, after all that we would like to think competent officials will emerge, although that isn’t the case and the biggest changes to English refereeing are being drawn up by the Premier League with the introduction of the Elite Referee Development Programme to fast track the best young referees.

Currently referees trying to work their way to the top have to prove themselves in Step 2 (Nationals North & South) then Step 1, the National League, before being promoted into the national list which covers Leagues 1&2 but once in League 1 they only earn £400 a match. Whilst for those at the grass-roots refereeing is a hobby but for those who see it as a job the remuneration needs re-assessing.

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Where do you think United will finish the season was last week’s question. The optimists feel in the play-offs but others think anywhere from eighth to tenth.

This week would you become a referee yes or no? Send your view to: fanszone.tu@gmail.com or Twitter: @FanszoneT

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