FANS' ZONE 26/06/2021
CLARKE OSBORNE : "DEFEAT IS JUST A MOMENT , IT WILL NOT HALT THE YELLOW ARMY" - FOLLOWING PENALTY SHOOT - OUT HEARTACHE
In an electric atmosphere the 3,100 Yellow Army sang their hearts out, once again acting as the 11th man, but a penalty shoot-out defeat was a bitter pill to swallow in Sunday’s nail biting play-off final as United now face an eighth season in the National League.
The match was the second outstanding spectacle on the Ashton Gate pitch in 24 hours following Harlequins stunning comeback against hosts Bristol Bears in the Premiership rugby play-off.
What drama unfolded, with Torquay’s chances of moving the game into extra time ebbing away we entered the 95th minute and ‘Gary Time’. Step forward hero Lucas Covalan, waved up for a last ditch Andrews’ corner which was half cleared but slung back in for Covalan to head home and into Gulls’ folklore. Cue wild scenes but that was not the end as ultimately United paid the penalty for not taking more advantage in extra time.
So, to the match talking points and key moments: Two disallowed headed ‘goals’ from Kyle Cameron in each half. You can see an argument for why the first was chalked off from TV replays as Joe Lewis pushed Rhys Oates as the header went in - but as Gary Johnson said afterwards, when isn’t there pushing and shoving in the box - but the second looked a perfectly legitimate header as Cameron once again beat keeper James to the ball.
Then there was the Jake Andrews’ injury delay, with Hartlepool visibly out on their feet at that point maybe they benefitted from the rest to rejuvenate.
Although the format is established, no football fan looks forward to the lottery of a penalty shoot- out. Johnson had talked earlier in the week about their list of takers, in order, but by the time it came to take them some of the original names had been subbed.
Despite Lucas Covalan’s heroics, as the Boss said, “ Missing three is unforgivable.”
With the new season around five weeks’ away there are busy times ahead and with Grimsby and Southend dropping down the National League will have twelve ex-EFL clubs fighting for promotion.
Good luck to Hartlepool on their return to League football - the match was another great advert for the top tier of non-league - but there were some unsavoury crowd scenes as their fans invaded the pitch at the end which spoilt the occasion.
And after the game a nice touch from the club’s directors for going into the dressing room to pick everyone up by thanking them for their efforts throughout the season.
At this point it’s worth putting into context what has happened to Torquay United since the inspired recruitment of Gary Johnson in September 2018 when he saw a 2-0 win at Hungerford Town as the Gulls were at their lowest ebb.
With Clarke Osborne’s financial backing the Gulls went on to be crowned Champions of National South then came a 14th finish in a Covid curtailed campaign.
This season United got off to a flying start but injuries, resulting in a loss of form, slowed progress allowing Sutton to take advantage but hats off to not only the management, who in just three seasons have restored pride in the club, but to the owner who has overseen Torquay to be a professionally run football club.
A timely statement from Clarke Osborne on Monday who said, “ It is one step on our journey that we have delayed until next season, a season where we will give our best, work hard with determination to take that next step to League 2.”
It’s worth reflecting on Johnson’s record: Played 129, Won 71, Drawn 22, Lost 36, Win% 55.0
Many clubs in Torquay’s situation seem to suffer a hangover the following season but Johnson is too canny, experienced and astute a leader to allow this to happen.
Final words from Osborne, “ Defeat is just a moment, it will not halt the Yellow Army.”
This week has seen the release of eight players, no real surprises, followed by the losses of Lucas Covolan to Port Vale and Kyle Cameron to Notts County and maybe a couple more. On the plus side Gary Johnson has years of experience in building sides and recruiting - let’s hope his couple of tea parties for prospective players went well!
Congratulations to Bournemouth loanee Sam Sherring named in the Vanarama Team of the Season and to Asa Hall and Connor Lemonheigh-Evans for inclusion in the Non-League Paper’s Team of the Season.
For those who may have missed it, Dover Athletic will start season 2021-2022 with minus twelve points as well as their £40,000 fine following the FA rejecting their appeal.
Interesting comments from Argyle boss Ryan Lowe last week, following Adam Randell’s successful loan, “ I think with the relationship I have built up with Gary from manager to manager, we could play games against each other and send kids there on loan.”
Now, let’s look forward. The club have given us a season to remember despite loss of income due to Covid, so in return will you be renewing/buying a season ticket?
Send your answer to: firstname.lastname@example.org or to Twitter:@FanszoneT
To all the Yellow Army stay safe and enjoy the close season. COYY!