FANS' ZONE 29/04/2022
PLAY-OFFS MAYBE IN DOUBT BUT CUP SUCCESS FOR TORQUAY UNITED WOMEN AND UNDER-18s, PLUS LATEST FAN-LED REVIEW NEWS
Whilst there’s fifteen points to play for, but ten points adrift of that final play-off place, it’s still mathematically possible for Torquay United to gatecrash the party although even the most optimistic Yellow Army fan must acknowledge that it’s unlikely to happen.
With only three defeats this calendar year Gary Johnson and his squad have given the challenge a really good go especially after that disastrous start to the season. Saturday’s loss at Grimsby to a 90+1 minute penalty only confirmed the worst as even a point wouldn’t have been enough with Johnson admitting before the game that it was a six pointer.
But United’s results since the turn of the year has been top seven form: Played 18, Won 9, Drawn 6, Lost 3, For 29, Against 17 but even seeing these, they hide the fact that in two home matches, against Dagenham & Redbridge and Barnet, 2-0 advantages were squandered. Add in the numerous games, Saturday’s was another example, where United ran the first half of a match but failed to take their chances only to run out of steam after the break.
Johnson alluded to the problem in his post match interview when he talked about squad size, lack of player rotation and inability to rest players returning from injury. Grimsby, for example, he reminded us could put out two teams of equal ability which, as he rightly accepts, is down to what each club can afford financially. He does say to fans, “We’ll give it a right go next year.”
Although Johnson hasn’t given up - and you can be sure he won’t let his squad - now that the loans of players like Alex Moyse, Louie Slough and Olaf Koszela are over at Bideford and Dorchester why not give them some experience of being in a matchday situation? It would give him and them the opportunity to show if they have what it takes?
Now let’s celebrate. First Torquay United Women who were very much the underdogs to higher league opponents Exeter City in Friday night’s TUST co-sponsored, with Exeter City Supporters’ Trust, Devon FA Women’s Cup Final.
A night of drama as 572 at Coach Road were treated to a game played at a frantic pace by both sides and as United’s Women’s boss Steve Elswood told Fans’ Zone, “It was definitely the most incredible night in the history of the football club. We set up with a very clear plan of what we wanted to achieve and as the game grew so did those achievements.”
It has to be said that the Gulls rode their luck with Exeter, who as Elswood said score freely and very rarely concede, hitting the bar and the upright with keeper Sasha Mole beaten both times.
Then, with time ebbing away, Connie Pengeley fired Exeter into an 85th minute lead but with six minutes of added time running out United were awarded a penalty for a trip. Up stepped Leah Brookes to blast home the equaliser.
Although Elswood’s side were tiring he said, “We don’t know when we’re beaten and we were always going to get a chance.” So, penalty shoot-out it was to decide the winners. Elswood divulged afterwards that the squad had practised penalties and shoot-out scenarios in training for the past three weeks but nothing can prepare you for the tension on the night. But step forward stand-in keeper Sasha Mole, normally an outfield player, who not only took and scored United’s first but saved Exeter’s first and last, to give the Torquay women a priceless cup win. In fact United’s penalty takers had nerves of steel with five blasted home.
As Elswood rightly explained, “It just made the perfect ending for an amazing group of ladies who gave everything, wanted it more and thoroughly deserved it.”
Elswood took time out to thank TUST for their sponsorship and he had this to say to the fans,
“We would like to thank the amazing support from the Yellow Army who cheered us on and to TUCST for providing our incredible mascots in their yellow and blue kit.”
The team will be bringing the cup home to Plainmoor on Saturday with the squad looking forward to thanking the fans for their support in their historic cup victory.
The second cup winners of the weekend were Chris Todd’s Under-18s who completed a league and cup double with their 2-1 win over Bridgwater Town thanks to goals from Theo Cadby and the winner from Ben Aldous; they too will show off their trophy at the Maidenhead match.
What next for the Women? A permanent home - Plainmoor? - and a permanent manager would be a start. And for the Under-18s? They have the Devon Youth Cup Final to play and maybe some of the players are hoping for a professional contract.
As regular readers of this column know TUST has been heavily involved in the Fans-Led Review with terrific support from Torbay MP Kevin Foster. Well this week the Government announced its intention to introduce a White Paper in the summer to introduce an independent football regulator.
Their support for former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch’s review does not stop there as Crouch explains, ”I am exceptionally pleased the Government has accepted or supported all the strategic recommendations of the review, including committing to legislation for a statutory independent regulator which will regulate financial resilience as well as ownership of clubs.”
The White Paper will, the Government explains, ‘set out plans for a greater role for fans in the day-to-day running of clubs and a bigger say on changes to their club.’
Crouch sums up the decision by saying, “This is an enormous step forward in providing much needed reform for football.” Now we await a time scale.
In the National League average attendances for the season Torquay sit in eighth place with 2,573 well behind Wrexham who top this list with 8,534 whose figures would, if compared with League 2 clubs, place them third.
The full top ten League 2/National League are: Bradford City 15,443, Swindon Town 9,182, Wrexham, Bristol Rovers 7,378, Notts County 6,866, Stockport County 6,614, Tranmere Rovers 6,525, Chesterfield 6,177, Port Vale 6,088 and Southend 5,834.
Congratulations to Taunton Town who clinched promotion to National South with a 2-1 home win over close challengers Farnborough in front of a best of the season 2,303.
Next year the National League will be joined by Oldham Athletic, the first ex-Premier League team to go into non-league and Scunthorpe United.
Your number one player to re-sign? Shaun MacDonald, followed by Armani Little and Joe Lewis. Keep your votes coming in to: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter:@FanszoneT
Maidenhead next up at Plainmoor but come and thank the Women’s side and Under-18s.