It’s always disappointing to go out of a Cup competition but the memories of Tuesday night at Torquay’s Plainmoor should stay with the White Ravens for a long time. For all the right reasons!
The build-up had been good as the players joined the banterwagon in Willand and then Exeter. Some expert advice told us to go via Teignmouth to cut through the rush-hour and so the team arrived in great spirits at Plainmoor, home of Torquay United at 5:45. We were greeted by Natalie O’Shaunessy, Torquay’s very hospitable PR lady who guided the team to the changing rooms under the main stand. It was warm and slightly overcast. The pitch was being watered – which meant it would suit passing football – fine by us then!
The changing room was huge and well lit. Post match sandwiches, drink and fruit were already for us and so we laid out the players smart new Macron black warm up T shirts. Kevin Nancekevill met us with the rest of the coaching staff and suddenly large amounts of paperwork had to be completed – as is the way it seems for all things FA related.
The lads were changed in no time and ready to get on the pitch for a good warm-up session. They were focussed and channelling their excitement. The older senior players were important at this stage. The surface was quite wet and quite different to the pitches we were used to.
A sizeable crowd was coming into the main stand and the seats behind the home goal as we left the pitch for the final build-up before the game. In the changing room, the players changed into the white shirts, drank some more and then waited to be called. It was all so slick. there was a Tannoy announcing the players as both sides came out together and then shook hands in the centre circle.
Rovers would defend the away end. Alex Wright came in a right back but there would be no Reece Kingdom who had work commitments (we all hope his employer appreciated him tonight).
The game began and suddenly you could see the almost rehearsed routines of the home side in certain positions. Torquay probed the corners early on and got early crosses in which tested the defence but which weren’t on target.
Willand really couldn’t get much of the ball but just as they started to get the ball down, United scored from a corner. 6′ gone and suddenly Darren and I realised the potential gravity of the situation. how would the lads respond.
Brilliantly. At the back, every ball was contested and this seemed to galvanise the rest of the side. Jordan Bastin was linking well with Reece Browning and Tarji Jones and finding Jake Tillet on the left whose jinking runs were really causing problems to the home defence. Twice he got through, the second time JJ Vittles got a shot away and scored with a great strike low into the far corner. 1-1 after 13′
The tide had turned. Torquay’s playmaker dropped deeper to get possession out of the range of our midfield and we looked dangerous every time we got the ball to feet. We couldn’t really affect a determined and stout Torquay defence but occasionally a gap would open. Sam Rawlings worked very hard as did JJ.
But then Torquay retook the lead. In fairness, they always looked like they might score and they had come close from corners and also from open play. Jez Cross had gone full stretch twice to stop them and his ability to safely collect crosses was invaluable. He could do nothing to stop their second though which was scored from 6 yards.
But Willand weren’t finished and from another foray down the left, a late challenge presented a freekick. Captain Ashley Matthews freekick was met on the volley by Jordan Bastin. 2-2 on 40′.
At halftime, nothing could really contain the teams enthusiasm. Darren and I tried to get them to relax and properly prepare for the second half but they knew they’d played well and had at least matched Torquay for large parts of the first half. Just when we thought we got them to sit down and relax a little, they were already up and out of the door – 5′ early!!
So too were Torquay though. They knew what they had to do. In truth of course, Torquay should have enough to deal with Willand Rovers but did they want it enough.
Yes, they did. The game changed to Willand’s disadvantage when Jones had to leave the game after 50′ with cramp but Torquay started to dominate the midfield areas and after their 3rd goal, you could visibly see Willand tire as a poor challenge on Jack Rawlings led to a freekick being given to the home side from which they scored. 2-4.
Rovers had run their socks off and were struggling for decent possession now that Bastin was being closely marshalled in midfield. They weren’t really helped by the referee either who made a couple of decisions which seemed to favour the home side including one where Sam Rawlings appeared to be head-butted by the home left back, who was quickly ushered away by team-mates. Strangely Rawlings was spoken to while the official seemed to ignore the role of the full back.
It has to be said that the full back did score the goal of the game with a mazy run that took him past 4 -5 players before slipping the ball home. 2-5.
Two goals in the last 5 minutes did rather distort the margin of victory but the best team did win and good luck in the next round.
Back in the changing room, the team was happy, albeit a little disappointed not to have given a better account of themselves in the second half.
Looking back, it was definitely a privilege to be hosted by Torquay United, and to play on a well prepared pitch, under lights and to give such a good account of ourselves. We just need more games like this……