It was a pleasure to welcome Steve Tully and his under 18s to Silver Street for an evening kick-off and a much anticipated friendly. The pitch was in excellent condition having been rolled and pampered during the day. Willand were almost at full strength and rolling subs would enable players to be replaced throughout the 90 minutes.

The game settled fairly quickly as Torquay got into their passing stride with around 5′ gone. In practice, this meant they passed the ball quickly and accurately on the floor from left to right and then back again as they sought a penetrative pass to feet in Willand’s defensive third.

I don’t recall a single long kick from the hands by the visiting ‘keeper. Often, he would simply roll the ball to restart play in his area to one of his defenders, all 4 of whom were close to hand and ready to receive. Once in possession, Torquay would then try to pass their way out of defence and it was nearly always successful. Restarting play in their own area causes the opposition to press high and this in turn creates gaps, of course. The pace of the passing and the tempo of the move meant that once the ball was in the middle third, the next probing pass was inevitable.

For periods of 5-7′ in the first half, Torquay were very good at this but found it difficult to get past the 3-man Willand rearguard. Nevertheless, the home team was being stretched and after 30 minutes, we reverted to a 4-4-2 to counter the speed at which Torquay switched play.

Willand often tried to play out of defence but it has to be said that despite the desire to do so, it was not as successful and occasionally passes would go astray in the middle third, and suddenly the whites would have to press again.

Torquay scored after a break down their right resulted in a low cross to the far post which was side-footed home. Things were looking ominous for Willand as suddenly Torquay were buzzing. Later in the half, Jordan Armstrong would find a yard of space but his shot didn’t rouble the keeper.

In the second half, Willand rose to the challenge but only after Torquay got a second after 48′. A midfield fumble lost possession and the visiting midfielder drilled a 20 yard shot beyond the excellent Jez Cross’ right hand.

But Willand came into it more and more. There was bite in some of the tackles and an urgency. Mostly Torquay dealt with the threats but increasingly, Willand got closer.

After 78′, Armstrong worked well down the right and pulled back a great cross which was despatched confidently by JJ Vittles from 5 yards.

Torquay kept playing their football and so did Willand. This was now a captivating game. Dan Hayfiled hit the cross bar with a freekick, while Jez Cross saved well with his hands and then feet from close range and the excellent Josh Hart cleared off the line.

So Torquay held on but tonight wasn’t about the result, it was about the football played. Great credit was given by the Torquay United coaching staff. Their team included a Dane, and 6 Cypriots and despite this, they were noisy with constant talking and encouragement.

Lots to be pleased about and lots more to learn! Ash Matthews, Josh Hart, Jez Cross, Tim Miles, Sam Warren, JJ Vittles and Tarji Jones played well.