Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Torquay 4-0 AFC Wimbledon

As the saying goes 'good things come to those who wait' and that certainly was the case for Torquay last night. We had currently gone a difficulty of eight games without a victory so tonight meant everything.

As I arrived at the ground with my dad, we brought our tickets for the next three upcoming matches all for a reasonable price of £35 which we considered to be a bargain! We made our way up into the gulls nest as pure usual where we met Olie and Sam and like usual, the banter with them two vs my dad was in full swing. What with our current form and performance, I was definitely pessimistic about the result ahead. Wimbledon weren't doing too bad themselves so I saw nothing other than a defeat.

The lineup for both teams were;
Torquay (4-3-3) Olejnik, Oastler, Saah, Ellis, Nicholson, Mansell, Lathrope, O'Kane, Bodin, Howe, Stevens. Subs: Leadbitter, Rice, Mcphee, Halpin, Atieno
Wimbledon (4-4-2) Brown, Hatton, Stuart, Mcnaughton, Johnson, Jolley, Porter, Moore, Wellard, Midson, L.Moore. Subs: Ademeno, Bush, Minshull, Turner, Mulley.

Robertson was dropped for this game as he had failed a fitness test on his hip, which allowed Oastler to revert back to right back. The first thing I noticed as I stepped into the ground was the fantastic support that Wimbledon had brought seeing as it was a cold and horrible Tuesday evening. A staggering 385, so fair play to those who traveled down. 

As soon as the whistle was blown, Wimbledon were certainly the dominant of the two sides and first to break the defensive line. A cross from Moore met Jolley in the right position but was unfortunately unable to deliver the a finish as the ball fell straight to the hands of Olejnik. In fairness, credit where it is due, this is the best in which I have been our defense so far this season. They looked strong and held it together well. 

Wimbledon had another chance on goal but lucky Saah had it covered and finished with a perfect clearance which fell to the feet of Stevens who was able to escape up the wing and strike a wonderful shot on goal which flew past the hands of Seb Brown and into the top left hand corner. 1-0 Torquay.

Although the Dons were a goal down, that didn't stop them as they maintained their moderate pressure. That wasn't enough though to stop the Gulls as Eunan O'Kane fought the ball from Mcnaughton and raced towards the goal before striking a delightful shot over the Dons keeper. 2-0 Torquay

First first half was fast approaching the close, but Torquay weren't finished yet. Three minutes into injury time, Stevens fed the ball to O'Kane who crossed over to Howe who was superbly on the far post to volley the shot in to make it 3-0. That meant it was three shots on target and three goals well deserved.

Half time and it was definitely one to remember. Normally, they announce the winning ticket number of the 50/50 draw and then pull another ticket out for someone to come and do the crossbar challenge. However, on this occasion no-one came forward to claim it. Therefore, Dean Edwards the commercial director picked someone from the fans, and who better to do it than Olie! (@oliemarles10) Fair play to him, he was up for it although, slightly puzzled as to why he took his shoes off but nevertheless he showed amazing tekkers! Unfortunately he didn't hit the crossbar.

There was one change in the second half with the superb Stevens taking a seat on the bench. He's been suffering with flu all week and tonight really had drained it out of him. Therefore, he was replaced with Taiwo Atieno. Wimbledon still weren't going to let the score line get the better of them and still continued to push forward. However, it finally come to an end when in the 56th minute when O'Kane intercepted a sloppy pass from their defense with enabled him to play the ball to Atieno who was unfortunate to lay the ball back but that didn't stop Howe picking up the pieces and smashing a tremendous low shot towards goal from 25 yards. 4-0 Torquay

The closing minutes were just around the corner and the atmosphere when the final whistle was blown was something else. The Gulls really had stepped up their game and just proved that we are capable of stringing together a result. Thoroughly deserved!

MOTM; Eunan O'Kane

This Saturday, we take on Hereford at home. Match report to follow...

Monday, 10 October 2011

Interview with Chris Hargreaves - Tarzan!

I feel quite privileged to have the opportunity to interview Chris Hargreaves. If it wasn't for a company called @fridayproject who happened to see a conversation on twitter with @DaveWeeks16 about suggesting to interview him, I don't know how I would of achieved this!

Chris Hargreaves has played for a number of clubs throughout his career such as Grimsby Town, Scarborough, West Brom, Hereford, Plymouth Argyle, Northampton, Brentford, Oxford and Torquay. Chris made 105 appearances for Torquay scoring 14 goals. He scored Torquay's first goal as he captained them in a 2 - 0 victory over Cambridge United in the Conference play-off final at Wembley. The victory earned Torquay promotion back into the The Football League. 

1) The playoff final was a big day for everyone, therefore what thoughts and emotions were running through your head when the final whistle was blown?
It was a case of pure relief, so much had happened that season whether it was on or off the pitch. For me, it had been 57 games of blood, stitches, injections and a lot of ups and downs! It was an amazing feeling when the whistle was blown. I was more delighted for my family than myself and the fans at Wembley that day. It was a great day for their brilliant support.

2) It came a shock to everyone when it was announced you would be leaving Torquay, was it your decision and how did it all come about?
It was a shock to me when I realised that I would be leaving the club as I had thought I would be seeing my career out at the club, but Paul Buckle wanted a different team and I didn't feel that I could sit on the bench or in the stand and just pick up my money after having such a brilliant time at the club. Myself and the manager had a great rapport on and off the field but it just became tense at the end but that's just football. It soon becambe clear that Oxford wanted me and I decided that another job needed finishing. Football can be a bit ruthless but it didn't matter as I had achieved exactly what I had set out to do at Torquay, to lead the team back into the league. I will admit it was a wrench to leave though!

3) You later joined Oxford in January 2010 but after making 10 appearances and Oxford getting back into the league, you left. What happened?
I was very proud to have gone back and help Oxford and achieve promotion. It was a tough decision rejoin the going club from one club as captain to another club and being made captain, it was bizarre. It was always going to be a short term deal as I wanted to stay in Devon. Ultimately, those ten games and travelling to and from Oxford probably finished my career, but I always felt there was some unfinished business at Oxford and I wanted to help the club achieve promotion.  

4) What is your most memorable footballing memory and achievement during your whole career?
Scoring on my debut will always remain special but scoring at Wembley and leading the team up the steps to lift the trophy takes some beating. The relationship I had with the fans at Torquay was something which I shall never forget.

5) Your worst memory/experience?
Standing on any pitch after any relegation is a dark day but having to retire has easily been the worst part of my career. I still find it tough now.

6) You've just released a book called 'Wheres your caravan' - What is the logic behind the title and what is the book?
I decided to call it that as a bit of a laugh really. As I have been at so many clubs and have such long hair, I think the title worked! My locks have now been chopped though!

7) If you weren't a footballer, what other career choice would you have liked to have done and why?
I always find it hard to answer this question as I had nothing else in mind other than making it as a footballer but I would have liked to give tennis or motocross a go had football not been an option.

8) What are your plans for the immediate future?
I have a sports shop in Sidmouth called Chris Hargreaves Sports Republic which has gone really well. The support I have had has been brilliant and I am so thankful for that. It would be fantastic to be able to open another one somewhere else (hopefully Torquay!!)

9) What are your plans for the long term future?
I really enjoy doing a a few bits for TV and radio and you never know what may crop up there. Writing is obviously a passion so I hope that continues, and fingers crossed a football job is around the corner.

10) Finally, name 5 people you would least like to have round for a dinner part
Bin Laden, Gaddafi, Jedward, the referee who wrongly awarded a free tick to Mansfield in the play-off semi final that cost us the game and the chance of promotion (not that I'm bitter!) and probably Jeremy Kyle for being such a weasel.

You can get your copy of Chris's book 'Wheres your caravan' from Amazon for a smashing price of £5.29 -

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Bradford 1-0 Torquay

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend Bradford away this weekend. Therefore, this week's match report is down to Ben Currie - @ben_tufcfan.

After going to Shrewsbury two weeks prior, I wasn't going to bother with Bradford, such a lacklustre display didn't deserve my finanical and emotional torture. But after a more than satisfying performance against top of the table Morecambe my faith had been restored and i was ready again to plunge face-first into the hopeful randomness of another Torquay away day.

I was picked up by the travel club at 7am. When asked how I was feeling, I replied with the now customary 'buzzing' however the truth was that i was not looking forward to the long journey north. Being a Torquay fan, you have to get used to the long journeys, in some seasons the nearest away game can still be a two hour drive each way, which is why you need plenty of topics to discuss. Having stopped for a pub lunch just outside Bradford, in a dreary little village called Drighlighton, we were ready for the football. Sadly at this point it absolutely started bucketing it down, I then started to feel that this could be a bad sign of what was to come.

As soon as you approach Bradford, you see the stadium straight-away, it sticks out like a collosus, sort of like a poor-mans St James Park in Newcastle, it certainly is an impressive sight and one would imagine very intimidating. However, once you get inside you realise it isn't. It must be galling to be a Bradford fan, 11,000 is an impressive average attendance for league 2, but very poor for a stadium that holds 24,000. The fans don't sing either, I get the feeling this is a club stuck with a losing mentality having slowly worsened over the last 10 years.

Torquay lined up in a 4-5-1 formation; 
Olejnik, Nicholson, Robertson, Saah, Oastler, Mansell, O'Kane, Stevens, Lathrope, Howe, Atieno. Subs; Rowe-Turner, Leadbitter, Ellis, Mcphee, Macklin

Stevens was replaced due to an injured Morris, Howe coming back in for the absent Bodin, and Leadbitter on the bench for the first time. Torquay  kicked off and straight away O'Kane kicked it out of play whilst attempting a simple pass to Oastler, unfortunately this set the tone of our afternoon. The continually enigmatic Danny Stevens ran towards the Bradford area, slightly over-running it allowing the Bradford centre-back to intercept, he won the ball cleanly but followed through on Stevens after, who fell to the floor quite heavily. The referee had a decent view of it and must have deemed it to be 'excessive force' as he had no hesitation in brandishing the red card out of his back pocket.

I think the referee lost his head for the rest of the half, drastic inconsistency seaped into his decision making no doubt under pressure from the armies of fist clenching, angst ridden fans in the stands. Playing Bradford also welcomed the return of ex Torquay player Guy Brasnton. He was a man with a massive point to prove to the Bradford manager, his team-mates and the fans who have yet to see the best of him. He wrote a nice bit in Bradford's programme about us, and came over to thank us at the final whistle.

You would think with a man advantage that we would dominate, sadly not. No doubt galvanised by the injustice of the sending off Bradford upped a gear and the left winger in particular was rampaging against Oastler, firing in a couple of dangerous crosses which yearned to be tucked away. The only goal of the game came a bit later however when a bit of a scramble in the box allowed Fagan space at the back post to finish smartly through the legs of Olejnik. It was poor defensing, symptomatic of the whole lack of communication throughout the team. The goal was certainly deserved and Torquay needed to react quickly. Nicholson had a 25 yard free kick well saved down low by the keeper. However it wasn't enough and the half time whistle blew to a cacophony of boos. 

The talk of half time was still mainly positive. Normally the players come out in the second half more determined and attack minded, so we were all pretty confident that our fortunes would change. A double substitution welcomed us as Macklin and Leadbitter came on with Oastler and Lathrope off with a change to 4-4-2. What followed was an unbelievably fustrating 45 minutes of football. There were times we matched and outnumbered them in the box but achieved nothing. As we threw more men forward, Bradford played brave and nearly caught us on the break a couple of times. In one instance a breakdown in communication left Fagan with a free run on goal and Olejnik in no-man's land. Fagan's audacious lobbed effort hit the post and bounced free.

With the minutes ticking away, everyone was getting more impatient, the players growing increasingly fustrated that nothing was working, the fans equally irritated. We won a succession of corners in the dying minutes and with a 'smash and grab' vision sprawled across my mind, Olejnik raced up to join the attack, from the ensuing scramble he nearly got on the end of something. I stayed to applaud my team off the pitch, they probably didn't deserve it, but we all travelled the long distance together, we are a team, and we have a hell of a lot of work to do, and we will all be there next week to hopefully put it right.

And so, as i trudged the walk of shame back to the car, I reflected on our performance. We could easily have won this game. The decision to go to 4-4-2 at half time with 2 wingers was definitely the right call. Unfortunately, certain members of the team let themselves down, didn't play to their optimum standard, or their optimum standard just isn't good enough for this level. As proven by Bodin, there is genuine quality out there to be approached. 

I still don't think its been too bad a start from the team, we have had to play alot of good teams recently, and in some of those games we have been scratching our heads at how we didn't win. There seems to me to be no communication about the back 4, and a cavalier approach to defending. All good teams are built on a good defence, and i am slightly worried by this considering we have a specialised defensive coach. A lot of work needed from my point of view. It seems that some players are taking their place in the team for granted.

I appreciate the help of Ben for doing this for me, was a big help. Next week, we take up the challenge of Gillingham at home!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Interview with Matt Hockley

Few of my blog readers suggested to do interviews so here it goes. I got in contact with Matt and asked whether it would be possible to ask him a few questions about his time at Torquay and in general. So I'm thankful that he gave the time to help me out!

Matt originally joined Torquay United as a trainee. He later turned professional in July 2000. He made sporadic appearances over the next two seasons before becoming a regular under Leroy Rosenior. He is nicknamed 'Pitbull' due to his tenacious tackling. During his time at Plainmoor 2000/2008, Matt made an impressive 239 appearances and scoring 10 goals. In 08/09 he joined Truro City before then signing for his current club Bideford.

You spent the majority of your career at Torquay United. Was it hard to move on?
Yes, it was very hard because I gone to Torquay straight after leaving school so that's all I knew. But in the end, Paul Buckle made the choice for me by not offering a new deal.

What are your best memories and achievements from being at Torquay?
It all came on the same day such as the whole atmosphere when we won promotion to league one on the last game of the season away to Southend.

What or who inspired you to play football?
I grew up around football within my family. I didn't have a choice but I would say that my mum and dad were the driving force.

If you weren't a footballer, is there any other sports or career choices you would of liked to have done?
When I was younger I had always wanted to be a cook of some sort.

What are your plans for the immediate future?
Football wise, hopefully stay at Bideford where I am currently enjoying my time immensely. Work wise, I'm enjoying making a difference at a disabled autistic home for children in Exeter.

Do you have any long term plans?
Just to enjoy every day with my family and friends really.

Finally, name five people you would least like to have round for a dinner party?
John Terry, Gail from coronation street, Jeremy Kyle, Anne Robinson and Drogba haha.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading my interview with Matt. For a first time it turned out really well. Therefore, there will be more interviews in the future!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Torquay 1-1 Morecambe

We now enter October and my gosh the weather was something to go by. Definitely the hottest day in goodness knows how long down here in the riviera. Games are starting to come thick and fast now as today we take on Morecambe at home and if anything, a win for us didn't look like it was on the cards. Morecambe seem to be the dark horses this season in my opinion. Not a team you would really associate to be up the top chasing promotion. 

I entered the Gulls nest - home fans bar, with a very pessimistic approach on the game ahead. I mean, I'm not much of an optimist and always seem to have a negative view. I mean, the Shrimps are flying high at the top of the table compared to our iffy recent starts. As I met up with Olie, we discussed the match ahead and both agreed that we would lose 7-0 - dramatic I know!

As I walked across to the popside and met the rest of the group, it was quite clear that today's attendance would be disappointing. Not saying that our attendances are immaculate but for some reason it just looked increasingly low. After all, there were only 76 Shrimp fans which made the long trip down to Plainmoor so well done to them! I did my weekly routine and got a programme and 50/50 ticket - don't really know why because I'm always a thousand numbers out, but maybe one day ey!

Flicking through the programme I came across an interesting article on ex Gull Matt Hockley. He seemed to have just disappeared after leaving us. However, I was intrigued to see that he is now working with children who have autism and learning difficulties as well as playing part time for Bideford which I thought was interesting.

It was soon approaching 3pm and kick off was just around the corner. Our lineup for todays match was;  Olejnik, Oastler, Saah, Robertson, Nicholson, Mansell, Lathrope, O'Kane, Morris, Atieno, Bodin. Subs: Stevens, Mcphee, Ellis, Rice, Macklin.

Rene Howe was suspended for this week after his sending off against Shrewsbury last weekend which ment that Atieno would step up to the mark. Mcphee was also dropped which welcomed the return of Morris on the left wing. 

Both teams had came out all fired up and prepared. Within the first five minutes, Torquay's Robertson had been denied a penalty as he recieved a harsh alleged push into the box. Morecambe sure looked up for this and weren't going to waste any possible chances as that showed when Danny Charlton speculated a low shot on goal. The Gulls had certainly stepped up thir game this week and without a doubt where the better side within the first opening 20 minutes.

We soon hit the 25th minute mark and Billy Bodin shot a cracking ball from distance to the right post which forced their keeper quite a smart save. Bodin is our latest signing on loan from Swindon and without a doubt is definitely making an impact. He may not be a persistent striker but it's the work he puts in and the chances which he sets up which fascinates me.

Half time was upon us and the score line was all even. To be perfectly honest, Morecambe are not what I had expected, both sides were fairly similar. It would be interesting to see what the final outcome would be. They announced the 50/50 ticket number at half time and once again there was no joy in me winning. However, there was the new appearance of our mascot. He had now had a makeover and was brand new. Of course the chant 'We want old Gilbert back' soon arised.

The second half started and the Shrimps seemed to have lost their spark and looked more layed back. It had only just taken a toll for 5 minutes and already the Shrimps Carlton had been taken off injured and replaced by Reid after a harsh challenge from O'Kane. The atmosphere from our side was incredible. Non-stop chanting all game. However the 'Martin Lings yellow army' chant did get a little tedious after constantly being sung for 15 minutes. Our attempts on goal staggered up to 10 with only 2 of them at least being on target. Surely a goal for the Gulls was due at any point. Nicholson laid in a brilliant deep cross for Bodin to be on the end who instantly volleyed it across the box to forward Atieno who remarkably smashed it into row Z of the family stand.

Normally goalkeepers make a big impact on a game and I've seen some outstanding ones within my time at Plainmoor but Morecambe's didn't seem to impress. After a terrible mistake from the Shrimps keeper, it enabled Bodin to take another opportunity on goal, however with a quick flick to Mansell, the skipper was able to create a spectacular finish inside the far post which put the Gulls in the lead 1-0. There was no question about it that either side deserved to be in the lead but the Gulls goal was rightly deserved pushing Mansells goal total of the season to 5!

Having that goal really did spark both sets of players and the crowd. The Shrimps midfielder Ellison had kept Torquay;s defense on their toes all game. His shots on goal were only fractions away and narrowly missed. With only 15 minutes remaining, Torquay really were giving it their all to make sure they kept this lead as the three points would be very handy right now. Not for long, as Ling decided we needed fresh legs and new faces on the pitch, so he replaced Morris with Stevens and Atieno for Mcphee. Danny Stevens for me is one of those players which only suits certain game situations, and I feel that today was definitely is style of play. 

The fresh legs on the pitch certainly made an instant impact as Stevens set-up McPhee after a flick from O'Kane, but the final touch was saved by Roche. Torquay had another opportunity to extend the lead when a rebound hit back to Mcphee which he was then lucky to beat Roche. However, Morecambe were prepared and had a couple of their men placed on the line to clear the shot. It was from this moment on that Morecambe were given the advantage and once again it was the face of Ellison on the ball which he took a tremendous run up through the pitch and around our defense and past Olejnik to then immediately equalise 1-1. It was very poor defending on our behalf.

Torquay seemed to have switched off at this point and you could tell that they would just be happy with a draw against a side like Morecambe. Ellison was once again given the chance on goal but thankfully, his weaker foot came in handy for us as the ball was pelted over the bar and into the stands. Bodin was the first to attempt to get the Gulls back into a winning position. A ball was played to Mcphee but he headed it straight to the keepers hands. A glorious chance not taken. There was no doubt about it that both sets of fans were getting agitated and just wanted that final goal! Mansell set up a perfect cross to Bodin who then headed the ball to Mcphee who was waiting at the far post, but somehow Morecambe's goalkeeper made a brilliant stretch to rescue the ball.

As the board for injury time showed, there was going to be an extra 5 minutes! That gave Torquay to have couple chances to have a final crack on target and seal these three points rather than one. Torquay were soon awarded a free kick and brought every player (other than Olejnik) forward. Nicholson took it but the cross was cleared and that was probably the last chance of the game for the Gulls.

The final whistle was blown and if anything, I think it is fair to say that we gave away three points. Although, neither teams played to the best of their ability, but if anyone deserved the three points today it was us. 

Thank you reading. This is my first football blog so I hope that you have enjoyed it! :)