Boreham Wood v Torquay United
Tuesday 28th March 2023, 7.45pm
LV BET Stadium Meadow Park, Vanarama National League
A frozen pitch means the Wood are back in action already this week, with a rescheduled visit of Torquay United set to take place on Tuesday night as Luke Garrard’s men look to bounce back to winning ways after two games without victory.
IN FOCUS: TORQUAY UNITED
Since relegation to the Conference in 2014, Torquay United have suffered inconsistency in their quest to return to the Football League with very few genuine attempts at promotion. They even dropped into the sixth tier after just four seasons in the Conference, but the arrival of vastly experienced manager Gary Johnson in 2018 did signal a potential change in fortunes for the Gulls, and the 67-year old almost guided the club to two promotions in three seasons. After winning the National League South title in 2018/19, the Devon-based outfit consolidated during a campaign which was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic before finishing the following season as runners-up, and they came ever so close to completing a remarkable rise if it weren’t for Hartlepool United who came out on top in the play-off final, via a dramatic penalty shootout.
After another mid-table finish last time out, the Gulls will have hoped to kick on and challenge the top of the table once again, but they suffered a blow in the shape of an enforced rebuild when a number of top clubs came in for some of their key players. The likes of Joe Lewis, Armani Little and Connor Lemonheigh-Evans all departed in the summer while top scorer Will Goodwin returned to Stoke City after his loan spell, and although the Gulls have brought in a number of young players including Shaun Donnellan, Aaron Jarvis, Brett McGavin, Ben Wyatt, Dylan Crowe, Ryan Hanson and Kieron Evans, the Yellow Army have failed to match the heights of previous seasons and are currently languishing inside the bottom four. In desperate need of additional reinforcements, the Devon-based outfit reacted by bringing in Nico Lawrence on loan during January in an attempt to sure up their backline, while securing the signatures of Kevin Dawson and Jack Stobbs along with strikers Tope Fadahunsi, Lewis Collins and most recently Frank Nouble as they look to ease the burden of top scorer Jarvis, and they will be hoping this sparks an immediate improvement ahead of the final eight games as a run of one win in their last 11 outings has caused them to slip to seven points away from safety.
LAST TIME OUT
Torquay United 1-2 Dagenham & Redbridge
Saturday 25th March 2023
Vanarama National League
There was heartbreak for Torquay United as Dagenham & Redbridge came from behind to steal all three points at Plainmoor, with a last gasp winner from Inih Effiong sealing the victory.
It was the hosts who were on the front foot from the first whistle with Kieron Evans at the heart of most of Torquay’s most promising early moves, but there wasn’t much to report in the way of clear-cut chances until the 17th minute as United created the first goalscoring opportunity of the game, with Jack Stobbs making the most of some space afforded to him on the right flank to deliver a delicious cross to the back post, where the onrushing Asa Hall could only glance his header wide of the woodwork. Stobbs took centre stage again three minutes later, this time with a rasping drive from 20 yards that was heading into the top-left corner, causing visiting goalkeeper Josh Strizovic to scramble across his line and palm the ball behind. Evans was next to try his luck with an ambitious effort that just lacked the required power or precision to seriously trouble Strizovic, and although Gary Johnson’s side remained in the ascendancy as the half wore on, they were unable to penetrate the Daggers defence. However just when it appeared that the game would remain goalless at the interval, the Gulls struck in style as Aaron Jarvis picked up a loose ball 20 yards from goal, before lashing the ball wide of Strizovic’s despairing dive and into the back of the net to open the scoring on the stroke of half time with a sumptuous strike.
The restart initially saw little change in the pattern of the encounter as the hosts continued to pose most of the attacking questions, and eager for a second goal they nearly had their wishes answered ten minutes in as a free kick provided Ross Marshall with a chance to double the lead, but he could only steer his header wide of the far upright. As the game hit the hour-mark, the Gulls remained in charge in terms of both possession and scoreline, but with the lead still just a single goal, the result remained in the balance. A low 20-yard strike from Matt Robinson did provide Mark Halstead with his first piece of action, and as the Daggers began to finally grow into the contest, they restored parity via the penalty spot with 12 minutes to go. A swift counter attack caught the hosts on the back foot, and with Marshall’s challenge on substitute Sydney Ibie deemed illegal, Effiong placed the ball on the spot before duly firing home to make it all-square. Torquay kept plugging away, but were unable to spark a winner despite a brief spell of euphoria being brought to a rather abrupt conclusion due to the offside flag, after Frank Nouble had headed home at point blank range. Another point on the board seemed to be the end result, but the Gulls would be robbed of even that scant consolation in injury time. With the Torquay players camped upfield in hope of finding a late, late winner, Effiong drove dangerously into the penalty area before cutting inside and drilling home inside Halstead’s near post to make to turn the game on its head, and secure a crushing blow for the hosts as they would be denied a point right at the death.
Dagenham & Redbridge (H) L1-2
Gateshead (A) D1-1
Wealdstone (H) L1-2
Solihull Moors (A) L3-2
Aldershot Town (A) D1-1
Bromley (H) L1-2
Despite enjoying a slight improvement at the start of 2023, the Gulls were unable to remain consistent and have suffered a poor run of form which has subsequently seen them slip further away from safety. A late Adam Marriott penalty condemned Gary Johnson’s men to a third defeat in a row as they ended February with just one victory, and they followed this up with a number of disappointing results into March. An early goal from Joe Partington would be cancelled out by an almost instant leveller from Brett McGavin to seal a point against Aldershot Town, before strikes from Josh Kelly, Callum Howe and Mark Beck saw Solihull Moors come from behind to secure a narrow victory at the ARMCO Arena as the Gulls’ winless run was stretched to six games when a late winner from Micah Obiero secured all three points for Wealdstone four days later. They would find hope after Kieron Evans’ second half strike secured a point against relegation rivals Gateshead, but this couldn’t spark any kind of unbeaten streak much to the frustration of the Gulls, who were seconds away from picking up back-to-back points for the first time since January as two late goals from Inih Effiong once again saw the Devon-based outfit surrender a lead and come away empty-handed, meaning they come into Tuesday night’s game in desperate need of a win as they look to maintain their National League status.
IN THE DUGOUT: GARY JOHNSON
The arrival of Gary Johnson in the Plainmoor dugout in 2018 was a real statement of intent for Torquay United. In a managerial career that has spanned over four decades, he took over his first role in 1986 with Newmarket Town, and has gone on to take charge of Cambridge United, Kettering Town, Yeovil Town, Bristol City, Peterborough United, Northampton Town and Cheltenham Town, as well as a stint in charge of the Latvia National Team. His two spells at Yeovil brought notable success, winning the FA Trophy as well as the Conference and League Two title, before guiding the Glovers to promotion via the League One play-offs. He would also win the Conference at Cheltenham Town and the Conference South at Torquay, before guiding the latter to the National League play-off final in 2021.
ONE TO WATCH: SHAUN DONNELLAN
Versatile midfielder Shaun Donnellan arrived at Plainmoor in July and recently won the Gulls’ Player of the Month award for December, establishing himself as one of Torquay United’s most important players. The Republic of Ireland youth international came through the ranks at West Bromwich Albion and gained experience out on loan, with Worcester City, Stevenage, Dagenham & Redbridge and Walsall giving him the chance to test himself on a regular basis. He would depart the Hawthorns permanently in 2018 and joined Yeovil Town, going on to become a reliable figure in the centre of the park with further spells at Maidstone United, Woking and Maidenhead United, with his minutes continuing to go up each season. Now an experienced head despite being just 26-years old, Donnellan joined Torquay in the summer and has improved every week, swiftly becoming one of their best performers each game while his versatility has become crucial as well, and his ability to fill in in a number of different positions has seen him feature at centre back, right back and right wing-back as well as his natural central midfield role, allowing him to contribute at a high standard.
LAST TIME WE MET
Torquay United 0-1 Boreham Wood
Saturday 20th August 2022
Vanarama National League
On a windy afternoon at Plainmoor, an early Jamal Fyfield goal was the difference between these two sides and gave Boreham Wood a well-deserved, second win in a row on the road.
A lightning quick start from the visitors saw Fyfield react well to converted Will Evans’ initial shot to give them the lead after just three minutes, and they continued to exert pressure with Josh Rees being denied by an excellent block from Ryan Hanson before Tyrone Marsh fired over the bar soon afterwards. One of few openings for the hosts saw Ali Omar force a good save from Nathan Ashmore, but the Wood maintained control throughout as Marsh’s free kick was saved by Mark Halstead in the United goal moments later. Rees and Lee Ndlovu would each have two good opportunities before the break, with the former shooting wide both times before the latter tested Halstead as they looked to double their lead.
It was the hosts who were on the front foot at the start of the second period with Ashmore needing to make a fine save from Brett McGavin just five minutes after the restart. The warning signs were there, and a whole host of chances saw Hanson and Tom Lapslie have shots blocked before Ashmore made another superb save from the former, with the Wood stopper coming to his side’s rescue again when he denied Omar minutes later. The Gulls continued to threaten with Dean Moxey’s throw-in causing havoc in the penalty area, with McGavin eventually firing over the crossbar when the Wood failed to clear their lines. A rare chance for the Wood saw Danny Elliott have an effort cleared off the line before Danny Newton went close himself, but the visitors weren’t able to extend their lead with Torquay looking to take advantage. Ashmore had to be at his best with ten minutes to go when he produced a smart save to deny Nelson Iseguan and Moxey went close moments later, before forcing a succession of corners in their pursuit of a leveller. Unfortunately for the Yellow Army, they just fell short as the Wood held on to a deserved victory.
HAVEN’T WE MET BEFORE? AARON JARVIS
Although his goalscoring exploits for local club Basingstoke Town catapulted Aaron Jarvis up the divisions, the 6ft2in striker found chances hard to come by during a two-year stint at Luton Town and as a result found himself searching for regular first team opportunities. One of these opportunities was presented to the youngster just four months after his move to Kenilworth Road, in the form of a one-month youth loan to Boreham Wood having scored once in four appearances for the Hatters, and while his temporary stint in Hertfordshire will have proved to be educational for the youngster he was unable to maximise the amount of football he played, making just one start from a total of four appearances. He would go on to find his feet after departing Luton permanently though, with more successful stints at Sutton United and Scunthorpe United before moving to Torquay United in the summer, where he is currently his side’s top scorer in all competitions.
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