Boreham Wood v Torquay United
Saturday 21st January 2023, 3.00pm
LV BET Stadium Meadow Park, Vanarama National League
The Wood will be looking to return to winning ways after three successive draws, and they will see Saturday’s fixture as a chance to make amends with the visit of strugglers Torquay United.
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, Kieron Evans and Dillon De Silva, the Yellow Army have failed to match the heights of previous seasons and are currently languishing inside the bottom four.
LAST TIME OUT
Torquay United 4-2 Taunton Town
Tuesday 17th January 2023
ISUZU FA Trophy
Torquay United sealed a place in the last-16 of the Isuzu FA Trophy following a 4-2 victory over Taunton Town at Plainmoor.
After a tight opening to the game, the Gulls began to create a few openings with Dillon De Silva threatening the most as he looked to unlock the Taunton backline, and it was strikes in quick succession from the Sri Lanka international along with Ali Omar which saw them make a flying start. After serving notice of his intent with his crossing, De Silva decided to take matters into his own hands when he sent an audacious left-footed curler into the top corner of the net which left visiting goalkeeper Jack Bycroft clutching at thin air, and it wasn’t long before they made it two with Shaun Donnellan’s free kick being flicked on by Nico Lawrence, with the ball falling perfectly into Omar’s path who only had to apply the simplest of headers to double their advantage. The hosts would be soon be shocked though despite Taunton rarely threatening in the first half, and their lead was swiftly cancelled out before the break when Nick McCootie found himself free at the back post to pull a goal back before Jake Wannell took advantage of a hopeful dink towards the penalty area inadvertently being headed back into danger, and he was perfectly placed to hook the ball past Mark Halstead. However, Wannell quickly went from hero to villain when he was shown red for a rash challenge before the half was out, giving the Yellow Army a lifeline.
The National League South side did enjoy most of the possession at the start of the second half despite the man disadvantage, but Gary Johnson’s men quickly took control. After a couple of smart moves just lacked the finishing touch, United got it just right just after the hour-mark as Ben Wyatt sent in a delicious cross that Aaron Jarvis glanced home, and like in the first half they were quickly able to restore their two-goal lead. A ferocious shot from Jarvis was denied by a raised Taunton hand, with the former Wood loanee despatching of the resulting spot-kick to make the extra man count, and the Somerset side played with authority for the remainder of the game before running out winners.
Taunton Town (H) W4-2
FC Halifax Town (H) W1-0
Yeovil Town (A) L2-0
Yeovil Town (H) D1-1
Chippenham Town (H) W3-2
Oldham Athletic (A) L3-2
Torquay United have struggled to find consistency throughout the campaign, but should come into Saturday’s game with relative confidence. Defeat in a relegation six pointer with Oldham Athletic saw the Gulls unable to win two on the bounce for the first time this season, but they bounced back nonetheless as Stephen Wearne’s second half double saw them come from behind and secure victory in the FA Trophy over Chippenham Town. The festive period would then prove to be disappointing with just a point from two attempts against fellow Somerset side Yeovil Town, but after losing to the Glovers on New Year’s Day, the Yellow Army are evidently trying to achieve a New Year’s Resolution with two wins in a row to kick off 2023, as Asa Hall’s late winner secured a narrow victory over FC Halifax Town before Aaron Jarvis rescued the win last time out in the FA Trophy against Taunton Town.
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.
OUR TOWN. OUR CLUB. OUR COMMUNITY.