With just two points from their opening eight matches, it’s tempting to assume that Torquay have been uncompetitive this season. Clearly, in terms of their results that has been the case, but typically of teams who are struggling at the foot of the table, the problem is their inability to take advantage of key moments at either end of the pitch: they haven’t generally been getting overrun, but they’ve conceded poorly and failed to take chances.
Their problems were highlighted in the 4-2 defeat against Borehamwood. They put a lot of pressure on the visitors, particularly from set pieces, but were vulnerable on the break and made individual errors at the back which were punished.
Likewise, against Chester last Saturday they dominated the game and ought to have led by more than 1-0 after half an hour: by that point they’d spurned a couple of one-on-ones and a good chance inside the six yard box. They paid a heavy price when they were denied a first win of the season by a last gasp equaliser.
They lined up with a fairly orthodox 4-4-2 in the Chester game. Ex-Wrexham striker James Grey played off Ruairi Keating, a target man who, while strong, is not particularly dominant in the air. However, Torquay are quite likely to go long to him, especially when their midfielders are under pressure.
The pace of Jamie Reid on the left hand side offers support to the strikers. He’s confident on the ball, tricky and willing to take on his man, preferring to cut in onto his right foot to have a shot on goal. On the other flank, Andy Haworth is very right-footed and likes to drive down the flank. He dovetails quite well with the right back, Ryan Higgins, who is more likely to overlap than Chinua Cole on the other side, and can drive accurate long balls into the second hole to find Haworth.
Occasionally Haworth will cut inside, offering the possibility to link up with Reid as he cuts in from the left. This unexpected movement disrupted the Chester defence, creating space with the triangle Haworth, Reid and Higgins make which they could work into a crossing opportunity. However, when Haworth cuts inside it looks a little laboured as he clearly doesn’t want to cut onto his left foot, so the threat of a shot is reduced and it’s possible to anticipate that he will look to pop it off to a player who can play Higgins in on the overlap or try to get around the outside of the left back himself.
Torquay’s defence has not had a happy start to the season: their only clean sheet was on the opening day at home to a Tranmere side which ended the match with nine men.
The centre backs are both physical: Myles Anderson had to use his strength a couple of times to compensate for Chester strikers being able to run in behind him. For defensive set-pieces they favour man-to-man marking, with a man on the near post, which offered Chester the opportunity to increase or reduce space in the goalmouth with their movement and goalkeeper Vincent Dorel did not look completely comfortable coming into the crowd to deal with high balls, seeming to be uncomfortable when Chester used a man to block him off. Dorel was making his first appearance of the season, United having used three goalkeepers in their first eight matches of the campaign.