Report | Torquay United (a)
Vanarama National League | 04 February 2023
Another hard fought 3 points on the road ensured Notts maintained their position at the top of the league, with another Ruben Rodrigues penalty proving decisive. It wasn’t the best of afternoons for the Portuguese midfielder, after he saw red for a dubious yellow card offence. It meant Notts had to battle with 10 men for a third of the game,
From the off it was clear that Gary Johnson’s gameplan was to make his side as tough to beat as possible, taking the game to Notts physically, something they were perfectly entitled to do. However, the standard of officiating in this division was once again called into question, as referee Paul Johnson failed to gain control of the game very early on. This resulted in 9 cards being brandished, including the second yellow for Rodrigues, as well as 7 minutes added time, a ludicrous figure in truth. It made the afternoon even tougher for the Magpies, but they persevered under trying circumstances.
It was a frantic start from both sides, and each had a good chance to take the lead in the opening 5 minutes. Rodrigues had his first sight of goal from a direct free kick, one he put just wide of Halstead’s post. At the other end of the pitch Evans looked to have played Tope Fadahunsi free, a forward we highlighted in our preview. He looked to be through on goal, but brilliant recovery defending from Aden Baldwin saw the chance snuffed out, much to the relief of the 500 travelling fans.
It didn’t take long for the game to descend into chaos, as just after 10 minutes had been played the first card was brandished. A late challenge by Torquay’s Ryan Hanson saw him enter the book, a nasty challenge indeed which left Rawlinson writhing in pain. Just moments later Hanson should have been heading for an early shower, another mistimed challenge handing Notts a free kick 25 yards from goal. The referee made the bemusing decision to keep his cards in his pocket, made even more surprising by the fact that he would later use his cards at will as the game progressed.
Torquay would respond, winning a corner after 25 minutes, which ultimately came to nothing. Slocombe was called into action however, but by his own player, as Rawlinson’s backward header looked like it would give Torquay the lead. Acrobatics from Slocombe to claw the ball away from danger was the only thing that kept the scores level. The tension was only beginning to build, as Rawlinson and Wyatt entered into an altercation, with only the latter being booked.
The tense atmosphere was swept away with 10 minutes of the opening half, as talisman Langstaff swept home from just inside the area to open the scoring. Bostock played a delightful ball to the right, as Rawlinson ventured forward, before clipping the ball into Langstaff’s feet. A twist and a turn later the forward had worked an opening, sweeping the ball into the bottom right corner with his left foot. This extended his lead in the top scorer race, and gave Notts the lead too. Tope Fadahunsi made way straight after the goal, with Lewis Collins replacing him for Torquay.
Two more bookings followed the goal, and both would eventually be significant in the context of the wider game. First Rodrigues received a yellow, his foul on Evans earning him a booking. Just minutes later Hanson once again brought a Notts player down, taking Rodrigues down from behind. Baring in mind Rodrigues himself had received a card just before this incident, the expectation around the ground was that Hanson would be given his marching orders. Incredulously, referee Johnson once again decided that Hanson could remain on the pitch.
The decision would punish County, as Torquay broke down the right. Donnellan played a long, sweeping cross into the box, just evading the head of Baldwin. The ball ended up with midfielder Tom Lapslie and to his credit he remained calm, controlling the ball before placing it past Sam Slocombe. The scores were level once more just before the break. Gary Johnson then recognised that Hanson was one more challenge away from a red, making his second change before half time, with Marshall replacing him.
The sides remained changeless after the half time interval, and it took Notts all of 2 minutes to regain the lead. A lovely give and go down the right between Rodrigues and Nemane left the latter inside the box. He skinned his man, leaving Wyatt no option but to bring him down. It was Notts’ 3rd penalty in 2 games, a fitting reward for a side who have by far the most box entries of any side in the league. Rodrigues stepped up again, and made no mistake, sending Halstead the wrong way to give Notts the lead once more.
The goal scorer was at it again, winning the ball back in midfield. As he so often does when he turns the ball over high up the pitch, Rodrigues looked for goal, but from 20 yards he narrowly missed the target. A series of cards then followed, as first Sam Austin went into the book for dragging back a man in yellow. This was to be his last action of the game, as he was replaced by Jodi Jones.
Next it was Sam Slocombe’s turn to be booked, for taking too long to restart the action. The 3rd, and perhaps most ludicrous of the cards went to Rodrigues, who’s afternoon was over following a second yellow. The ball was heading behind for a goal kick, and Rodrigues made a poor decision to handle the ball as it went out of play. Considering it gave the Notts man no advantage, the referee might have decided to use his better judgement and not brandish a card, but instead he reached for his pocket and sent Rodrigues on his way. With 25 minutes plus added time still to play, the task before Notts looked a tough one. Perhaps even more concerning is that Rodrigues will now miss the Magpies’ trip to the Technique Stadium next weekend.
Understandably, Notts were somewhat under the cosh following the red. Sri Lankan international De Silva drove forward down the right, and as he so often does, looked to cut inside. His shot tested Slocombe, but the Notts stopper was able to get down to keep it out at his near post. Evans then got a flick on, which found Donnellan, but he was unable to test Slocombe in the Notts net.
Such is the character of this Notts side that they actually started to take the game to Torquay. With momentum behind them, the Magpies started to look the more likely side to add to the score line. With 15 left to play, substitute Jones found Chicksen down the left in a good position. However, on his weaker foot Chicksen was only able to send it wide.
Changes from both sides saw Dylan Crowe replace Wyatt for the hosts, while goal scorer Langstaff made way for Cedwyn Scott for the visitors. The final booking of the afternoon went Torquay’s way, as Evans finally found himself in the book for a foul on Nemane. Luke Williams made his final switch, Bajrami replacing Rawlinson, before the referee added an obscene 7 minutes of added time.
Notts did well to control the game in stoppage time, but with 1 minute of the allocated 7 remaining Torquay found themselves with a corner. Keeper Halstead went up for it, and Notts fans waited with bated breath, especially as Torquay have a history with keepers scoring late equalisers from corners. Much to the Magpies’ relief, the corner came to nothing, and Notts’ hard work paid off, as they secured another 3 points on the road.
Season stats updated below.
As always thanks for reading.
For Notts County Stats:
Richard - @notts_stats
Tom - @tomhwilliams23
Colin - @Colin_Sisson