Smash and grab at Torquay

When the fixtures for the 2009/2010 season were published last June, myself and some fellow Bradford City supporters highlighted Torquay away on 30 January 2010 as a game that we’d go as Plainmoor was a ground that none of us had visited before. So the 30th January started at 7am with myself and three friends leaving West Yorkshire to travel south towards Devon. It was nice that one of the other three lads offered to drive as I’d driven us to Exeter last season. By 9.15am we were in a Tesco cafe, just off the M42, eating an eight item English breakfast with free toast. Our driver was happy as he was the only one with a Tesco Clubcard so he collected all of the points (which is was what we were hoping for come 4.55pm that afternoon).

After a relatively easy journey down the M5, we arrived in Torquay just after 12.30pm. After checking into our accommodation, the four of us met the fifth member of our group who had travelled by train from Maidenhead. We headed towards the town centre but after speaking with other City supporters and some of the locals, we decided to get a taxi to the ground. As we had to wait 20 minutes for a taxi, it was into The Clocktower pub for a swift pint. So, onto Plainmoor and after visiting their excellent social bar, Boots and Laces, we finally went through the turnstile at about 2.59pm. My initial estimation for the away following was about 300 although I’d not realised until the final whistle that there were some City supporters sat in a small section of the main stand.

So we all started to point out who was in the staring eleven and it soon came to light that McCall had decided to opt for a 4-5-1 formation with Michael Boulding as the lone striker. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before Torquay scored following a corner which was only half cleared to the Torquay defender Robertson who struck a neat right foot shot to the delight of the home supporters. The remainder of the first half seemed to go very quickly and we played far too many long balls which were the wrong tactics with such a small man playing upfront on his own.

Credit to McCall and Jacobs though as the ineffective Brandon was taken off along with the unsure looking Williams (I have to say that I thought that Williams was brilliant when he first came into the team and I hope that he can re-discover his early season form) at half time and they were replaced by Gareth Evans and Zesh Rehman. We reverted to a 4-4-2 formation and although Torquay started the second half brightly with captain for the day Ramsden clearing off the line, we slowly began to get a foothold in the game. Daley started to get more possession of the ball and as a team we started to realise that we had to get the ball into wide positions if we were going to cause the Torquay defence any problems. A point should be made about the referee, Mr East, who seemed to get numerous decisions wrong. An example for me was when he booked the Torquay striker Zebroski for time wasting when he infact passed the ball back to Luke O’Brien for a throw in.

With about 15 minutes remaining, McCall finally brought Thorne on who had been warming up for about 20 minutes. Off went Neilson so we now had Thorne, Evans, Boulding and Daley on the pitch. And about five minutes after Thorne coming on, we equalised when Evans scored his first goal since November following a corner taken by Ramsden. At this point in the match, I think that most City supporters would have settled for a point which was probably slightly harsh on Torquay. However, there was one final sting in the tale in the four minutes of added on time when Thorne flicked on a Ramsden free kick and there was Evans from about three yards out to score his second goal of the match and send the City supporters inside the ground into ecstasy!

When Mr East blew his whistle to indicate the end of the match myself and four friends were shell-shocked. I don’t think that any of us could believe that we had actually won the match having played so poorly in the first half and been outplayed for the first part of the second half. We just stood on the mini terrace applauding the players and then watched as the City supporters exited the ground. McLaughlan and a couple of the other subs were now on the otherwise empty pitch going through their exercises so I decided to chant “there’s only one John McLaughlan” much to the amusement of my four friends and I think to McLaughlan himself.

So, an evening was spent in Torquay consuming a curry in the rather good Maha-Bharat and talking about how we got three points over a pint or two of the excellent Otter beer in the recommended Hole in the Wall pub.