Welcome to Part Two of my second season review of together anything is possible my save with Torquay United in the National League which is level 5 of the English Pyramid.
National League 2020/2021
January / February 2021
Coming off the back of two wins at the end of the year we travelled to Dagenham and Redbridge and came away with a 1-1 draw thanks to a second half Jake Andrews goal.
We then knocked Sutton United out of the FA Trophy 2nd round with both Yassine En-Nayeh and Ethan Galbraith getting the goals in a 2-0 win.
Ollie Crankshaw was on target in a 1-0 win at Barrow before a 0-0 draw away at AFC Fylde our 4th away game on the bounce
A double strike from Kalvin Kalala and Toby Edser goal gave us a resounding 3-0 win against Ebbsfleet United in our only home game in January in front of a crowd of 2375.
I offered Virgil Gomis a contract after the forward was still without a club after being released by Nottingham Forest last summer. Gomis had spent last season on loan with us and became a key player in our season. I did offer a contract in the summer but Gomis was being greedy wanting around £2300 per week which is probably the reason he was still without a club. Gomis agreed a contract of £525 per week until June 2022 and joined up with the squad for our final game of the month.
The final game of the month was our 5th away game of the month this time at Maidenhead United were we ran out 4-2 winners with goals from Yassine En-Nayeh 2, Jake Andrews and Jamie Reid.
February kicked off with new signing Virgil Gomis getting both our goals in the second half of a 2-0 win against Havant and Waterlooville.
Gomis was on target again in the 3rd round of the FA Trophy win against Chesham United. We scored three second half goals in a 3-0 win with Yassine En-Nayeh scoring two after Virgil Gomis had given us the lead from the penalty spot.
We continued our winning streak with a 2-1 win against promotion chasing Barnet with two first half goals courtesy of Ethan Galbraith and Yassine En-Nayeh who have both settled in well to life at Torquay.
Jamie Reid gave us a 2-0 victory over Sutton United with two first half goals including a penalty taking our unbeaten run in all competitions to 12 games.
We ended the month with two away games with the first against Stockport United which ended in another win for us after Tyler Magloire and Kalvin Kalala got the goals in the first half of a 2-1 win.
Winger Kalvin Kalala is having a wonderful season for us and he was on the scoresheet again this time scoring our second goal in a 2-0 win at Boston United after Virgil Gomis had put us 1 up in the 72nd minute breaking the home clubs resolve.
Six out of six wins in the month of February sets us up for what is a busy month ahead with 8 matches.
Harrogate Town visited Plainmoor in the opening game of the month and came up against two wingers in superb form with both Andrews and Kalala running riot down the flanks both getting an assist in a 2-0 win both Jamie Reid and Armani Little on target. A 0-0 draw against high flying Dover Athletic was followed by another draw at home to Darlington that saw Virgil Gomis on target in a 1-1 draw.
A 2-1 win against Hartlepool thanks to goals from Jamie Reid and Jake Andrews set us up nicely for the 1st leg of the FA Trophy Semi Final at Plainmoor against Barnet in front of 2581 supporters. It took a late Virgil Gomis goal to gain a 1-1 draw with everything to play for in the 2nd leg.
Two goals from Armani Little and a penalty from Jamie Reid was enough to see off mid table Macclesfield Town giving us a well deserved 3-0 victory.
The 2nd leg of the FA Trophy Semi Final against Barnet saw both clubs give little away in a tight first half but it was us who started the 2nd half on the front foot and who got the opener on the hour when Armani Little fired home a 25 yard free kick. Virgil Gomis put the tie to bed when he scored our 2nd on the counter in the 85th minute to take Torquay in to the Final at Wembley at the end of the season.
We finished the month with a top of the table clash against leaders Notts County and it did not disappoint the crowd of 3099 at Plainmoor. Since taking the job at Torquay we have had some really good games against County and this was no different with both clubs giving their all in a 2-2 draw. Virgil Gomis was on target for us scoring a double and his 8th and 9th goals since his return to the club in January.
We opened April up with a 1-0 defeat against Wrexham to end our 22 match unbeaten run in all competitions and our first defeat of the year but we dust ourselves off and get back to winning ways with a 2-0 win against Kings Lynn Town with goals in each half coming from Ethan Galbraith and Yassine En-Nayeh.
Ethan Galbraith was on target again scoring a brace in our 3-1 win against Eastleigh with Armani Little also getting on the scoresheet.
A 2-0 win at Bromley thanks to a Virgil Gomis brace took us to the top of the table after Notts County had slipped to their third consecutive defeat which puts us in pole position on goal difference with just one game remaining.
Deja Vu Last Day Drama
We went in to the final matchday of the season on level points with Notts County but with a 2 goal difference in our favour meaning that we only had to match whatever County do in their last game for us to be crowned Champions.
In our minds was that a win for us against Halifax Town would be enough to be crowned Champions and gain Promotion back to the Football League and rid us of last seasons disappointing last day defeat against Aldershot that cost us both the title and promotion last season.
I decided against a team meeting on the lead up to the Halifax game instead concentrating on the job ahead. Plainmoor saw our highest League attendance of the season for the visit of our opponents with 3488 coming through the turnstiles.
We started the game well dominating the ball and when top scorer Yassine En-Nayeh put us 1-0 up just after the half hour mark it settled our nerves and gave me the opportunity at 1-0 up at the break to tell the boys that they can do better.
I had banned myself and staff from getting any news from Notts County’s game against Ebbsfleet United instead concentrating on us getting the win that would take us back to the Football League has Champions……….right?
Wrong !!! Although second half substitute Nial Watson sealed a 2-0 victory with an headed goal late on in the game giving us a 2-0 win and a 4 point goal swing over Notts County or so we thought….. Notts County had beaten Ebbsfleet 5-1 meaning that both ourselves and County had finished level on 101 points and both with a +65 goal difference Notts County were crowned Champions on goals scored meaning that incredibly we had suffered last day agony for the second successive season and would have to attempt to navigate the Playoffs.
National League Final Table
National League Playoff Semi Final
We faced Dover Athletic at Plainmoor who had finished 5th in the league and a team who we had drawn both home and away already this season but we went in to the interval 1-0 up after Ethan Galbraith had been felled in the penalty box to win a penalty that Virgil Gomis stepped up and smashed home down the centre.
Ben Wynter at right back was having a good game and he had an hand in the move that finished with Tyler Magloire head us 2-0 in front which sealed us the game and set up a trip to Wembley for the Playoff Final.
FA Trophy Final
We picked up some silverware with a first class performance at Wembley in beating Eastleigh 3-0 in a game which we dominated from start to finish. Winger Kalvin Kalala put us 1-0 to the good with a blistering effort in the first half in which the Winger was a constant threat to the Eastleigh defence with his positive running.
Kalala picked up were he had left off after the break and won the penalty that Virgil Gomis dispatched to give us a two goal cushion which Eastleigh never looked liked salvaging and it was another winger Jake Andrews who rounded the game off just two minutes later that gave us a comprehensive 3-0 win and allowed Kyle Cameron to lift the FA Trophy in front of the travelling Gulls fans who will be staying in London for the Playoff Final in just 3 days time.
National League Playoff Final
Our big day arrived and we had pretty much our best XI available with Bola coming back in at left back for the covering Bridge who moved back in to the centre of our defence alongside Magloire with Cameron dropping to the bench. Wynter took up his usual right back slot and both Kalala and Andrews started on the flanks with both Galbraith and Little making up our midfield. Gomis and En-nayeh were the chosen partnership up front. A crowd of 33,760 had turned up at Wembley and it was Barnet who had the best of the early exchanges without really threatening our backline.
We should have taken the lead on the half hour mark but Gomis blazed his effort over the bar when it looked easier to score after good work from Kalala down the right flank.
Armani Little played a defence splitting pass for Yassine En-Nayeh who cooly put us 1-0 up just before the break with his 25th goal of the season. The second half continued in the same vein as the 1st finished with us looking the more dangerous and likely to get the next goal however neither side found the net in the 2nd half meaning we had held on to win 1-0 and win promotion back to the Football League.
Looking at our performance this season I felt that we had a good season and leading the way with the goals was free transfer recruit Yassine En-Nayeh who scored 25 goals in his debut season for us. Kalvin Kalala the tricky winger returned a fantastic 20 goals which is testament to his hard work an endeavour which earnt him our fans player of the season award. Jamie Reid was next on the goalscoring chart with 15 goals ahead of January signing Virgil Gomis who netted 13 times since he joined. Winger Jake Andrews hit the 10 goal mark with central midfielders Ethan Galbraith and Armani Little getting 9 and 8 respectively.
Jake Andrews was our leading assist maker with 26 ahead of Armani Little with 15 and Toby Edser with 8.
Kalvin Kalala averaged a rating of 7.36 over the season.
What a finish to the season, I could not believe going in to the last game of the season top of the table on equal points with Notts County with a two goal advantage. At 2-0 up against Halifax I was pretty sure that we would be crowned Champions and had not kept tabs on the Notts County game against Ebbsfleet which ended in a 5-1 victory to County which meant we were tied on 101 points with us both on a goal difference of 65 however County had scored 7 more goals than us meaning they were crowned Champions on goals scored gaining promotion to League Two leaving us with a last day feeling of disappointment for the second year running. This League is brutal but we managed to come through the Playoffs this time and get promoted back in to the Football League. Our form to catch Notts County at the top was nothing short of fantastic making the most of County slipping up.
Winning the FA Trophy was a good feeling just 3 days before winning the Playoff Final. Which I think really helped in keeping our momentum going.
I think the 5 loan signings were very successful starting with keeper Myles Roberts who kept Shaun Macdonald on the bench for most of the season. Tyler Magloire was a rock in our defence whilst both Ollie Crankshaw and Niall Watson were both adequate back up on the flanks. Last but not least Toby Edser who featured in 53 of our games during the season either from the bench or in the starting line up grabbing 8 assists and a goal during his spell.
Without doubt Kalvin Kalala was our player of the season returning 20 goals and 5 assists from out wide after being a player who I nearly released last summer before giving him a 1 year contract which incidentally I have already extended since. If Ben Whitfield had stayed with the club last summer I would have released Kalala and played Whitfield on the right but he wanted too much money for my liking so Kalala stayed and proved my judgement wrong.
Yassine En-Nayeh who joined the club on a free transfer last season was our top goalscorer with 25 goals in a frontline that saw Jamie Reid hit 15 and Virgil Gomis get 13 with the latter (Gomis) making an excellent contribution after joining in January.
The summer will be interesting with the 5 loan signings returning to their respective clubs and with contracts running out for 4 of our first team squad Louis Slough, Mamadou Koné, Olaf Koszela and Devante Rodney who were all back up players last season. We will have 12 players left in our squad who all have 1 year contracts so if we don’t lose anymore players in the summer I will be looking at bringing in up to 9 or 10 players to boost our squad ahead of our return to the Football League.
Financially we have around £132,000 in the bank and no transfer budget for the 3rd season in a row with a wage budget of £32,000 per week. I will definitely be looking at 5 loan players along with free transfers on short term contracts. I don’t want to max out the wage budget so I will be looking to be prudent in our recruitment trusting in the players who my scouts have scouted.
Last but not least I want to say a big thank you to all who have engaged in some interesting discussion about the lower league’s in recent weeks and the invites to a number of non league clubs by the supporters who have taken me on board talking grass roots football.