Away Day Blog by Luke Flynn – Torquay United vs Solihull Moors – Saturday 26th August 2017.
On July 5th, the eagerly awaited National League fixtures were announced. Before I could browse them in detail, my phone was buzzing away with the message from my good friend and fellow season ticket holder saying ‘Torquay – August bank holiday lets book it!’ After last season’s game was played on a Tuesday night, it seemed the fixture gods had played ball and a
jolly boys outing was in the offing!
After a somewhat delayed sub four-hour journey down to Torquay that annoyingly ate away at the sampling of local beverages, we arrived at Plainmoor. Outside was a very old and striking wall almost covering the entrance to this famous old stadium. Was this a sign of things to come? A hardily built structure that could keep the Moors out, such as the Halifax defence did the week before? The omens were not good.
On entrance to the stadium the obligatory body search was done to ensure I was not concealing an inflatable beach ball or pyrotechnics to match new year celebrations on London Bridge. Disturbingly, the friendly security guard recited exactly what I had in my pockets to the point where he knew more than me and then wished me good luck!
Whilst slightly perturbed on the entrance to the stadium I was then somewhat pleasantly surprised by the very reasonable £15 entrance fee, especially considering this was a visit to a former league club.
I was very impressed by the stadium. I had imagined it would be like an old run down Bootham Crescent or a dilapidated Edgeley Park, from teams who had similar financial problems and had dropped through the leagues faster than the wife can spend at Ikea. The modern terracing combined with the beautiful sight of predominantly yellow seating but with a hint of blue (please make our next kit more yellow, cough) in a very well designed modern lower league stadia.
The atmosphere from the home fans was understandably subdued because seasons of under achievement and on a run of four successive defeats. The 80 Moors fans who made the long trip seemed in surprisingly good spirits but I put this down to the sea air and a cheeky weekend away!
I was pre-warned before the match that the catering facilities for away fans at Torquay would not match that provided to the home fans, and unfortunately, they were not wrong. A burger van was placed behind the stand in an area that was reminiscent of where the cool kids would sneak to on a rough council estate and hide from the wag man. Whilst the lady who served me was polite and efficient I was concerned that my burger would of not be high quality when she moved one from a pile of burgers sitting there already cooked and slapped on to my bap. I quickly assessed the dire situation and bought a bottled water to help it go down, although I would have exchanged both for a pint from the Moors club house! The burger tasted as good as it looked and certainly won’t be getting 5 stars on trip advisor!
The match itself was a nervous affair with Moors intent on self-destructing with some lapse passing in the first half from the back to the midfield. Torquay played with more intent and kept the soon to be hero Nathan Vaughan busy in the first half. The second half started a lot brighter and Moors finally turned up and showed more ambition in their opponent’s half and were rewarded with an early goal after coach Carter flicked the ball off the woodwork and keeper before Tahvon Campbell nodded home from close range. The trip down was now a distant memory.
Torquay pressed hard for an equaliser before a miracle comparable to the moon landings occurred for which I may never witness again. Nathan Vaughan picked up the ball and saw a piercing run through the centre by Tristian Dunkley and aimed a long range kick out of his hands towards the diminutive striker, the ball landed a couple of yards too long. Never mind I thought, it was worth ago, but before I could say ‘English Riviera’ the ball had bounced and looped over the hapless Torquay keeper. I would say it took me a good 3-4 seconds to comprehend what had happened and then it sunk in, I then joined the Moors away fans into celebrating like we won the cup final! I have watched it on YouTube 20 times still can’t work out how! Ok, we conceded straight away after the goal and made it hard for ourselves but let’s gloss over this.
Whilst the miracle goal will always be a highlight, there was a notable second that had the away support in hysterics. Most people know Statto for being a committed and vocal supporter of club as well as the regular shouts of ’50-50’ down the shed end. The linesman had just made a quite ridiculous decision in the corner as Moors attempted to run down time, but Statto decided to run parallel with the lino and give him what for informing him the rules of the game like a scene out of a Rocky film where Mickey is drilling Stallone! OK, the stewards put this act improvised humour and passion to a premature end, but, bravo bravo!
Moors held on thanks to more Vaughan heroics in goal and our first win was in the bag. This is what non-league away days are about. Weekend away, sun in abundance, seaside venue, a goal by a keeper and more importantly 3 precious points to the Moors! Vaughany Army!