Garry Hill was critical of his side’s defending as Torquay hit four goals from six shots. The Gulls put the game out of reach within seven second-half minutes, exposing the soft underbelly that has seen Fleet concede too many times in the period after half-time.
“There’s too much charity,” the manager told BBC Radio Kent’s Charles Webster. “People must have shook their head within eight minutes of the second half and said, ‘I can’t believe this, how has that happened like that?'”
The ease with which Torquay were allowed to strike on goal also angered the boss, who said he can’t legislate for players relaxing their responsibilities in the minutes after the break.
“I think everyone walked in at half-time and knew we were well on top and they were going to be in for a hard second-half,” he said. “You can’t as a manager or a coach take responsibility when you’ve talked in the changing room for 10 minutes and instructed, requested, responsibilities to be taken, making sure you’re in the game for the first 10 or 15 minutes of the second half.
“Whether it’s at the start of the first half or start of the second – Halifax, Notts County, Barrow, Yeovil, today – 10/15 minutes of the first-half, 10/15 minutes of the second-half. You can’t give teams head starts. If you get two goals at home, you expect to certainly get at least a draw. From the 15 minutes until half-time, nobody could see that happening at the start of the second half. Within 10 minutes of the second half it was 4-1. Never in a million years was it a 4-1 game. You can’t play catch-up in this league.
“If you don’t defend properly, you get punished. We always ask for consistency and I’m afraid the consistency and performances are giving cheap goals away at the start of each half of matches. To find ourselves 2-0 down in the first 15 minutes is very disappointing. You have to stay in games early on, it’s very important.”
And Hill admits he is losing patience with his side’s defending.
“There’s a lot of good players here but I can’t govern the defending,” he said. “It’s like a car engine – you have to take some of the parts out and put other parts in there. I hope I get that opportunity but I understand football, I’ve been around long enough. You have a situation where you have to keep working at it. I believe in the players but it has come to a stage where I will have to believe in a new line of defence or defending duties.
“You can’t in this league continue week in, week out, to be a charity. We’re talking about experienced football players in our back four, probably more than 700 League games. Look at midfield players – and it’s not just the defence – out there today, at least 500 League games. There’s enough leaders and experience with players at a higher level who have been around long enough to know collectively how to defend, whether from the forward line, the midfield area or the back. You can’t continue to give bad goals away and not defend as a team properly, irrespective of formation, you’ve got to do that properly and we haven’t done it.”
The Fleet boss did praise his side’s moments on top in the game and is still firmly of the belief that the players he is bringing to the club of late are good enough to climb the mountain that is survival this season.
“Are we getting better in what we’re trying to do?” he pondered. “Yes. The recent signings over the last month, with Myles Weston and other players with experience, they’re not bad players. I’m very pleased for Josh Umerah, two great goals and he’s got fitter and fitter. I’m pleased with Myles Weston, he’s been different class all season whether he’s left wing-back, up front or on the right or left, he’s been a fine example. Josh Payne was trying to spread the game about, he knows how to manage the game in midfield, he knows how to spray the ball about and slow the game down.
“You can’t knock the effort, the character, you can’t knock the last 20 minutes of the first half. We played some good football, we stretched them and worked them hard. We got a deserved goal that was probably the best goal of the game. We clear our heads in the last 20 minutes and get another goal back, one, possibly two penalties. Josh Umerah should have gone down being too honest, Gozie Ugwu could have gone down, didn’t. They’ve had six shots and scored four.”
Eyes must now turn to Maidenhead on Saturday and Hill knows his side’s task is ever greater with the passing of each game.
“We’ve got 30 games to go, we’ve got to win 15,” he said. “I shouldn’t be saying that in October but it’s realistic. We’ve played 15 of the top 16. You can catch teams at bad times in the season, you have to play them all, I respect that, but the only team before tonight we hadn’t played in the top 14 or 15 was Dagenham & Redbridge. It’s been tough.
“Do I think it can turn round? Yes, I do. But it might now be a case of defensively, we will have to change certain things. Things have got to turn round. I hope going into Saturday that we will have a team which will win the game. I think if we play to our strengths and defend properly, we’ll beat Maidenhead.”
Andre Blackman is one option to shake up the defence with a further potential loan signing on the horizon. Some of the recruitment has been rather out of the manager’s hands, with John Goddard needing an operation on an ankle injury.
“Andre’s a quality player and we’ve got a left-back into the club now who is available,” Hill said of his latest signing. “I don’t know how long Aswad’s out for. I hope some of these players who are injured try and get back as quick as they can. That’s a big concern, we need them back.
“How long does the football club put up with it from a manager’s point of view? How long does a manager put up with it from a player’s point of view? We are getting better in respect of the players we’re getting in the door, then you have to look at people like Alex Lawless and Aswad Thomas who we haven’t seen enough of. John Goddard’s out now with a long-term injury too.”
The manager also shed some light on his change of assistant manager, with Kevin Watson having coached his first home game on Tuesday night.
“I’m not here to put situations out in public” Hill said. “Ian Hendon worked very hard at the football club and working with me. Sometimes relationships can strain, sometimes you make a decision to change it. I made that decision to change it and that’s where it is. I also take a view that some players have to come in the door. As a manger you put your own rope there to be hung, that’s where it is. But fetching in Andre Blackman today, Josh Payne on Saturday and Tomi Adeloye’s come in up top and I’d like to feel there’ll be another player in for the weekend, I’ve made the decisions. Players have to settle in at football clubs. Is it panic time? I wouldn’t say that but it is a time that we have to get results.”
Listen to the full interview below.