Torquay United extended their lead at the top of National League South with a comprehensive performance win over Hemel Hempstead Town at Vauxhall Road.
On an evening when they provided equal measures of style and substance, United fought for every ball and eventually wore down their opponents, with goals from Saikou Janneh, Jake Andrews, Asa Hall and Jamie Reid nullifying Frankie Musonda’s sole effort for Town.
From the first whistle Torquay were on the front foot, with their hosts struggling to get out of their own half. Although the opening stages brought little in the way of clear-cut chances, the Gulls signalled their intent by forcing an amazing ten corners inside the opening half-hour, and were first to every single loose ball. The only frustration was that they didn’t have the goal that their possession deserved.
Ironically, Hemel were just starting to gain a bit of a foothold in the game when United made the breakthrough via a counter attack in the 32nd minute. Once again, it was United’s menacing front two that combined to strike, as Reid brought the ball forward and fed Janneh, who duly obliged with a fine right-footed finish. It was the on-loan Bristol City frontman’s 14 goal of the season.
Torquay’s stranglehold on the game continued as the clock moved towards the interval, but despite having the bulk of the possession, chances remained at a premium against a well-organised Town side.
In the 42nd minute though, Janneh so nearly repaid the favour from ten minutes earlier with a delightful ball into the path of Reid, who lashed a fierce effort inches wide of the post.
When the whistle blew for half-time moments later, Gary Johnson would have been pleased to have see his side in front, but a little frustrated that the margin wasn’t wider.
Johnson didn’t have to wait too much longer though. Straight from the kick-off, United were back in the faces of their opponents, and following some excellent play down the left from Liam Davis, Reid again turned provider, this time for Andrews to fire home and double United’s lead, a minute in.
Reid, so often on the receiving end of United’s swashbuckling forward play this season, had shown awareness to look elsewhere when it counted and his team were now reaping the benefits.
United continued to hold a measure of authority over proceedings, and midway through the second period, United introduced winger Kalvin Kalala back from injury, and Bournemouth loanee Frank Vincent on for his debut.
To their credit, Hemel did rally briefly after making a couple of substitutions, but a wild Parkes effort from distance on 74 minutes did not have Johnson’s men unduly worried.
United put further gloss on an excellent evening’s work in the last ten minutes. On 81 minutes, United captain Hall beat Walker in the Town goal to a high ball, and headed home to make it 3-0.
Eight minutes later, not content with setting up two, Reid let rip with a beautiful effort which flew into the net to extend Torquay’s lead to four and his own personal tally to 22. 4-0 up away from home and the Gulls now had the scoreline their performance deserved.
Some consolation came the way of Town with Musonda heading home a injury-time effort to reduce the arrears, however this was a night that belonged to the men in yellow.
Hemel Hempstead: Walker, Kponomouh (Lobjoit), Musonda, Parkes, Ward, Hamblin (Swain), Kaloczi, Shulton (Snelus), Watt, Cotter, Howe. SUBS NOT USED: Cawley, Paulin
TUFC: Shaun MacDonald, Ben Wynter, Liam Davis, Jamie Sendles-White, Asa Hall (Ryan Dickson 84′), Ruairi Keating (Kalvin Lumbombo-Kalala 73), Saikou Janneh (Frank Vincent 73), Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, Kyle Cameron, Jake Andrews, Jamie Reid. SUBS NOT USED: George Burton (GK), Jean-Yves Koue Niate
Attendance: 624 (unsegregated)
Referee: Matthew Russell