(Ajboye 12′, Beautyman 69′)
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Despite rallying against the odds, injury-hit United slipped to defeat against Sutton at Plainmoor on Saturday.
A goal in each half was enough was enough for the visitors, with David Ajiboye and Harry Beautyman netting either side of Ben Wynter’s superb leveller.
Manager Gary Johnson made two changes to the side that went down to Maidstone last weekend, with Jean-Yves Koue Niate taking the place of fellow Frenchman Kalvin Lumbombo-Kalala, and new signing Ramarni Medford-Smith making his debut at the expense of the injured Liam Davis.
The first chance fell the way of The Gulls on 5 minutes following a corner. The recalled Niate fired in a goal-bound shot amid a packed goalmouth, with a Sutton defender throwing himself at the ball to prevent his side falling behind.
After starting well, another effort fell Torquay’s way three minutes later. Wynter sent in a whipped cross onto the head on the onrushing Matt Buse, which Sutton’s ‘keeper Nikola Tzanev did well to stop.
Despite having to pay second-fiddle to The Gulls’ good start, Sutton looked threatening on the break, and in the 12th minute they took the lead against the run of play.
Ajiboye, picking up the ball in the centre of midfield, showed admirable pace and persistence to evade the challenge of a number United opponents, and with the ball falling kindly into his path on his way into the box, the Sutton attacker calmed slotted past Lucas Covolan to give his side an early advantage.
Revelling being in front, the visitors enjoyed the bulk of possession for the next twenty minutes or so, and just before the half-hour mark, Johnson’s men were dealt another blow when Frank Vincent had to leave the field through injury.
United, already without a number of key players, were forced to shuffle their hand once again.
The Gulls are never short on spirit though, and in the 32nd minute they drew themselves level.
After finding his route to goal blocked, Jamie Reid turned this way and that, before spotting Wynter on the run and in space on the edge of the box. The right-back responded by keeping his nerve and firing a low across the goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
Reinvigorated by drawing level, United were on the front foot once again, with Wynter trying his luck again three minutes later, but this time his volleyed effort from 20 yards sailed narrowly wide of the post.
Torquay would have been reasonably pleased to have been all-square at the break, with the hope of building on it during the second period.
It was Sutton that threatened next though, with Covolan having to use all his height to tip Bugiel’s 53rd minute header over the upright.
The Yellow Army were nearly on their feet to acclaim Kalala moments later though, as some slick play on the edge of the box ended with the Parisian seeing his 20-yarder deflected over ‘bar two minutes later.
Just as Johnson’s side were beginning to look the more threatening side, they were caught by another sucker-punch.
In the 69th minute, United’s appeals for an apparent infringement were waved away by the referee, with Beautyman making the most of the decision to play on by driving at the retreating backline and directing his shot past Colovan to restore Sutton’s advantage.
Even with the odds stacked against them, The Gulls continued to battle to salvage something, and in the closing stages they went close on a number of occasions.
Strong appeals for a Torquay penalty fell on deaf ears once again on 76 minutes, with a clear foul on Buse deemed outside the box.
With the resultant free-kick causing mayhem inside the box, Niate’s effort appeared to heading into the net before being deflected behind.
With two minutes to go, a superb move saw Janneh switch the ball into the path of the unmarked Manny Duku, but the substitute’s finish caught the flailing leg of Tzanev, and the chance was gone.
Six minutes of added time, and one more close-range effort from Buse couldn’t affect the outcome of proceedings, with Ben Whitfield also hobbling off in the dying stages.
With results going somewhat their way elsewhere, United’s bid for top spot moves on for another day, with Johnson’s side returning to National League action next Saturday at Chorley.
TUFC: 28. Lucas Covolan Cavagnari, 2. Ben Wynter, 4. Kyle Cameron (c), 5. Jean-Yves Koue Niate (9. Manny Duku, 83′), 14. Frank Vincent (20. Kalvin Lumbombo-Kalala, 28′), 15. Matt Buse, 19. Jamie Reid, 25. Robbie Cundy, 34. Ben Whitfield (18. Olaf Koszela, 90′), 37. Ramarni Medford-Smith. SUBS NOT USED: 1. Shaun MacDonald, 7. Ruairi Keating
Yellow Card: Buse (60′), Cundy
Sutton United: 13. Nikola Tzanev, 2. Louis John, 4. Jonathan Barden, 5. Ben Goodliffe, 8. Kenny Davis, 9. Omar Bugiel (20. Tommy Wright, 73′), 10. Harry Beautyman, 15. Craig Eastmond (c), 17. David Ajiboye (18. Will Randall, 74′), 22. Ben Wyatt, 28. Kyel Reid. SUNS NOT USED: 6. Jamie Collins, 7. Tom Bolarinwa, 27. Aaron Jarvis.
Yellow Card: Eastmond (45′), Reid (84′)
Attendance: 2,770 (92 away)