Torquay United 2
(Reid 29′, 63′)
A man down for most of the game, United delivered a nerveless performance to secure all three points against Dartford at Plainmoor on Saturday.
Despite Jean-Yves Koue Niate being shown a straight red card on 13 minutes, United refused to buckle under pressure, and deservedly secured the win courtesy of two goals from top scorer Jamie Reid.
Manager Gary Johnson made one change to the side that won 2-0 at Billericay last weekend, with Kalvin Lumbombo-Kalala being rewarded for his opening goal at the AGP Areana with a place in the starting line-up. Jake Andrews, who picked up a slight knock in that game, had to be content with a place on the bench. Jamie Sendles-White returned to the matchday squad with a place amongst the substitutes, at the expensive of Olaf Koszela.
Facing a swirling wind and physical opponents, United were up against it from the first whistle. With the ball regularly holding up, there was little to report until the game burst into life on 15 minutes.
A long searching ball over the top found forward Darren McQueen in space, and with the Dartford man about to enter the box, Koue Niate intervened, but not to the referee’s liking. After consulting with his assistant, the Frenchman was given his marching orders, and United were down to ten men.
What had looked to be a testing encounter before kick-off, had became even more difficult. All of a sudden, Johnson’s men faced a stern examination of their title credentials.
Against the odds, the performance United produced over the next 77 minutes will have left no-one inside Plainmoor this afternoon in any doubt that this side is the real deal.
The manager’s response, as always, was swift and decisive. Off came the unlucky Ruairi Keating, and on went Sendles-White to balance up the defensive numbers.
After spending the next ten minutes steadying the ship, Torquay began to impose themselves on the game. Reid, with the game’s first shot on target, fired a low drive into ‘keeper Vose’s arms. A routine save, but it was a sign of things to come.
On 29 minutes, United won a corner. Cameron, in the gusty wind, could only loop his header into the path of Reid. Sensing that chances may not come about as freely as usual, he took a moment to look up, take aim and fire a low shot through a crowd of players and into the net from 15 yards.
In the circumstances, the first goal seemed vital, and far from sitting on their lead, the Gulls set about trying to extend it.
On 40 minutes, Saikou Janneh drove into the box from the left wing and forced Vose into a near-post parry. A minute later, Kalala let fly with an audacious curling effort from 22 yards out that nearly brought the house down.
A man down, but United were at their sensational best.
Dartford did create an opening three minutes before the break. Following a ball across the box, the ball was cut back to McQueen, but the striker could only blast wildly over the bar from 10 yards.
As the half-time whistle blew, the Yellow Army stood to salute their gutsy side, mindful of the fact that there was still plenty of work to be done.
Within a minute of the second-half, Janneh twice nearly doubled Torquay’s lead. After showing lovely skill to get the ball under control, his first strike was blocked, with his second effort clearing the crossbar.
Dartford came close to equalising on 49 minutes. Having won a corner, the visitors’ aerial presence caused a rare moment of uncertainty in the United box, however when the ball was fired back into the goalmouth, Connor Lemonheigh-Evans was perfectly placed to clear the ball off the line.
It was the nearest the Kent side would come, as the men in Yellow took a stranglehold on the game.
On 52 minutes, Kalala, a constant threat down the right-hand side, jinked his way into the box, and with the trailing defenders knowing any touch could prove fatal, the French winger was allowed to shoot from eight yards out. Substitute Charlie Sheringham threw himself in front of the shot and earned his side a reprieve.
Two minutes later, A second run down the right ended with Kalala’s cross being met at the far post, first by Janneh, then by Reid, but neither could force the ball home.
On 62 minutes, Torquay grabbed the second goal that confirmed their superiority. Ryan Dickson, brought on for Kalala, fed Janneh, who let fly with an excellent shot from 20 yards out. Vose in the Dartford goal could only parry the ball out into the path of Reid, who promptly buried the loose ball.
Having worked so hard to get themselves into a winning position, Johnson’s men were in no mood to let the lead slip, and they saw out the remaining half-hour with both ease and class.
With Welling holding current leaders Woking to a draw, Torquay cut the gap at the top of the table to a single point, with a game in hand.
Next up for United is a trip to Concord Rangers next Saturday, where their promotion credentials will be tested once again. This side though, is clearly not one to shirk a challenge.
Well done lads!
TUFC: Shaun MacDonald, Ben Wynter, Liam Davis, Ruairi Keating (Jamie Sendles-White 15′), Asa Hall (c) (Frank Vincent 82′), Saikou Janneh, Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, Jean-Yves Koue Niate, Kyle Cameron, Jamie Reid, Kalvin Lumbombo-Kalala (Ryan Dickson 62′). SUBS NOT USED: George Burton, Jake Andrews.
Red Card:: Niate (13′)
Dartford: Bailey Vose, Callum Driver, Jordan Wynter, Ronnie Vint, Tom Bonner (c), Ben Greenhalgh (Charlie Sheringham 45′), Joe Healy, Darren McQueen (Tom Murphy 79′), Phil Roberts, Ryan Hayes (Andre Coker 66′), Daniel Johnson. SUB NOT USED: Billy Crook
Yellow Card: Vint (65′), Wynter (77′)
Attendance: 2,284 (64 away)