(Lumbombo-Kalala 29′, Reid 37′, Niate 71′)
(Monakana 41′, Okimo 74′)
United edged past Wealdstone in an excellent encounter to secure a vital win at Plainmoor on Saturday.
In an action-packed end to the first half, goals from Kalvin Lumbombo-Kalala and Jamie Reid put The Gulls in a commanding position, before Jeffrey Monakana clawed one back for the visitors just before the break. Substitute Jean-Yves Koue Niate restored the two-goal advantage, before Jerome Okimo provided an almost immediate response to set up a tense finale.
Manager Gary Johnson made one change to the squad which secured a 1-0 win over Concord last Saturday with Koue Niate, back from suspension, replacing Jake Andrews on the substitutes.
United knew that they were in a game from the first whistle, with Wealdstone’s physical approach restricting Torquay to a couple of half-chances inside the opening half hour.
The first came on ten minutes, when Connor Lemonheigh-Evan’s delicious free-kick found the head of Asa Hall, however the United captain could only glance his header wide of the far post.
Two minutes later, some eager pressing from Saikou Janneh forced a mistake, leaving Reid with time and space to fire in a shot, however the division’s leading scorer could only fire straight at North in the visiting goal.
Wealdstone signalled their intent on 23 minutes, as following a United corner, The Stones cleared and broke with pace. Monakana, a constant threat all afternoon, ran the length of Plainmoor before firing in a low drive, which struck the near upright.
The breakthrough came just a minute short of the half-hour. After some good work from Liam Davis, the ball was sent out to Ruairi Keating on the left wing. The Irishman sent in a deep cross which was met by Lumbombo-Kalala, who, despite North’s best efforts, volleyed Torquay into the lead.
Having started the game so well, Bobby Wilkinson’s side may have felt aggrieved at falling behind, and United made their task even more difficult on 37 minutes, with Keating once again the architect.
Seizing on a loose ball, Keating lofted a ball over the Wealdstone backline, and Reid was onto it like a flash. After taking the ball past the trailing defender, he calmly slotted the ball past the keeper to send Plainmoor into raptures.
After working so hard to establish their two-goal lead against determined opponents, United had worked themselves into a marvellous position, and it was therefore disappointing when the lead was halved just four minutes later.
Wealdstone forced a corner down the left, and just when it looked like The Gulls’ defence had done enough to see the ball to safety, Monakana hooked in a shot that just evaded Shaun MacDonald’s grasp.
2-1 at the interval, and both sides knowing there was everything to play for in the second period.
As with the first period, The Stones did a good job at stifling United’s attacking play during the opening stages of the second half, and continued to look dangerous on the break.
Although there was initially only limited goalmouth action, the game burst into life again on 71 minutes.
After seeing his initial side blocked, Lemonheigh-Evans floated in the resultant corner to the near-post, where Koue Niate, on for Jamie Sendles-White, rose highest to flick home his fourth goal of the season.
The Yellow Army breathed a collective sigh of relief, however just as in the first half, the nerves were only rested for a few minutes.
United were though, presented with a golden opportunity to seal the game two minutes later.
After chasing down a ball over the top, Reid got in behind the defence and raced into the penalty area. With only North to beat, Stones right-back Tyler brought the United striker down. The referee wasted no time in pointing to the spot.
Reid dusted himself off, and stroked the penalty low to the keeper’s right, however North, who also saved a spot-kick from Reid in the reverse fixture back in October, guessed correctly to keep his side in the game.
The frustration of that miss was intensified just two minutes later, as the visitors, sensing a reprieve, once again dragged themselves back into the match.
After winning a corner, the ball was lofted into a packed penalty area, and with United’s defence unable to clear their lines, captain Okimo forced the ball home at close range to make it 3-2.
For the last fifteen minutes, Johnson’s men were forced to soak up a significant amount of Wealdstone pressure, however they responded in superb fashion and limited their opponents to efforts from distance.
Lemonheigh-Evans nearly crowned a mazy run with a goal in injury time, however the woodwork came to North’s rescue, and the game remained in the balance until the referee’s whistle brought a standing ovation to match a hugely important victory.
With Bath City holding nearest rivals Woking to a draw, United extended their lead to four points at the National League South summit, with their game in hand to follow on Tuesday evening.
Chelmsford City are the next visitors to Plainmoor for that crucial encounter in three days’ time. For those with United close to heart, there really will be only one place to be.
See you there!
TUFC: 1. Shaun MacDonald, 2. Ben Wynter, 3. Liam Davis, 6. Jamie Sendles-White (15. Jean-Yves Koue Niate 62′), 7. Ruairi Keating (16. Ryan Dickson 71′), 8. Asa Hall (c), 10. Saikou Janneh, 11. Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, 17. Kyle Cameron, 19. Jamie Reid, 20. Kalvin Lumbombo-Kalala. SUBS NOT USED: 12. Olaf Koszela, 13. George Burton, 14. Frank Vincent.
Yellow Card: Sendles-White (55′)
Wealdstone: 1. Jonathan North, 2. Rhys Tyler, 3. Freddie Grant, 4. Christian Smith, 5. Jerome Okimo (c), 6. Godfrey Poku, 7. Tarryn Allarakhia, 8. Stefan Brown, 9. Jeffrey Monakana, 10. Daniel Green, 11. Jake Sheppard. SUBS NOT USED: 12. David Pratt, 13. Dylan Paterson, 14. Femi Azeez, 15. Simon Mensah, 16. James Clark.
Yellow Card: Poku (34′), Sheppard (56′), Green (59′), Tyler (72′)
Attendance: 2,934 (192 away)