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The National League’s top of the table clash ended goalless on Tuesday evening, as ten man United secured a point against nearest challengers Sutton.
Dean Moxey’s second-half red card left The Gulls with an uphill task, however the side responded well to the setback to earn a well-deserved draw.
United manager Gary Johnson made three changes to the side that secured a point at Notts County on Saturday, with new permanent signing Joe Lewis, Armani Little and Josh Umerah taking the places of Gary Warren, Max Sheaf and Billy Waters, the latter two dropping to the bench.
Whilst the early stages of the clash at Meadow Lane were somewhat cagey, the opening minutes at Plainmoor were quite the opposite, with both signs seemingly intent on attack.
One Ben Whitfield run down the left in the sixth minute looked particularly dangerous, and despite backtracking defenders appearing to block his route to goal, United’s mercurial winger found enough room to fire in a right-footed shot that Sutton ‘keeper Dean Bouzanis had to gather at the second attempt.
The visitors also had their sights set on three points rather than one though, and The Gulls’ backline had to remain vigilant in the face of some swift counter attacks down the flanks, with Shaun MacDonald having to fend off a 12th minute effort from the pacy David Ajiboye.
Things had begun to settle down by the midway point, as the two sides battled it out for supremacy in midfield, resulting in some scrappy moments and little in the way of goalmouth incident thereafter.
Johnson’s men were certainly enjoying the better of what half-chances did arise, with Connor Lemonheigh Evans firing a volley just wide of the upright following a half-cleared free-kick just prior to the break.
Things continued in much the same vein once the second half got underway, however a 51st minute run and cross down the right from the returning Lewis was planted perfectly onto the head of fellow debutant Rob Street, however the on-loan Crystal Palace man could only send his effort over the bar.
Although United were enjoying the bulk of possession, Sutton remained a threat on the break, and the visitors were given further incentive in the 56th minute.
Having picked up a debatable booking in the first half, a late challenge from Moxey in midfield saw the referee brandish a second yellow card, leaving Torquay to contest the remainder of match with only ten men.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, it was The Gulls who went close twice in quick succession soon after, with Lemonheigh-Evans testing Bouzanis with a curling effort from 20 yards on 58 minutes, before Street played Whitfield into space inside the penalty area two minutes later, however this time a combination of defender and ‘keeper saw the ball diverted behind for a corner.
Showing remarkable spirit in adversity, the men in yellow continued to go in hunt of the opening goal as they enjoyed their most dominant spell of the match.
In the 65th minute another excellent link-up between Street and Whitfield saw the latter call the visiting stopper into another full-length save, as the winger’s right-footed effort from the left of the 18-yard box again threatened to break the deadlock.
As the match entered the final ten minutes, the extra man began to tell, although the work rate of the men in yellow saw clear-chances for their opponents kept to a minimum.
With the mist descending, and a second successive goalless draw beckoning, Johnson’s men continued to appear more likely to profit late on, although neither goalkeeper was called into action.
Another point towards their already impressive total was the least Torquay deserved in the circumstances, ahead of The Gulls going back on their travels again on Saturday to face Barnet.
TUFC: 1. Shaun MacDonald, 4. Kyle Cameron (c), 7. Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, 10. Armani Little (11. Jake Andrews, 73′), 12. Adam Randell, 16. Sam Sherring, 21. Dean Moxey, 23. Aaron Nemane, 31. Joe Lewis, 34. Ben Whitfield, 35. Josh Umerah (24. Rob Street, HT).
SUBS NOT USED: 25. Billy Waters, 26. James Hamon (GK), 32. Max Sheaf.
Yellow Card: Lewis, 69′
Yellow / Red Card: Moxey, 40′, 56.
SUTTON UNITED: 1. Dean Bouzanis, 2. Jon Barden, 5. Ben Goodliffe, 6. Louis John, 7. David Ajiboye, 9. Omar Bugiel (14. Craig Dundas, 84′), 10. Harry Beautyman, 11. Will Randell, 15. Craig Eastmond, 24. Rob Milsom, 25. Isaac Olaofe (27. Rhys Browne, 68′).
SUBS NOT USED: 3. Ben Wyatt, 8. Kenny Davis, 17. Tobi Sho-Silva.
Yellow Card: Eastmond, 50′