Dagenham & Redbridge 1
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United suffered their first home defeat of the season on Tuesday evening, as Dagenham & Redbridge left Plainmoor with all three points.
Paul McCallum gave the visiting side a first-half lead, however his side were reduced to ten men five minutes before the interval after Mitch Brundle received his marching orders. Despite The Gulls almost setting up camp inside the visiting half during a one-way second 45, the goal to restore parity just wouldn’t come.
With suspension and injury robbing Gary Johnson of the services of Asa Hall and Sam Sherring respectively, the United boss was forced to shuffle his pack by bringing Matt Buse and Gary Warren back into the starting line-up. On the bench, midfielder Armani Little made a welcome return following injury, with young left-back Owen Price the other new addition to the matchday squad.
United, roared on by some passionate support from the stands, enjoyed the better of the opening stages, with an inviting low right-wing cross from Aaron Nemane in the 9th minute somehow travelling all the way across the face of goal before being diverted behind by a Daggers defender.
The resultant corner nearly brought about the opener, however Kyle Cameron’s looping header from a Connor Lemonheigh-Evans corner just dipped behind the crossbar.
The Torquay centre-half went even two minutes later, as his thumping header cannoned of the crossbar.
With the men in yellow looking ready to strike, the visitors hit them with a sucker-punch on 14 minutes.
Myles Weston found enough space on the right-hand side to deliver a pinpoint cross onto the head of McCallum, with the former Gulls loanee gleefully taking up the opportunity to power his header past MacDonald and into the net.
Johnson’s men responded well to the disappointment, with Danny Wright manfully leading the line up front. The experienced centre forward very nearly provided the equaliser himself in the 18th minute, however he couldn’t quite get enough on his close-range effort, following a tempting deep ball from the left from Adam Randell.
In what was becoming a very open game, a stroke of good fortune in the 35th minute prevented United falling further behind.
With a move breaking down in the centre of midfield, Darren McQueen beat two defenders on the edge of the box which MacDonald did well to parry. The loose ball fell kindly into the path of McCallum though, and after taking the ball away from the stranded ‘keeper, the woodwork came to Torquay’s rescue as the ball thudded against it.
In the 40th minute, Dagenham were reduced to ten men.
Randell rose bravely to contest a high ball against Brundle near the halfway line, however the latter instantly incurred the wrath of the referee for his clumsy aerial challenge, with little time wasted before the red card was waved in the direction of the Daggers’ midfielder.
Despite having the numerical advantage, United were unable to make it count during the remainder of the half, as the both sides headed towards the tunnel with the scoreline unaffected.
Once the second half got underway, United were in the ascendancy, and it would last for the remainder of the match.
A defence-splitting ball through the centre from Nemane in the 48th minite found substitute Billy Waters one-on-one with Elliot Justham, however it was the Daggers glovesman who came out on top, with Waters just unable to dig out the ball from under his feet.
Torquay followed that up by backing the visitors up against their own goal during the next ten minutes, without fashioning the chances to really test the opposing ‘keeper, although some nice trickery from Nemane inside the box did see him fire in a low drive that was comfortably gathered at the near post.
A left-wing cross from Jake Andrews was met by the head of Wright in the 64th minute, however it again lacked the direction to level the scores.
United kept plugging away though, and in the 71st minute Wright’s header from a Randell cross forced the Dagenham ‘keeper to react promptly to tip the ball over the bar.
The long-awaited return of midfielder Little so nearly paid dividends in the 80th minute, as his corner kick held up enough for Cameron to slam in a header towards goal, however the ball smacked off the post and away.
Goalmouth scramble after scramble came and went, as United’s misfortune continued right up until the final whistle.
Injury time saw even more agony for the Yellow Army, as Whitfield’s half-volley bounced inches wide of the far post, before a low cross across the six-yard line could only see Lemonheigh-Evans send the ball over the upright.
This setback shouldn’t detract from what has been a superb pre-Christmas opening from Johnson’s men, who return to National League action on Boxing Day for the Westcountry derby against Yeovil Town. Before then though, FA Trophy action takes centre stage, as The Gulls make the trip to Chesham on Saturday for their 3rd Round clash.
TUFC: 1. Shaun MacDonald, 4. Kyle Cameron (c), 5. Fraser Kerr (10. Armani Little, 67′), 6. Gary Warren, 7. Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, 9.Danny Wright, 11. Jake Andrews, 12. Adam Randell, 15. Matt Buse (25. Billy Waters, HT), 23. Aaron Nemane (35. Josh Umerah, 80′) 34. Ben Whitfield.
SUBS NOT USED: 22. Owen Price, 33. Lucas Covolan (gk).
DAGENHAM & REDBRIDGE: 1. Elliot Justham, 3. Elliott Johnson (20. William Wright, 74′), 4. Dean Rance, 5. Luke Croll, 6. Kenneth Clark, 8. Mitch Brundle, 9. Paul McCallum (25. Scott Wilson, 84′), 11. Myles Weston, 15. Andrew Eleftheriou, 17. Darren McQueen (24. Charlee Adams, 57′), 22. Abu Ogogo (c).
SUBS NOT USED: 10. Angelo Balanta, 13. Joshua Strizovic (gk).
Red Card: Brundle, 40′