Best comeback for 42 years for Torquay United
VERY SORRY and all that, to the millionaires of Medinah, but Torquay United's League Two footballers made the Ryder Cup look like a gentle pick-me-up when they pulled off the mother of all fightbacks at wild and windy Plainmoor.
Apart from Aldershot Town's team, their backroom staff or their hundred or so shattered supporters, nobody who was there on Tuesday night will ever forget it. Nor will they want to.
When Shots striker Craig Reid – clear a place in sports quiz competitions for him – completed his hat-trick in the 46th minute, Martin Ling's Gulls were 3-0 down and, to all intents and purposes, out.
They'd taken a battering against the wind and the rain in the first half and then, just as they were gathering themselves to make a fight of it in the second, Reid helped himself to his third goal.
But somehow United, lifted by Billy Bodin's vital first goal in the 48th minute, held themselves together and went in search of the nearest thing most of us will see to a footballing miracle.
In a gloves-off, nothing-to-lose, to-hell-with-it second half United, crucially assisted by two inspired substitutions from manager Ling, clawed their way back to 3-3 with goals by Ryan Jarvis and Ashley Yeoman.
A draw, even if it had been a frustrating seventh of the season, would have been one hell of a result.
But in the 89th minute Rene Howe brought the house down with a thunderous winner, belting past helpless Shots goalie Jamie Young from 20 yards with all the power that United's powerful centre-forward could muster.
It was Howe's seventh goal in the first ten games of the season, and it topped off United's greatest comeback since they came from three down to beat Lincoln City 4-3 in the FA Cup in January 1971, nearly 42 years ago.
The key to a sensational match was the weather.
United had to play into the teeth of a howling Westerly, spiced with bouts of driving rain, in the first half.
That, and Aldershot's opportunism in front of goal, was too much for them.
With former Plainmoor Player Of The Year Guy Branston strategically recalled in defence against his old club, Aldershot used the conditions well and took two of several good chances.
It wasn't long before Branston was renewing a few old 'friendships' on the Pop Side, after he went down clutching his head following a challenge with Howe.
'Branno' recovered soon enough and, in the 15th minute, forced Michael Poke to the first of a series of important saves that he had to make throughout a long and hairy night.
Bodin and Howe did go close, but United were forced to play on the counter for long periods, and Aldershot's growing confidence was rewarded in the 28th minute.
Joe Oastler – he's been playing so well, but had a night when the harder he tried the worse things got – conceded a free-kick on United's right.
Alex Rodman delivered the first of many telling set-pieces and Reid scored with a glancing header in a crowded goalmouth...0-1.
Although skipper Lee Mansell missed one inviting heading chance on a cross by the always-calm Nathan Craig, United were lucky not to fall further behind before Aldershot stretched their lead in the 36th minute.
This time an Oastler foul was inside the box, on Danny Hylton, and Reid stepped up to drill the penalty low past Poke's right hand...0-2.
Even a two-goal deficit at half-time might not have been so daunting, but in the first minute of the second half Reid pounced again.
An Oastler slip let Hylton in for a shot, Poke parried, but Reid followed up to bury the rebound...0-3.
Unless United could produce a goal from somewhere quickly, the cause might have been lost. And crucially, they did it.
Only two minutes after Reid's hat-trick Craig had a shot saved by Young, Howe's next effort was blocked, but Bodin was there to convert the rebound...1-3. Game on, just.
Scott Donnelly and Hylton nearly snuffed out all hope in breakaway attacks, but it was all-or-nothing stuff from United now. It had to be.
Ling sent on Jarvis for Stevens in the 67th minute. It worked.
Two minutes later Bodin slipped Howe away on the left, his low cross was perfectly delivered into the old 'corridor of uncertainty' between Young and his retreating defence and Jarvis was there to force the ball home...2-3. Surely not..?
In the 79th minute Kevin Nicholson nearly opened the biggest (32nd) birthday present of his life.
Lashing a clearance downfield, from just outside his own penalty area, Nicholson's volley was carried on the wind, bounced in front of Young and would have sailed into the net for a 'YouTube' special if Young hadn't scrambled back and tipped it over his bar.
No matter, in the 81st minute Ling sent on young striker Yeoman for winger Niall Thompson. And again it worked.
Two minutes later, after Young had denied Aaron Downes with a brilliant save round his post, Craig crossed from the right and Yeoman scored his first-ever League goal with a flick-header inside the far post...3-3!
And, of course, still it wasn't over.
A minute from normal time, with Plainmoor's diehards baying for a winner, Howe gave it to them.
Bodin's pass gave United's centre-forward the chance to cut in from the left and, just when Young must have been expecting a shot across him, Howe hit a hammer of a right-foot shot inside his near-post from just outside the area...4-3.
Aldershot were shot to pieces, mentally and physically shattered, and in five minutes of stoppage time United pinged the ball around far better than they had done for most of a night that will live long in the memory.