Paterson's moment of magic leaves Torquay United in a state of nervous tension
Burton Albion 2-1 Torquay United
In the press box at the Pirelli Stadium, we were sitting right behind Matt Paterson when Burton Albion’s substitute striker turned outside the left-hand corner of the penalty area and hit a right-foot shot from 25 yards in the 84th minute on Saturday, writes David Thomas.
If you were of a Torquay United persuasion, it was one of those ‘uh-oh’ moments.
Paterson and United goalkeeper Michael Poke did much of their early learning as teenagers together at Southampton, and Poke probably knew how much his old team-mate fancies himself from long range.
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At Burton these days, they have christened his right foot ‘The Patto Whip’. And with good cause, for Poke was beaten all ends up as Paterson’s shot, curling but powerfully struck, soared over him and into the top right-hand corner of the net.
We knew it was in from the moment that he hit it.
That winning goal was the sort of thing that happens when a team is going well and feeling good about itself.
Last season United went to the Pirelli with their sights set on promotion, and Rene Howe scored an equally spectacular goal to top off a 4-1 victory.
Burton, worried about relegation, promptly sacked their manager, Paul Peschisolido.
Nearly a year on, it is Burton who are up to sixth place under new boss Gary Rowett – the ‘curse’ of the Manager Of The Month award did not strike him down at the weekend.
Torquay cannot seem to buy a win at the moment, and a run of two points from the last 15 suddenly has them looking a little nervously over their shoulders.
But the fact is that they should never have lost this match. They matched the Brewers in all areas, and bettered them in most.
But that old adage about one goal never being enough came cruelly true for the Gulls.
Poke had to make only one real save in the first half, a smart one at that to tip over Jacques Maghoma’s deflected 20-yard shot in the 24th minute.
At the other end, United, with skipper Lee Mansell leading by example, made enough chances to have established a clear lead, mainly through the combination of Howe and Ryan Jarvis.
The selection of Jarvis, only a month after he sustained a cracked rib and punctured lung, might have raised an eyebrow or two, but he proved manager Martin Ling right.
Jarvis missed a couple of good openings, hitting the side-netting and then volleying wide from four yards, but he was always a threat and in the 43rd minute he gave United a deserved lead.
Nathan Craig forced a corner on the right, Aaron Downes headed back Craig’s flag-kick at the far post and Jarvis ‘kneed’ the ball into the top left-hand corner from just outside the six-yard box. It was his sixth goal of the season.
Craig whipped a clever shot just over the angle of post and bar on the stroke of half-time, as if to underline United’s superiority. There seemed little cause for concern early in the second half, either.
Craig nearly deceived home goalie Dean Lyness with a 35-yard free-kick – Lyness just got back to tip the ball over his bar – and Jarvis dragged a shot wide when he should probably have hit the target from the edge of the area.
But then, in the 59th minute, a mistake in midfield by the recalled Damon Lathrope cost United dear.
Lathrope dwelt on the ball inside his own half, lost it and a couple of seconds later Burton’s lanky centre-forward Calvin Zola drilled a low right-foot shot past Poke’s despairing right hand.
At the time you could not help wondering how United, in their current form, might react. In fact, they responded admirably.
Burton must have thought they would take over, but instead they found themselves hanging on for dear life.
It took a brilliant double-save by Lyness to keep out a powerful run and shot by Howe and the big man’s follow-up effort in the 66th minute.
Only a last-ditch tackle by Lee Bell stopped Craig regaining the lead two minutes later.
Ling was in no mood to settle for a point, for he sent on two attacking players, Billy Bodin and Ashley Yeoman, for Danny Stevens and Jarvis.
But Rowett also made a key change, taking off the tiring Zola and introducing Paterson in the 77th minute.
Seven minutes later, with both sides still going for a point in an thoroughly entertaining game, Paterson produced his moment of magic.
A minute from time Bodin volleyed just wide, after good work by Howe and Yeoman on the right, and home defender Nathan Stanton did not look too upset when he was booked for time-wasting in stoppage-time.
Burton were delighted to have squeezed home. United were left shaking their heads that they had lost a game they should have drawn, at the very least.
Howe also picked up his ninth caution of the season.
Tomorrow’s Devon derby against Exeter City at Plainmoor is shaping up, first and foremost, as a major test of character for Ling’s men.