Prolonged Torquay pressure fails to yield reward as Cheltenham progress to final
They hit the woodwork three times and there were many moments when opposing goalkeeper Scott Brown kept Cheltenham Town in it, but Torquay United will not be going back to Wembley after they lost last night's npower League Two play-off semi-final second leg at Plainmoor.
The Robins' right-winger, Jermaine McGlashan, scored an almost identical goal to the one which set Cheltenham on the way to their 2-0 first leg win last Sunday.
That was in the 75th minute, and it left Martin Ling's Gulls with too much to do.
Although substitute Taiwo Atieno headed United level five minutes from time, the final word went to Town midfielder Marlon Pack, who blasted a 25-yard free-kick past home goalkeeper Bobby Olejnik to finish the match and the tie in the 87th minute.
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The Robins will meet Crewe Alexandra on May 27 for the right to play League One football next season.
United made a shaky start, Brian Saah rescuing Joe Oastler after the right-back had let Kaid Mohamed away with a lapse in concentration.
McGlashan also fired just over the angle of post and bar in the ninth minute but United gradually got going, an improvement signalled when Brown had to tip a Eunan O'Kane drive over his bar.
Damon Lathrope did well to block a Luke Summerfield shot after Olejnik had pulled a clearance to the dangerous Mohamed. But, in the 17th minute Brown had to save Cheltenham again, diving low to his right to push a goal-bound shot by Ryan Jarvis – starting in place of the injured Rene Howe with Atieno on the bench – wide of the post.
United piled on the pressure. Keith Lowe just cleared off his line after Mark Ellis had powered a Kevin Nicholson cross across the face of goal.
Brown pulled off a brilliant low save to concede a corner, after Danny Stevens had found some space and shot for goal.
It was a good spell for the Gulls, and it had the Plainmoor crowd baying for more. But Cheltenham weathered that storm, and in the 32nd minute Jimmy Spencer turned smartly on a half-chance eight yards out. Luckily for United, he shot straight at Olejnik.
Ian Morris headed over from a good chance moments later. Then, on the stroke of half-time, Jarvis was fouled 22 yards out. Lee Mansell touched the ball to Nicholson, and his trusty left-foot crashed the ball against the bar.
United had been unlucky not to score before half-time, but that fact alone kept the crowd solidly behind them as they set about trying to put that right in the second half. In the 47th minute, Stevens cut in and forced Brown to make another good save.
Cheltenham's threat throughout lay on the wings, through McGlashan and Mohamed, and only an excellent save by Olejnik stopped McGlashan ending the contest after he had taken Nicholson on a jinking run.
Still United, with Saah reassuringly solid at the back, kept coming. In the 55th minute, Oastler crossed from the right, Mansell's header looped up off Alan Bennett, and Brown had to scramble back to tip the ball on to his bar and over.
Ling waited until the 61st minute before making his first change. Off came midfielder Lathrope, and on went Atieno to join Jarvis up front.
United had to take a risk or two, and, when they failed to mark Mohamed tightly enough in the 67th minute, the Town left winger fired just over – too close for comfort.
Ellis went into the book for felling McGlashan, and, from the free-kick 25 yards out, Summerfield fired wide off a Torquay boot.
There was not much kitchen furniture left when Ling sent on centre-half Angus MacDonald and pushed Ellis up front in the 73rd minute. But, two minutes later, Cheltenham stunned the Plainmoor crowd with McGlashan's second goal of the tie.
Mohamed, drifting in from the left, made it. He timed his pass to perfection, behind Nicholson, and McGlashan was there to slide the ball past Olejnik and in off the left-hand post to make it 3-0 on aggregate. The Gulls' fans, defiant to the end, did their best to inspire a response, but in their hearts they must have known that the game was up.
Five minutes from time, though United equalised on the night, after forcing a corner. O'Kane took it and Atieno glanced home a near-post header to make it 1-1, but United could not even celebrate that consolation for long.
In the 87th minute, Saah brought down substitute Jeff Goulding, and Pack crashed a 25-yard free-kick past Olejnik – game, set and match.
Torquay United (4-3-3): Olejnik; Oastler, Ellis, Saah, Nicholson; Lathrope (Atieno 61), O'Kane, Mansell; Morris, Jarvis, Stevens (MacDonald 73). Substitutes (not used): Rice (gk), Rowe-Turner, Yeoman.
Goal: Atieno 85.
Bookings: Morris, Ellis.
Cheltenham Town (4-4-2): Brown; Lowe, Elliott, Bennett, Jombati; McGlashan (Hooman 89), Pack, Summerfield, Mohamed; Burgess (Goulding 82), Spencer (Penn 45). Substitutes (not used): Duffy, Smikle.
Goals: McGlashan 75, Pack 87.
Referee: A D'Urso (Essex).