Tables have turned in 11 months since last Pirelli trip
ELEVEN months ago an upwardly-mobile Torquay United headed for the Pirelli Stadium in buoyant mood, beat Burton Albion 4-1 and moved into second place in League Two.
Rene Howe even topped off the afternoon with the sort of long-range 'special' which might have won Goal Of The Season if Kevin Nicholson's stoppage-time winner against Barnet at Plainmoor hadn't already got both hands on that title.
At the Pirelli last Saturday, the proverbial boot was on the other foot.
It was the Brewers' turn to be tilting at the promotion race, and the Gulls were under a very different sort of pressure.
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They're a friendly, sensible and grounded lot at Albion, and even Mark Sale, the former United striker who is now Burton's College Development Manager popped into the press room after the game and admitted that a draw might have been a fairer result.
As well as United played, and they looked the better side for long periods, they're not in the sort of form that allows them to be confident with a 1-0 lead. One is simply not enough at the moment.
They thoroughly deserved the Ryan Jarvis goal which saw them ahead at half-time. Recalled to the starting line-up only a month after puncturing a lung in the 1-1 home draw with Northampton, Jarvis repaid manager Martin Ling's faith in him.
He did miss one good early chance, but he played well and was in the right place to finish off Aaron Downes' far-post header from a Nathan Craig corner in the 43rd minute.
Jarvis had scored his fifth goal of the season before being hurt against Northampton, and this was No.6 for the former Norwich, Orient and Walsall forward.
Burton's Dean Lyness was much the busier goalkeeper in the first half, and he was again in the second.
United had gone close to a second goal through Craig and Jarvis when a mistake in midfield by Damon Lathrope lost possession and led to Calvin Zola equalising against the run of play in the 59th minute.
Even then, when Burton must have been expecting to take over, the Gulls bounced back and nearly regained the lead.
It took a key double-save by Lyness to deny Howe and a desperate last-ditch tackle by Lee Bell to stop Craig scoring at the expense of a corner.
For most of the afternoon Zola and former Gulls striker Billy Kee both got little change out of Downes and Brian Saah. Both managers made changes, Albion's Gary Rowett importantly sending on Matt Paterson for Zola and Ling introducing two more forwards in Billy Bodin and Ashley Yeoman.
United were certainly going for the winner every bit as much as Burton when, in the 84th minute, Paterson turned 25 yards out on the left flank and hit a curling right-foot shot which had 'Goal' written on it as soon as it left his boot.
Paterson and Michael Poke had been trainees and young pros together at Southampton, and United's goalie must have groaned when he realised that his old teammate's shot had both the flight and pace to beat him all ends up.
It may have been another 'late' goal conceded, but it definitely wasn't down to lack of stamina.
United proved that point by nearly equalising in the 89th minute, Bodin volleying just wide from a Howe-Yeoman move down the right.
"I think the better side got beat, to be honest," said Ling.
"We seem to be able to find a defeat from any given position at the moment.
"As an attacking unit, that's as well as we've played for a while, and ours is a very frustrated dressing-room."
Rowett said: "We are always going to have a day when we concede a goal, and the other team gives us a real test. That happened today.
"You won't see a better goal than Matt Paterson's in the whole country today, but it was also a brilliant finish by Calvin Zola at a point when we were looking for a bit of inspiration."
Burton Albion (4-4-2): Lyness; O'Connor, Diamond, Stanton, McCrory; Drury (Dyer 70), Weir, Bell (Webster 90+1), Maghoma; Kee, Zola (Paterson 77); subs not used – Atkins (gk), McGrath, Phillips, Holness.
Torquay United (4-2-3-1): Poke; Oastler, Saah, Downes, Nicholson; Lathrope (N. Thompson 87), Mansell; Craig, Jarvis (Yeoman 79), Stevens (Bodin 70); Howe; subs not used – Rice (gk), MacDonald, Easton, Cruise.
Referee: Tony Harrington (Cleveland).
Bookings: Burton – Stanton (time-wasting 90+4); United – Howe (foul 63).
Statistics: Fouls – Burton 8, United 20; Offsides – Burton 1, United 2; Corners – Burton 5, United 8; Shots/Headers On Target – Burton 3, United 5; Off Target – Burton 6, United 8; Hit Woodwork – None.