Torquay United complete amazing comeback
In one of the greatest comebacks in their history, Torquay United fought back from 3-0 down early in the second half to beat Aldershot Town 4-3 in a sensational match at storm-tossed Plainmoor last night.
Martin Ling's Gulls seemed to have no hope when, after taking a beating into the teeth of a Westcountry gale in the first half, they conceded the third goal of a Craig Reid hat-trick for the Shots in the 46th minute.
But somehow United picked themselves off the deck and, with the help of a couple of telling substitutions by Ling, snatched a magnificent victory.
Relive the action minute-by-minute from our live blog below
Goals by Billy Bodin, subs Ryan Jarvis and Ashley Yeoman – his first in League football – and leading scorer Rene Howe sent Plainmoor into collective delirium, and all but stunned Aldershot's one hundred travelling fans.
Howe's winner, a show-stopping effort in the 89th minute, was his seventh goal in the first ten games of the season. It was, truly, a night to remember.
Ling recalled Niall Thompson on the right wing and, after his ankle injury, Nathan Craig in midfield.
And the Gulls' boss also changed formation, opting for two wingers in Thompson and Danny Stevens, with Billy Bodin supporting Rene Howe up front.
Shots manager Dean Holdsworth also made one interesting change – former United Player Of The Year Branston back at centre-half against his old club.
United played against the strong Westerly wind in the first half, and it affected both teams.
Aldershot overhit several early through-balls, while Poke had trouble with both the distance and direction of his clearances.
Poke did raise a cheer with a super-confident piece of control, on his thigh, from an Aaron Downes back pass that fell out of the night sky, but generally the conditions were definitely testing.
There was no lack of effort and the 'tempo' which Ling had been demanding before the match, and in the 26th minute United nearly took the lead with a scything counter-attack.
Bodin collected a loose ball, after Branston had won a tackle with Thompson, and sent Howe away with a raking through-ball down the right.
Howe went for power to try and beat Shots 'keeper Jamie Young on the angle, but drove the ball over the bar. It was a promising move, but two minutes later Aldershot took the lead.
Oastler was pulled up for a foul wide on United's right, Alex Rodman delivered a wicked free-kick into the crowded goalmouth where Reid scored with a glancing header.
The goal visibly shook United's confidence, and Aldershot took advantage.
Three times Scott Donnelly went close to extending the Shots' lead, forcing two good saves from Poke in the process.
United did lift their worried fans on the half-hour.
Craig had a 25-yarder tipped round his left-hand post by Young, and then Lee Mansell squandered a clear heading chance from a Craig cross with the goal at his mercy.
Aldershot punished that miss in the 36th minute, although Torquay contributed to their own downfall on that occasion.
Danny Hylton went down in the area under a challenge from Oastler and referee Stuart Atwell, who had a good view of the incident, pointed to the spot. Reid gave Poke no chance with a firm shot into the bottom left-hand corner.
Driving rain added to the general discomfort as United reached half-time with a major task in front of them.
The last thing United needed at the start of the second was to concede a third goal, but that's exactly what happened.
In the 46th minute another slip by Oastler let Hylton in for a shot, which Poke did well to block. But Reid was there, following up to drill the rebound just inside the left-hand post to complete his hat-trick.
Just two minutes later United at least pulled one goal back. Craig shot from distance, Young parried. Howe's follow-up was also blocked, but Bodin was there to force the ball over the line.
If anything, conditions worsened, the rain pelting down for a while, before easing a little. But at least United had the elements behind them this time. Bodin had a weak shot saved, but Aldershot nearly restored their three-goal lead through Donnelly and Hylton, who volleyed just wide at the far post from another quality free-kick by Rodman from the visitors' right.
It was time for a change and Ling made his first one in the 67th minute: Jarvis for Stevens. It did the trick.
After Thompson pulled a good chance wide, United cut the deficit in the 69th minute.
Bodin put Howe away on the left, and his low cross was perfect, just out of Young's reach, for Jarvis to score from close range at the far post.
It was eyeballs-out stuff now, with referee Atwell angering the home fans with every decision which went Aldershot's way. Eleven minutes from time Nicholson nearly scored an outrageous goal.
His 80-yard volleyed clearance was carried on the wind and threatened to bounce over the back-pedalling Young and into the net before the visitors' goalie tipped it over his bar.
In the 81st minute Ling tried another change – Yeoman for Thompson. And again it worked.
Two minutes later, after Downes had a volley brilliantly tipped behind by Young, Craig crossed into a busy goalmouth where Yeoman rose to flick a header just inside the far post.
Even that scoreline would have represented an achievement to remember, but still it wasn't over.
In the 89th minute Bodin slipped Howe away on United's left, and the big man cut inside on his right foot and blasted an unstoppable shot inside Young's near post from 20 yards to make it 4-3.
Even five minutes of stoppage time, when they retained possession far better than they had done all night, could not deny United a victory which will go down in the club's history. And rightly so.
Torquay United (4-4-2): Poke; Oastler, Saah, Downes, Nicholson; Thompson (Yeoman 81), Mansell, Craig, Stevens (Jarvis 67); Bodin, Howe. Substitutes (not used): Leadbitter, Rice (gk), Cruise, Baker, MacKenzie.
Goals: Bodin 48, Jarvis 69, Yeoman 84, Howe 89.
Bookings: Oastler, Downes.
Aldershot Town (4-4-2): Young; Herd, Lancashire, Branston, Tonkin; Rodman, A Morris, Brown (Appiah 90), Donnelly; Hylton (Rankine 72), Reid (Anderson 87). Substitutes (not used): Payne, Bradley, Cadogan, G Morris (gk).
Goals: Reid 28, pen 37, 47.
Referee: S Attwell (Warwickshire).