Torquay United end long wait for a priceless win
Battling as if their lives depended on it, Torquay United ended their winless run at the 12th attempt – and gave their npower League Two survival hopes a massive boost – when they deservedly beat Chesterfield 2-1 at Plainmoor last night.
Alan Knill's Gulls did the serious damage with a flying start which saw on-loan midfielder Joss Labadie and Rene Howe score inside the first eight minutes.
Midfielder Labadie headed his third goal in successive, while leading scorer Howe back heeled in his 16th goal of the season.
With Labadie outstanding, Tom Cruise cultured at left-back and home debutant Jordan Chapell a livewire threat on the wing, United gave an uplifting performance in the first half and early in the second. Then, as the Spireites piled on the pressure, United manned the barricades before Liam Cooper finally pulled a goal back in the 77th minute.
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But, on the back foot in the closing stages plus more than five minutes of stoppage-time, the Gulls held on for three of the most important points they will earn all season.
Knill recalled Elliot Benyon up front and Ryan Jarvis in midfield, reverting to a 4-4-2 formation. Chapell, who was making his home debut, started on the left with Jarvis on the right, but they were soon switching wings to good effect.
Chapell was involved as United, eager to attack, took the lead after less than three minutes.
Lee Mansell, Chapell and Cruise were all involved in a move down the left wing, Cruise supplied the final cross and Labadie was there to head home from eight yards.
Jay O'Shea nearly wriggled through on a Marc Richards pass for Chesterfield, but in the eighth minute United scored again.
A Cruise corner was half-cleared to Chapell, he let fly from the edge of the area and Howe back heeled a cheeky goal in off the right-hand post.
It was the start that United must have dreamed about, and they nearly pressed home that advantage, Howe heading a Mansell corner wide and then firing just off target from 20 yards after clever work and a perfect through-ball by Jarvis.
United did have a scare when a cross from the left by Drew Talbot had Michael Poke beaten. O'Shea shot for goal, but the ball hit team-mate Richards with the Gulls struggling to cover.
United's other concern was referee Stuart Atwell, who came up with a series of mystifying decisions, most of them against Torquay. As for Chesterfield, they passed the ball crisply at times, but United posed the greater attacking threat, many of their moves built on the foundation of Labadie and Mansell in central midfield.
Chapell crossed for Howe to head wide, and in the 40th minute Jarvis, also working hard, slipped past defender Townsend, crossed low from the right and Chapell fired over under a desperate challenge by Neal Trotman.
It had been a fine first-half display by the Gulls, and there was nothing wrong with the way they set about following it up.
Atwell also carried on where he left off, booking Labadie for another winning tackle and then cautioning Jack Lester and Angus MacDonald after they both went down in a heap and got in a tangle.
Veteran striker Lester had been sent on by Chesterfield manager Paul Cook for Tendayi Darikwa at half-time, O'Shea moving out to the right wing.
Cook made another change in the 58th minute – Mark Randall for Sam Togwell in midfield.
Chesterfield were starting to exert their first serious pressure of the match, which put Brian Saah and MacDonald under the spotlight – both had been booked and could not afford a miscalculation.
The scores from elsewhere also upped the ante, and Chesterfield tried desperately to force their way back into the match and on 77 minutes, MacDonald was adjudged to have handled wide on United's left. Randall swung over the free-kick and Cooper was unmarked to head home from six yards.
The Plainmoor crowd responded, urging United to keep the visitors at bay, and they did. Atwell's decision to add five minutes of stoppage-time was extraordinary, considering the lack of real delays, but United made it as the clock ticked past six minutes extra!
Torquay United (4-4-2): Poke; Oastler, Saah, MacDonald, Cruise; Jarvis (Leadbitter 86), Labadie, Mansell, Chapell (Macklin 90); Benyon, Howe. Substitutes (not used): Nicholson, Lathrope, Rice (gk), Stevens, Craig.
Goals: Labadie 3, Howe 8.
Bookings: Saah 13, Benyon 36, Labadie 53.
Chesterfield (4-4-2): Lee; Brindley, Trotman, Cooper, Talbot; Darikwa (Lester h-t), Hird, Togwell (Randall 58), Townsend; O'Shea, Richards. Substitutes (not used): Henshall, Whitaker, Barrington (gk), Clark.
Goal: Cooper 77.
Bookings: Richards 13, Lester 56, Randall 90.
Referee: S Atwell (Warwickshire).