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Match Report: Torquay United 2-1 Port Vale (Torquay Fan's Perspective)

Sunday 25th March 2012
An entertaining match at Plainmoor ended in a narrow Torquay win against administration-hit Port Vale, with a frenzied second half more than making up for a dull first 45 minutes.

Torquay were rightly favourites, coming into the game with hopes of automatic promotion still high despite a midweek defeat at table-toppers Swindon Town. Port Vale's play-off push may have been derailed by a 10-point deduction and administration may have caused uncertainty for both players and fans. However, this was never going to be an easy win for the Gulls against a side determined to overcome the odds.

The Gulls began brightly in the Plainmoor sunshine, with Rene Howe almost capitalising on hesitant defending from the visitors. A hopeful ball into the right channel by Torquay skipper Lee Mansell landed between Vale goalkeeper Stuart Tomlinson and centre-back John McCombe. A lack of communication between the two allowed Howe to poke the ball past Tomlinson, but Yellow celebrations were cut short when the forward's angled shot hit the side-netting.

If Torquay fans expected more of the same in the remainder of the first half, they were in for a shock. The hosts gradually allowed Port Vale to grab a foothold in the game, roared on by a vociferous away support. Diminutive midfielder Chris Shuker and Montserrat international Anthony Griffith began to overrun Torquay in the middle of the park, and a number of corners showed the Valiants' intent.

Torquay had conceded from two set-pieces at Swindon and Martin Ling must have been infuriated to see his team again concede a sloppy goal to a corner. Shuker's initial delivery was returned back to him and his second cross proved much more dangerous. His ball to the back post was cleared only as far as the edge of the area by Joe Oastler, and McCombe struck to beat Robert Olejnik with a powerful effort. It was the defender's revenge for a miserable loan spell during Torquay's relegation battle in 2005-06, with McCombe failing to make a single appearance.

Torquay huffed and puffed but could not find a reply before half-time. The anxiety in the crowd was reflected on the pitch - simple passes went astray and aimless long balls were met with frustrated groans. Torquay couldn't afford to slip up here if they were to grab an automatic promotion spot. The half petered out without any extra excitement to add to the limited offerings so far.

Thankfully, the second half saw infinitely more drama. Tomlinson was at full stretch to deny Mansell from Kevin Nicholson's long throw and Ling aided the pressure with the introduction of the more forward-thinking Taiwo Atieno and Ryan Jarvis for Danny Stevens and Ian Morris. Port Vale briefly threatened through Louis Dodds, but soon after Jarvis almost marked his introduction with an immediate goal.

Oastler's long ball was met with a thunderous header by the former Norwich man, forcing Tomlinson into a fine save to tip the ball onto the bar. The goalkeeper was quickly on his feet to again deny Mansell and it looked as if the game was drifting away from the Gulls.

A routine long ball found Howe one-on-one with Vale defender Joe Davis. Howe's strength has had the beating of many a defender this  season and again it allowed him the space to take aim. Desperately trying to protect the slender lead, Davis executed what resembled a rugby tackle, bundling Howe to the floor as he prepared to shoot. Referee Darren Sheldrake pointed to the spot and, as last man, Davis was given his marching orders. Howe confidently dispatched the penalty to finally restore parity, and Vale's numerical disadvantage would prove costly.

Just four minutes after the equaliser, Torquay took the lead. O'Kane's deep corner was again met with a powerful Jarvis header but this time, Tomlinson was well beaten. It was the Walsall loanee's first goal for the club and couldn't have come at a better time.

Vale tried valiantly but the stuffing had been knocked out of them. Playing three at the back in an attempt to find an equaliser, the visitors left themselves open to the counter-attack and only wasteful finishing from United, coupled with superb defending from Doug Loft, kept the scoreline at 2-1. Damon Lathrope came closest to a third, and was bitterly disappointed to see his long-range striker bounce back off the crossbar with Tomlinson helpless.

Although the remainder of the game passed in relative comfort, there was still time for Vale substitute Ben Williamson to shave the crossbar with a sliding effort in the last minute of normal time. Torquay heeded the warning and held out for a crucial three points.

Torquay: Olejnik, Oastler, Saah, Ellis, Nicholson, Stevens (Jarvis 62), O'Kane, Mansell, Lathrope, Morris (Atieno 62), Howe (Rowe-Turner 85). Subs not used: Rice, MacDonald.

Port Vale: Tomlinson, Yates, McCombe, Davis, Loft, Morsy, Shuker (Marshall 60), Griffith, Dodds (Williamson 78), Richards, Rigg (Pope 71). Subs not used: James, Roe.

Attendance: 3,136.
Dan Rawley

Total articles: 13

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