Torquay United manager Gary Johnson - Credit: Pinnacle

Match Report: Southend Utd 1 Torquay Utd 1

Torbay Weekly

SOUTHEND UNITED 1 TORQUAY UNITED 1

(by a Special Correspondent)

A draw might not have been the biggest surprise from a last-day match between two mid-table sides, but Torquay United will actually be kicking themselves that they didn’t round off the season with all three points against Southend United at Roots Hall.

Gary Johnson’s injury-hit Gulls deservedly led through midfielder Chiori Johnson’s first league goal for the club in first-half stoppage-time.

And when Southend had experienced defender Jason Demetriou sent off with more than half-an-hour to go, for a clumsy challenge on ever-present Ben Wynter, United looked odds-on to complete what would have been a fifth ‘double’ of the season.

But they went off the boil, failed to make their numerical advantage count and allowed James Dunne too much leeway to score a 75th minute equaliser that Southend’s spirited fightback also merited.

Goalkeeper Shaun MacDonald and midfielder Armani Little had joined United’s injury list from the midweek 1-0 defeat at Stockport, so Johnson brought in Mark Halstead between the posts and Keelan O’Connell in midfield.

The Gulls were able to field only four subs.

You’d never have known there was so little at stake, from the way that United went about the job.

After Halstead claimed an early high ball confidently, it was the home defence which was under the most pressure.

Harrison Neal cleared off his line from a toe-poke shot by Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, Danny Wright shaved the woodwork and Johnson volleyed wide from the edge of the area after a good move down the right.

United were on top for the first 20 minutes, and even another enforced change – Opi Edwards for the injured Dan Martin, did not really break their stride.

Callum Powell did hit the side-netting for Southend, but Lemonheigh-Evans, set up by Joe Felix, hit the bar for United in the 36th minute – the flag was up for offside then, but it was another reminder of the threat which Torquay carried.

The Shrimpers finally burst into life as the first half moved into stoppage-time, Halstead pulling off an excellent close-range save from Jason Demetriou, with skipper Joe Lewis getting back to help deal with the loose ball.

And just when it seemed that the half would remain goalless, Johnson changed all that in the fourth minute of ‘extra’.

He intercepted a Southend pass in midfield, headed eagerly towards the home goal and chipped the ball over the advancing Steve Arnold to give United a deserved lead... 1-0.

Southend had to come out fighting in the second half, and when Leon Davies forced another good save from Halstead soon after the restart, it was a hint that they were up for it.

But when Demetriou caught Ben Wynter late in the 59th minute and referee Aaron Jackson reached straight for his red card, it looked as if the match had swung away from them.

It might have done if United had kept the ball better and made the most of their extra man.

But after Arnold twice had to dash off his line to foil Duke-McKenna and Wright, it was the Shrimpers who moved up a gear.

Dalby beat Ali Omar for once in the air to head for goal – Halstead saved to his right – and in the 69th minute Neal let fly from long range and hit the top of the bar with Halstead beaten.

On the touchline Johnson and assistant Aaron Downes were visibly frustrated that their players could not get a better grip on the game.

And they were even angrier in the 75th minute when a defence which had done pretty well until then allowed Dunne too much for a run and shot across Halstead and into the bottom right-hand corner... 1-1.

It was all Southend in the closing stages, although young subs Olaf Koszela and Alex Moyse, making his senior debut, did their best to create and snatch a late winner.

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Southend United (4-4-2): Arnold; Kensdale, Demetriou, Hobson, Gubbins; Davies (White 88), Bridge (Atkinson 84), Neal; Powell (Wood 90), Dalby; subs not used – Coker, Clifford.

Sent Off: Demetriou 59.

Torquay United (3-5-2): Halstead; Wynter, Lewis, Omar; Duke-McKenna, Felix (Moyse 86), Johnson, O’Connell (Koszela 77), Martin (Edwards 32); Wright, Lemonheigh-Evans; subs not used – Brzozowski.

Booked: None.

Referee: Aaron Jackson (Merseyside)

Attendance: 6,294 (141 Gulls fans).