Torquay United FA Cup fourth qualifying round match report:
SHOLING 0 TORQUAY UNITED 2
(FA CUP FOURTH QUALIFYING ROUND)
Goals by captain Asa Hall on the stroke of half-time and a first for the club by striker Josh Umerah in the second half carried Torquay United into the First Round Proper of the FA Cup and avoided a potential ‘banana skin’ in the wind and rain at Southern League Sholing.
In front of a maximum-permitted crowd of 400 home fans, Hall drove in a penalty and Umerah cashed in on a mistake in the Boatmen’s defence on a day when the result was all-important for Gary Johnson’s in-form Gulls.
But there were several other ‘bonus points’, notably the return to action of midfielder Armani Little after eight months out following hamstring surgery.
As expected, Johnson made changes, five in all with goalkeeper Shaun MacDonald, Gary Warren, Jake Andrews, Hall and Umerah in for Lucas Covolan, Dean Moxey, Aaron Nemane, Danny Wright and Louis Britton.
It was also good to see Little and Fraser Kerr on the bench after injuries, Little absent since last February.
United survived a couple of early scares in the swirling wind, MacDonald twice quick off his line to foil home attacks, and Sholing right winger Claudio Herbert threatened to exploit the space behind Gulls left wing-back Andrews for a while.
But from around the 20th minute the Gulls steadily assumed control, with Umerah running strongly up front and Whitfield busy right across the forward line.
Umerah, with a flick deflected over from Connor Lemonheigh-Evans’ corner, Whitfield and Hall with a header narrowly wide all went close.
Torquay’s increasing pressure finally told just before half-time.
Ben Wynter and Lemonheigh-Evans both nearly broke through in a scramble before referee Adrian Quelch ruled that Charlie Wagstaffe had fouled Wynter and pointed to the spot.
Goalie Ryan Gosney guessed right, but Hall’s penalty was too good.. 1-0 to United.
Defender Kyle Cameron, whose two headers had beaten Dover (2-0) in the league seven days before, clearly has a taste for goals, for he crashed a powerful shot from distance against the post in the 49th minute.
But Sholing made a visible effort to force their back into the game as driving rain joined the wind in the second half.
Johnson made a double-change after an hour - Nemane for Randell in midfield and Wright for Whitfield in attack.
The worsening conditions prompted a short, slightly shaky spell for the Gulls, including a booking for the impressive Warren, before they settled a few nerves with a second goal.
It was delivered on a plate by Gosney, who lost the ball well out of his goal to Umerah, who lifted the loose ball into the empty net from outside the area... 2-0.
Sholing were not quite finished, and MacDonald had to make an important save and Hall cleared another effort off his own line in the minutes just after Umerah’s goal.
Little, back in his home town of Southampton, went on for Umerah with 12 minutes to go.
In a delightful ‘cameo’, which included one delicious through-ball to Wynter and a fierce shot just off target, Little reminded everyone of his long-missed quality.
United look forward to a busy next week, which includes the Cup draw on Monday evening and league games at Aldershot Town on Tuesday and Hartlepool United next Saturday.
Sholing (4-4-2): Gosney; M. McLean, Miller, P. McLean, Hoole; Herbert, B. Mason, Wagstaffe (Buckland 65), Targett; D. Mason, Green; subs not used - Bulpitt, Sawyer, Smith, Carey, Watts, Deacon.
Booked: Herbert 85.
Torquay United (3-4-2-1): MacDonald; Warren, Sherring, Cameron; Wynter, Hall, Randell (Nemane 60), Andrews; Lemonheigh-Evans, Whitfield (Wright 60); Umerah (Little 78); subs not used - Covolan (gk), Buse, Kerr.
Booked: Andrews 58, Warren 70.
Referee: Adrian Quelch (Dorset)