Five-star performance from top of league Gulls

Hat trick celebration by Torquay United player Danny Wright during the match between Hartlepool Unit

Hat trick celebration by Torquay United player Danny Wright during the match between Hartlepool United and Torquay United at The Victoria Ground, Hartlepool. Photo: Steve Bond/PPAUK - Credit: Steve Bond/Pinnacle


A ‘perfect’ Danny Wright hat-trick and goals by Ben Whitfield and Gary Warren - his first for eight years - carried Torquay United to a five-star rout of previously unbeaten Hartlepool United on a great night at the Victoria Ground.

Gary Johnson’s Gulls are five points clear at the top of the National League after a sixth successive win in league and cup.

They were almost faultless in every department on Teesside after hitting Hartlepool where it hurt in a start which saw Wright score with left and right-foot shot in the 12th and 15th minutes.

After Whitfield made it 3-0 before half-time, Wright completed his hat-trick with a thunderous header, before sub Warren buried his first goal since 2012 three minutes from time.

Johnson went with the formation that finished the 4-1 midweek win at Aldershot, with Asa Hall recalled as the anchorman in midfield and Wright as a targetman for midfield runners - and there were plenty of them.

United were well on the front foot even before they took the lead.

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Then, a glorious defence-splitting pass by Adam Randell sent Wright through to finish with a confident left-foot shot from just outside the area... 1-0.

Dean Moxey produced a smart piece of defending to stop a quick Hartlepool reply, but only three minutes later the Gulls made it 2-0 with a magnificent move.

It started with Kyle Cameron deep in defence, went through Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, Randell, Aaron Nemane and Ben Wynter with a flick back header for Wright send a first-time right-foot past Ben Killip from 12 yards... 2-0.

Pool had to take defender Odusina off with a hamstring injury and reshuffle in defence after 21 minutes.

But the Gulls had no intention of taking their foot off the accelerator.

Wright nearly scored again, on a Lemonheigh-Evans cross, before United’s pressure paid off again in the 37th minute.

Pool defender Ferguson was hustled into a pass across his back-line, a teammate missed the ball and Whitfield seized on the chance to score with his left foot... 3-0.

The priority was not to give Pool anything that might bring them back into the game early in the second half, and United did it well - there were just as many good performances in defence as attack.

Johnson teams never settle for what they’ve got, and in the 56th minute another slick move set up number four.

Lemonheigh-Evans latched onto Lucas Covolan’s long clearance, back heeled a pass to Whitfield on the overlap and his left-foot cross was crying out to be buried by Wright - he did with an unstoppable header at the far-post... 4-0.

It was his sixth goal of the season.

Sam Sherring and Wynter came up with goal-saving blocks and tackles as the hosts tried to salvage something from the wreckage, but Torquay, with Little on for Whitfield, still looked the more likely side to score - again.

Randell, Lemonheigh-Evans and Wright all went close before United wrapped up a brilliant display in the 87th minute.

Kyle Cameron nodded down Lemonheigh-Evans’ inswinging corner, the ball took a deflection and Warren made no mistake from point-blank range... 5-0. Wow!

Hartlepool United (4-1-4-1): Killip; Cass, Odusina (Grey 21), Johnson, Ferguson; Shelton (Bloomfield 42); Molyneux, Featherstone, Holohan (Crawford 84), Donaldson; Parkhouse; subs not used - Williams, Ravas (gk).

Booked: Bloomfield 82, Grey 83.

Torquay United (4-1-4-1): Covolan; Wynter, Sherring, Cameron, Moxey (Warren 71); Hall (Andrews 60); Nemane, Lemonheigh-Evans, Randell, Whitfield (Little 60); Wright; subs not used - MacDonald (gk), Umerah.

Booked: Randell 74.

Referee: Thomas Parsons (Manchester)