Maidenhead 3 Torquay United 4

GOAL! Armani Little of Torquay United celebrates having scored to break the deadlock during the Vana

GOAL! Armani Little of Torquay United celebrates having scored to break the deadlock during the Vanarama National League match between Maidenhead United and Torquay United at York Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire on Saturday 4th September 2021 | Photo: James Fearn/PPAUK - Credit: James Fearn/PPAUK

Four goals up at half--time, Torquay United had to hang on in the face of a nerve-shredding Maidenhead fightback before they could celebrate their first win of the new National League season at York Road.

After one point from three games, Gary Johnson's Gulls 'clicked' in style with first-half goals by Armani Little (2), Asa Hall and Connor Lemonheigh-Evans - Hall and Lemonheigh-Evans hitting the net in a minute just before the interval.

They looked set for an even bigger victory then, but on an afternoon when ten NL games produced 49 goals, it was far from over.

Maidenhead roared back through Remy Clerima, Alan Massey and then Emile Acquah with 24 minutes plus eight of stoppage-time to go.

But Torquay did manage to hold on with some never-say-die defending.

Ali Omar returned at centre-back after suspension, Dean Moxey reverting to his normal left-back role.

Johnson, who was without the banned Chiori Johnson, also recalled Tom Lapslie in midfield, with Dan Martin and Keelan O'Connell dropping to the bench.

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When it took only three minutes for Hall to be booked, after a near-miss by the captain on Moxey's free-kick, some fans might have feared the worst on the disciplinary front.

And United also had to withstand some muscular pressure from Maidenhead, aiming a stream of set-pieces at former Gulls centre-forward Nathan Blissett and his fellow striker Acquah.

But they weathered that early storm and then made their football count in a series of quality attacks.

In the 14th minute a good move between Dan Holman and Lemonheigh-Evans slipped Little through for a cool, precision finish into the bottom corner with James Holden to beat…1-0.

Six minutes later Danny Wright knocked down Joe Lewis' long ball and Little was there again with one touch and a firm shot…2-0.

United could never relax against Maidenhead's direct play - they only just scrambled the ball clear from one Clerima long throw and, after Wright forced a good save from Holden, from a major scare in the 39th minute.

Lewis and, especially, Mark Halstead both showed courage to force the ball against the post and out when both knew they were likely to get hurt.

A goal for Maidenhead then and things might have been different, and it turned out to be a key moment in the match.

In the 44th minute Little turned provider, with the free-kick for Hall to score with a trademark glancing header…3-0.

And as the first half moved into stoppage-time another slick counter-attack set up Lemonheigh-Evans, still with plenty to do, to make it 4-0.

If that first 45 minutes had been the stuff of dreams for Gulls supporters, they were about to wake up with a nasty start.

Maidenhead had nothing to lose and the second half had been running only two minutes when a moment's loss of concentration in defence let Clerima in round the back and he lobbed Halstead for 4-1.

Seven minutes later Massey got his head to a near-post corner and it was…4-2.

Holman nearly forced in a Little corner before Massey was booked for overdoing his protests after a foul by Hall - he wanted a second booking for the Gulls' skipper and referee Tom Bishop did not appreciate his attempt to do his job for him.

It was still a big enough hint for Johnson - it was Hall off and O'Connell on.

But the flow was still with Maidenhead, and in the 66th minute they made it 4-3.

Acquah was there to finish the rebound after a first effort hit the post.

It was now a game beyond control from the sidelines - almost anything could happen.

De Havilland nearly equalised for Maidenhead.  Holman hit the bar at the other end.  Torquay defenders, notably Omar, threw themselves to keep the ball out in another desperate scramble.

Maidenhead were looking for Blissett's head at every opportunity, and he is so tall that the ploy was a profitable one.

It was just a question of whether Torquay could win the 'second' balls and avoid mistakes.

Lapslie and Halstead were both booked for slowing things down too much for Mr Bishop's liking.

Omar did well to block another goalbound shot before EIGHT minutes of stoppage-time was announced.

United were furious about one home corner wrongly awarded, Halstead came up with one important catch under pressure and, after another scare or two, United had that precious first win…just!

Maidenhead United (4-4-2): Holden; Clerima, Massey, De Havilland, Wells; Ferdinand, Sheckleford, Adams (Asonganyi 81), Kelly (Smith 70); Acquah, Blissett; subs not used - Parry, Upward, Beckwith.

Booked: Kelly 24, Massey 62, Sheckleford 90+2.

Torquay United (4-3-1-2): Halstead; Wynter, Lewis, Omar, Moxey; Little, Hall (O'Connell 63), Lapslie; Lemonheigh-Evans; Holman, Wright; subs not used - Martin, Brzozowski, Rogers, Lolos.

Booked: Hall 3, Lapslie 80, Halstead 87.

Referee: Tom Bishop (London).

Attendance: 1,495.