ALDERSHOT TOWN 1 TORQUAY UNITED 4
Torquay United stormed two points clear at the top of the National League with a rampaging second-half performance against Aldershot Town at the EBB Stadium.
Gary Johnson’s Gulls struggled through most of the first half, falling behind to a Craig Tanner shot after only eight minutes.
But a fortunate goal by Ben Wynter two minutes before half-time galvanised United and floored the Shots.
Johnson’s introduction of skipper Asa Hall at the interval further stoked the fires and Torquay moved into overdrive.
A Danny Wright header (47mins) and a brilliant curler from Ben Whitfield (51) made it 3-1 within four minutes of each other and, after he hit the post, centre-forward Wright finished it all off with a firm drive in the 90th minute.
The result leaves Torquay two points clear of Stockport, who could only draw 0-0 at home to Solihull Moors, and they now look forward to Saturday’s live TV clash at fourth-placed Hartlepool United.
Johnson, who had signed former Cheltenham Town and Northampton Town striker Billy Waters just before the match, duly recalled several of the players he had rested in Saturday’s FA Cup win at Sholing - Lucas Covolan, Dean Moxey, Wright, Josh Umerah and Aaron Nemane.
From the kick-off right-winger Nemane and Ben Whitfield on the left posed problems, and Adam Randell and Whitfield were both unlucky with shots from just outside the area.
But when Tanner, after having one effort blocked, punished some indecisive defending by firing Aldershot into the lead in the eighth minute, it was as if the rug had been pulled from underneath the Gulls.
They struggled in all areas of the pitch as Aldershot, with anchorman James Rowe giving his other midfielders licence to get forward at every opportunity, dominated.
Former Gulls loanee Josh Rees hit the post, Covolan tipped a Chike Kandi shot wide and Kodi Lyons-Foster went close.
Randell and Whitfield did have a couple of long-range efforts blocked, but United had created very little in attack, and were grateful to be only one goal down, when Shots goalie Mitch Walker handed them an equaliser on a plate.
Two minutes before half-time Wynter floated a speculative high ball into the goalmouth, Walker took his eye off the ball as Umerah challenged and the cross floated over him and into the net... 1-1.
If ever a match turned on a moment, that was it.
Johnson went ahead with a change he probably had in mind anyway - Hall was on in midfield, for Umerah, with Lemonheigh-Evans, Nemane and Whitfield pushed on from midfield.
In the 47th minute Wright powered a downward header past Walker from a left-wing cross by Nemane... 2-1.
Four minutes later Lemonheigh-Evans broke from midfield, found Whitfield just outside the area - one touch, a quick look and Whitfield’s shot was on its way over the flailing Walker and into the net... 3-1.
The Gulls had been transformed, and Wright sent a diving header wide when he should have hit the target on Hall’s raking crossfield pass.
Johnson sent on Armani Little, for another classy cameo, and then Gary Warren for Moxey in defence as United cruised through the second half.
Little nearly finished off a pass by Wright before, in the 90th minute, Wright hit the post with one shot, latched onto the rebound and drilled the ball under Sendles-White and Walker to seal another great night for United.
Aldershot Town (4-4-2): Walker; Fowler, Sendles-White, Lyons-Foster, Ogie ; Rowe (Edser 60), Rees (Finney 70/Colombie 81), Ogie, Tanner; Kandi, Bettamer; subs not used - Hall (gk), Nouble.
Booked: Sendles-White 20, Rowe 58, Kandi 86..
Torquay United (4-4-2): Covolan; Wynter, Sherring, Cameron, Moxey (Warren 83); Nemane, Lemonheigh-Evans, Randell (Little 72), Whitfield; Umerah (Hall 46), Wright; subs not used - MacDonald (gk), Andrews.
Booked: Randell 45.
Referee: Scott Simpson (Stoke-on Trent).