Torquay United 1 Altrincham 3
- Credit: Phil Mingo/PPAUK
Unfancied Altrincham pooped a planned first-day party for Torquay United when they beat Gary Johnson's Gulls in front of a frustrated Plainmoor crowd on the opening day of the National League season.
The scoreline may not have reflected United's possession and pressure, but all their effort went unrewarded and Altrincham seized on at least two defensive mistakes for goals by Marcus Dinanga and Connor Kirby in the first 20 minutes and a rasping drive by defender Toby Mullarkey near the end.
Torquay made it 2-1 midway through the second half with an own-goal by visiting captain Jake Moult, but the fact that the score came that way summed up United's exasperating afternoon.
Johnson was without injured forward Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, and he named six new signings in the starting XI and four more on the bench.
Club skipper Asa Hall, who has missed pre-season through injury, was fit and named as a sub.
Alty included new striker signing Dinanga, but manager Phil Parkinson held other new arrivals Ben Pringle and A-Jay Leitch-Smith back as potential replacements.
United didn't do a lot wrong in the first half - they worked hard, had plenty of possession and moments of real quality - but Altrincham made their only chances count.
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In the 14th minute Dean Moxey had a pass cut out, struggled to recover his position at left-back, could not stop Dan Mooney crossing moments later and Mitch Hancock's feather touch left Dinanga in space for a simple finish eight yards out…0-1.
One area where United did fail was on corners - two early ones by Armani Little and one by Gabby Rogers were both off-target.
But the pacy Keelan O'Connell always looked dangerous on the left wing, Holman was clearly 'at it' up front and the combination of Joe Lewis and Ali Omar kept their priorities right at centre-back.
It wasn't their fault when a moment's wrong decision by O'Connell led to Alty's second goal in the 20th minute.
There was no danger as O'Connell tried to run the ball out for a goal-kick, but how often have we seen that move go wrong?
Sure enough, Joel Senior kept the ball in play, pulled it back to Kirby and he could hardly believe his luck as he scored past a wrong-footed defence from ten yards,,,0-2.
A goal or two does wonders for any team's confidence and, from just about coping with steady home pressure, Altrincham suddenly had a spring in their step, even if goalkeeper Tony Thompson was taking his time over almost everything from a depressingly early stage.
The Gulls responded pretty well to a predicament they surely did not envisage at kick-off.
O'Connell headed wide at the far-post from Rogers' right-wing cross, and Tom Lapslie, Holman and Rogers all went close to a goal before half-time.
Ryan Colclough went uncomfortably close to a breakaway third goal for Alty in the 48th minute, and United's growing frustration grew in the 59th minute.
A piece of blatant play-acting by visiting defender Jake Moult fooled referee Massey-Ellis. Wright, with his head bandaged from a knock moments earlier, was booked for trying to get back to his feet over his fallen opponent and both Holman and Kirby were also cautioned for the kerfuffle which followed the incident.
It meant that Wright, Holman and Little could not afford another mistimed challenge for the rest of the match.
United desperately needed a break, and they got it with just under 20 minutes to go.
First, Johnson sent on Hall and Chiori Johnson for Lapslie and O'Connell, who had both put in good shifts.
Then, in the 73rd minute, Alty could not clear a Little free-kick from the right, Lewis and Holman were both in on the loose ball, which was eventually sliced into the net by Moult…1-2.
That glimmer of hope was kept alive by a brilliant save with his legs by Mark Halstead from substitute Tom Peers in the 75th minute.
But the visitors, who never sat on their lead in a spirited display, then silenced Plainmoor in spectacular fashion in the 83rd minute.
Wright, helping out in defence, was unlucky with a touch to beat an opponent in his own area, but the ball dropped into the path of Mullarkey, who crashed it first-time into the roof of the net from 22 yards…1-3.
Torquay United (4-4-2): Halstead; Wynter, Lewis, Omar, Moxey; Rogers (Lolos 82), Little, Lapslie (Hall 72), O'Connell (Johnson 72); Holman, Wright; subs not used - Brzozoski, Martin.
Booked: Little 18, Moxey 45+3, Wright 59, Holman 59, Omar 81.
Altrincham (4-4-2): Thompson; Senior, Hannigan, Mullarkey, Fitzpatrick (Jackson 31); Mooney, Moult, Kirby, Colclough; Hancock, Dinanga (Peers 64); subs not used - Sutton, Pringle, Peers, Leitch-Smith.
Booked: Jackson 43, Kirby 59.
Referee: Rob Massey-Ellis (Warwicks).