Torquay United 1 Grimsby Town 3

Armani Little of Torquay United battles for the ball with Erico Sousa of Grimsby Town during the Nat

Armani Little of Torquay United battles for the ball with Erico Sousa of Grimsby Town during the National League match between Torquay United and Grimsby Town at Plainmoor Torquay, Devon on Saturday 11th September 2021 - PHOTO: Dave Crawford/PPAUK - Credit: Dave Crawford/PPAUK

Despite leading through Armani Little's third goal in two games in the eleventh minute, Torquay United's hit-and-miss start to the season continued when they lost for the third successive home game against unbeaten Grimsby Town at Plainmoor.

Gary Johnson's Gulls have now conceded 14 goals in their first five games of the season.

That weakness was evident as the powerful and pacy Mariners came from behind to win with first-half goals by ex-Torquay loanee Michee Efete and Giles Coke, and a breakaway clincher by Harry Clifton in the second minute of stoppage-time. 

Chiori Johnson's availability after suspension prompted his immediate return to midfield, the only change from the starting XI in the 4-3 win at Maidenhead last Saturday, with Tom Lapslie dropping out through injury.

Grimsby were still without their experienced trio of Joel Grant, Lennell John-Lewis and Sean Scannell.

United more than held their own during a fast and furious start from both sides, and they were rewarded with that early lead.

Danny Wright was fouled as he shot from just outside the area, from a Holman lay-off.

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Referee Gary Parsons made sure the 'wall' was a full ten yards back, inside the box, and Little hit the free-kick so hard that goalie James McKeown had little chance of stopping it, even though he got his fingers to the ball…1-0.

The lead was never secure, mainly because Grimsby posed a threat down both wings, through Erico Sousa and Efete on their right and Harry Clifton on the left.

Both sides should have scored through defenders in the space of a couple of minutes - first Luke Waterfall nodded over from an Alex Hunt free-kick when the home marking failed, and then when Joe Lewis blazed over from six yards after Wright nodded down a Little corner.

It looked a potentially costly miss at the time, and so it proved.

Four minutes later, in the 23rd, United were again far too open down their left, Efete put in one of the right-back runs which were a feature of his time at Plainmoor, shrugging off a couple of challenges on the way, before shooting across Halstead and into the bottom left-hand corner from 15 yards…1-1.

The Gulls were not putting the visitors under enough pressure without the ball and, after Lewis did well to block a Sousa shot, they fell behind in the 32nd minute.

Torquay could not counter the visitors' big men on a Hunt free-kick from Town's right, the ball flicked off someone in the middle - Halstead could not get a fist on it - and Coke was at the far post to finish with a firm, first-time right-foot volley from eight yards…1-2.

It was a minor miracle that United did not fall further behind three minutes later, when Moxey somehow cleared a Ryan Taylor shot off the line, after Clifton had beaten the offside trap on Grimsby's left and taken Halstead out of the game with an accurate cross.

But United still had a good chance of their own in first-half stoppage-time - Omar headed a Little cross over when he should have hit the target.

As if the pressure he was under wasn't enough, Moxey had also taken a knock in the first half, so he was replaced at left-back at half-time by Dan Martin.

United's injury problems continued, with O'Connell replacing Little and then Lolos for Holman.

Grimsby looked the more likely side to score through the second half - Halstead parried well from a Ryley Towler set-piece header and referee Parsons - the best that we have seen at Plainmoor this season - also turned down Town penalty appeals when Efete went tumbling.

The consolation for United was that, at least, they were still in the game and, after a spate of substitutions and a knee injury to Johnson that he bravely shook off, they nearly equalised in the 80th minute.

Lewis powered in a header from Wynter's diagonal free-kick, but McKeown came up with a top-drawer goalline save for a corner.

Centre-half Lewis, committed as ever, then turned up at right-back to win a corner and, from Evans' flag-kick, headed over when, again, he should probably have hit the target.

Lewis wasn't finished - another goalbound header was cleared inside the six-yard box as United piled on the pressure into NINE minutes of stoppage-time.

But in the 92nd minute the Gulls were caught on the break by a top-quality counter-attack.

Grimsby broke through excellent touches by McAtee and Taylor, and Clifton ran 60 yards to get on the end of Taylor's final pass to tuck an angled shot past the advancing Halstead…1-3.

Torquay United (4-4-2): Halstead; Wynter, Lewis, Omar, Moxey (Martin 46); Lemonheigh-Evans, Johnson, Hall, Little (O'Connell 51); Lemonheigh-Evans; Holman (Lolos 62), Wright; subs not used - Rogers, Brzozowski.

Booked: Johnson 72, Martin 83.

Grimsby Town (4-4-2): McKeown; Efetee, Waterfall, Towler, Crookes; Sousa (Wright 73), Coke, Hunt (Fox 73), Clifton; McAtee (Essel 90+7), Taylor; subs not used - Bapaga, Revan.

Booked: Hunt 70.

Referee: Gary Parsons (Hants).

Attendance:  2,364.