Torquay United 3 Wrexham 1
- Credit: Phil Mingo/PPAUK
Gulls maintain fine form in front of the Yellow Army
Tprquay United welcomed the fans back to Plainmoor with another wholehearted and thoroughly deserved victory over Wrexham – their ninth in 11 games – to retain the leadership of the National League.
The bitterly cold weather prompted a few season-ticket holders to stay at home and go for the TV streaming option, but the diehards were rewarded by a top of the table display from Gary Johnson’s men.
The Gulls, with Fraser Kerr making his first start in defence in place of Ben Wynter (hamstring), swept into a 2-0 lead with early goals by Ben Whitfield (5mins) and an Asa Hall penalty (17).
Wrexham hit back with a set-piece header by defender Theo Vassell only a minute after Hall’s spot kick.
The visitors made a big effort to equalise early in the second half, but another resilient defensive display, including one goal-saving tackle by Kyle Cameron and two crucial clearances by Jake Andrews, kept them at bay.
Livewire midfielder Connor Lemonheigh-Evans hit the all-important third goal in the 74th minute and Wrexham, who never stopped trying, could not come back a second time.
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United flew out of the traps, their switch-balls out to Whitfield on the left wing a feature of the play, and it paid off when a move between Hall and Lemonheigh-Evans set up Whitfield to beat his man, cut inside and hit a 20-yard shot inside the near post…1-0.
Wrexham could hardly draw breath before Hall’s volley from a half-cleared corner forced a ‘handball’ penalty and the Gulls skipper, taking over from Danny Wright after his miss at Halifax recently, slammed the spot-kick hard and straight into the roof of the net…2-0.
United disputed the Elliott Durrell corner which Vassell glanced down and in only a minute later.
Whitfield, Wright and Lemonheigh-Evans, who hit the post, all went close to a third goal before the interval, but so did Jake Bickerstaff for Wrexham, who recovered from their torrid start.
The Red Dragons, for whom ex-Gulls favourite Luke Young was well contained by Hall and Adam Randell in midfield, made a big effort after the restart, but they were restricted to few real chances.
United would not crack during that spell – Sherring, Kerr, Cameron and Andrews all in fine form at the back – and Whitfield and Lemonheigh-Evans nearly stretched the lead before referee Scott Simpson also turned down what looked like a strong penalty shout for a challenge on Randell.
The game was certainly not safe until that third goal went in and, after a near-miss by Wrexham’s Jamie Reckord and those key defensive plays by Cameron and Andrews, it finally came from a counter attack 16 minutes from time.
Aaron Nemane and Whitfield combined on the left to leave Lemonheigh-Evans with a chance he took coolly…3-1.
Torquay United (4-4-1-1):MacDonald; Sherring, Kerr (Buse 90), Cameron, Andrews; Nemane, Hall, Randell, Whitfield; Lemonheigh-Evans (Waters 76); Wright (Umerah 50); subs not used – Covolan, Warren.
Booked: MacDonald 76.
Wrexham (4-4-2): Dibble; Horsfield, Kelleher, Vassell, Reckord; Rutherford, Young, Harris, Durrell; Bickerstaffe (Jeffrey 55), Thomas (Yussuf 40); subs not used – Hall-Johnson, Jarvis, Davies.
Booked: Horsfield 10.
Referee: Scott Simpson (Staffs).