Torquay United 1 Altrincham 2
- Credit: Dave Crawford/PPAUK
Torquay United had a rare but real off-night as in-form Altrincham came from behind to beat Gary Johnson’s leaders in a scrappy match at wet and windy Plainmoor.
The Gulls, who started without a recognised striker, blew a big chance to open up a gap which would have stood at 12 points if they had won.
As it stands, Sutton United are back up to second place after their 2-0 win at Stockport County, and the Ambers are once again nine points behind with three games in hand.
United, who never ‘clicked’ into their usual confident mode, still took the lead through a scrambled goal by defender Kyle Cameron in the 22nd minute.
But Altrincham, who didn’t have to play at their best to win, hit back before half-time through a Josh Hancock penalty and a sweet strike from substitute winger Ryan Colclough.
Johnson, who recalled Dean Moxey at left-back after suspension, sprung a bit of a surprise by naming an attack with midfielder Connor Lemonheigh-Evans as a lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation.
The set-up put a premium on quick, accurate passing on the ground, definitely not in the air, but United seldom made it work.
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Alty, who played a very similar style, nearly drew first blood after only eight minutes. United backtracked in the face of Dan Mooney’s run from midfield, after a mistake in possession by Cameron, and he accepted the invitation to hit the bar from 20 yards.
United responded with Reds’ goalie Tony Thompson saving in quick succession from Armani Little and Aaron Nemane before they did break through.
Cameron first got his head to Lemonheigh-Evans’ free-kick from the right wing, the ball rebounded off a visiting defender and Cameron, after having one effort blocked by Thompson, hooked the loose ball over the line as he lay on his back.
A goal and an assist in one go for the Gulls’ centre-back!
But they could not consolidate that lead and Altrincham, who had to send on Colclough for the injured Mooney, hit back.
In the 33rd minute Sam Sherring’s clumsy challenge on Hancock barged him to the ground, and the Reds’ leading scorer slammed in his seventh goal of the season from the spot…1-1.
Joe Lewis did well to block one Colclough drive, but he couldn’t do it again in the last minute of the first half. After good work by Hancock, Colclough whipped a cracking 20-yard drive over and around Shaun MacDonald from the left edge of the area…1-2.
In a typically forthright move, Johnson made a triple substitution, even if it was spread over five minutes, which ended up with young Crystal Palace loanee Rob Street and Billy Waters up front and Jake Andrews in midfield for Hall, Little and Nemane.
Street did have one shot saved and Andrews curled a free-kick disappointingly over the bar when he would normally have gone closer.
In fact, it was MacDonald who made the save of the game with his legs from Matty Kosylo, before Altrincham were reduced to ten men in the 85th minute.
In an incident which left everyone bemused, Cameron and Reds captain Jake Moult were booked, after what looked like a fairly innocuous goalmouth challenge, but Moult had just been cautioned and off he went.
It would be nice to report that United bombarded the Altrincham defence in the last ten minutes of normal and added time, but they couldn’t and didn’t.
Torquay United (4-4-1-1): MacDonald; Lewis, Sherring, Cameron, Moxey; Nemane (Andrews 64), Hall (Waters 60), Randell, Whitfield; Little (Street 62); Lemonheigh-Evans; subs not used – Sheaf, Hamon.
Booked: Lemonheigh-Evans 69, Cameron 85.
Altrincham (4-4-1-1): T Thompson; Senior, Hannigan, Mullarkey, Hampson (White 46); Kosylo, Moult, Smith, Mooney (Colclough 25); Hancock; Harrison (Ceesay 74); subs not used – Miller, Peers.
Sent Off: Moult 85.
Booked: Hampson 21, Moult 80.
Referee: Adrian Quelch (Dorset).