Torquay United 3 Eastleigh 1
- Credit: Dave Crawford/PPAUK
Playing with a tempo and flair which belied the pressure of fixtures of this draining season, Torquay United swept Play-Off chasing Eastleigh aside with another excellent performance that keeps Gary Johnson's Gulls on top of the National League with five games to go.
Goals by Billy Waters early on and skipper Asa Hall with his 12th of the season just after half-time gave United a 2-0 lead, before a scrambled effort by Tyrone Barnett hauled the Spitfires back into the game on the hour.
But a peach of a 22-yard free-kick by Jake Andrews in the 75th minute confirmed Torquay's superiority in what had looked like a potentially difficult match against in-form opponents.
The result continued United's exceptional run - it was their seventh win in eight games, and they have now lost only one in eleven.
Johnson had to make one change - Gary Warren in at centre- back for the injured Joe Lewis - although Armani Little and Benji Kimpioka returned from injury and Josh Umerah from suspension on the bench.
United were on the front foot from the first whistle, Connor Lemonheigh-Evans firing not far off target from Andrews' cross in the third minute.
Eastleigh were forced to make an early change - Alex Wynter, Ben's brother, on for Joe Partington at right-back.
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And in the sixth minute the Gulls took the lead with a spectacular goal.
Scott Boden flicked the ball on in midfield for Waters down the right, and he cut back on his supposed weaker left foot and hit a 16-yard shot into the top left-hand corner…1-0.
Joe McDonnell in the Eastleigh goal had no chance.
Tyrone Barnett had a shot on the turn easily held by Lucas Covolan, and the Spitfires' centre-forward later had a set-piece header which Covolan dived to tip away.
But apart from those couple of efforts, it was virtually one-way traffic for United.
Moving the ball quickly and with confidence, especially the 'switch' from Andrews on the left to Adam Randell on the right, Torquay swept forward.
Moxey, Hall and Lemonheigh-Evans were all off-target, but not by much, Waters forced a last-ditch save from McDonnell and, just before half-time, Andrews had a drive blocked in a crowded goalmouth.
Warren picked up a needless booking when he ran 40 yards to protest that a free-kick had not been given for a challenge on Hall, leaving him with a long way to go under pressure for another mistake.
United's Wynter fired a foot wide with a low 25-yarder as referee Alan Dale went to blow his whistle for the interval.
One goal up was never going to be enough, but when Hall made a trademark run to the near post to head home Andrews' corner in the 48th minute, it looked as if a 2-0 lead might do the trick.
Not so quick - eleven minutes later, after Waters had twice nearly scored again, Eastleigh pulled one back.
Barnett poked the ball home, almost on his backside, after United had failed to clear a cross from their left…2-1.
For five minutes or so the visitors had hope of a comeback - Warren did well to block a goalbound drive by Cavaghn Miley.
But in the 75th minute, after a foul on Lemonheigh-Evans, Andrews took charge of a free-kick on the edge of the 'D' and curled a purler of a shot round the 'wall' and into the bottom left-hand corner…3-1.
Johnson sent on Little and Kimpioka for Boden and Waters, and both did well in the closing stages.
Miley went close with one deflected effort for the Spitfires, but Andrews was also unlucky not to make it 4-1 from a Kimpioka cross.
It would have been no more than United would have deserved if that one had gone in.
Torquay United (4-4-2): Covolan; Wynter, Sherring, Warren, Moxey; Randell, Lemonheigh-Evans, Hall, Andrews; Waters (Kimpioka 76), Boden (Little 76); subs not used - MacDonald, Buse, Umerah.
Booked: Warren 34, Moxey 67.
Eastleigh: McDonnell; Partington (Wynter 5), Boyce, Bird, Green (Tomlinson 71); Hill (House 71), Miley, Payne, Smart; Barnett, Marriott; subs not used - Bell-Baggie, Smith.
Referee: Alan Dale (Suffolk).