Southport 0 Torquay United 2
- Credit: Steve Bond/Pinnacle
Goals by strikers Josh Umerah early in the first half and Billy Waters in second-half stoppage-time carried Torquay United into the Quarter-Finals of the FA Trophy against NL North Southport at Haigh Avenue.
But the avoidance of another potential ‘banana skin’ for Gary Johnson’s Gulls came at a price, for centre-forward Umerah limped off only 18 minutes after he fired his fourth goal of the season.
Umerah joins leading scorer Danny Wright on the injured list and leaves United with only Waters and 19-year-old Crystal Palace loanee Rob Street as recognised strikers.
They made hard work of dispatching a game Southport side, especially during scare-ridden spells just before and after half-time.
But Waters’ late clincher made certain of Torquay’s place in the last-eight, along with Notts County, Woking, Hereford, Darlington, Hornchurch, Oxford City and the winners of the postponed tie between Aldershot and Chesterfield.
It took two pitch inspections before Haig Avenue was passed ‘fit’, although only one area in one corner was a problem, and Johnson rotated his squad.
He recalled Umerah, Waters and Jake Andrews as well as giving a first start to Hull City loanee Max Sheaf in midfield. Asa Hall, Connor Lemonheigh-Evans and Sam Sherring all dropped to the bench.
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Just as they had done in their 2-0 league win at Barnet seven days before, United started fast, Ben Whitfield going close from the edge of the penalty area before they took the lead in the eighth minute.
Umerah started the move, Whitfield and Adam Randell carried it on down the right before Randell cleverly ‘nutmegged’ a defender and crossed low for Umerah to shoot home first time from ten yards…1-0.
The loss of Umerah was an untimely blow, as he sought to bolster his confidence after a lean spell, and even with Street on, United failed to follow up their breakthrough. At their best, they were clearly superior, but too many passes went astray and Southport sensed that they were in with a chance.
The Gulls were lucky not to concede an equaliser before half-time, when Port left-winger Niall Watson caused real problems.
Watson and right-winger Connor Woods threatened again as Southport gave it everything they had at the start of a second half which saw Connor Lemonheigh-Evans replace Armani Little in Torquay’s midfield.
United’s defence lacked conviction and communication at times, referee Adam Herzog waving away Southport appeals for a penalty when Watson went down as he dashed goal-side of Randell in the 56th minute.
Waters missed a clear chance, set up by Street, when his touch allowed Tony MacMillan out to make a save on the hour, and again with 20 minutes to go.
But United did look more assured at the back towards the end of the game, Kyle Cameron coming up with an outstanding last-ditch tackle and clearance from Jordan Archer.
And, with Southport forced to leave more gaps as they tried to save themselves, those spaces started to open up for the Gulls to counter.
They did not make the most of them until the 92nd minute. Then, Lemonheigh-Evans took Cameron’s clearance, ran 30 yards down the middle of the pitch, slipped Whitfield away on the right and Waters swept home his low cross from close range…2-0 and ‘job done’.
Southport: MacMillan; Benjamin, Anson, Ali, Doyle; Woods, Oliver, Bainbridge (Fenlon 80), Vassallo, Watson; Archer; subs not used – Hanford, Perritt, Bolton, Wood.
Booked: Archer 10.
Torquay United (3-4-3): MacDonald; Lewis, Cameron, Moxey (Sherring 67); Randell, Little (Lemonheigh-Evans 46),Sheaf, Andrews; Whitfield, Umerah (Street 26), Waters; subs not used – Collings, Hall.
Booked: Little 42.
Referee: Adam Herzog (Durham).