TORQUAY UNITED 2 CHESTERFIELD 0
(writes Dave Thomas)
Second-half goals by Stephen Duke-McKenna, that one out of the very top drawer, and Armani Little with his 15th of the season from the penalty spot ended the Plainmoor season on a rousing note when they convincingly beat Play-Off chasing Chesterfield.
QPR loanee Duke-McKenna produced a brilliant solo finish to make the breakthrough in the 70th minute – nothing more than he deserved for another sparkling display on his likely Plainmoor farewell.
Little’s clincher eight minutes later threw the Plainmoor crowd into raptures as Gary Johnson’s men continued their impressive run to W13 D7 L4 over the second half of the season.
United were still without the injured Dean Moxey in defence, but Dan Martin was fit to return at left wing-back in place of Chiori Johnson, who dropped to a bench which included Academy graduate striker Olaf Koszela.
A 30-yard drive by Asa Hall, fisted away by Scott Loach, signalled United’s intent early on, and you couldn’t fault the way that the Gulls went about the job.
They couldn’t quite add enough real quality to their approach work, but the one player who looked like he might supply it was Duke-McKenna, and in the 15th minute he slipped an inviting pass through for Danny Wright – his angled shot wasn’t strong enough to worry Loach.
Spireites defender Jeff King also did well to head a Duke-McKenna cross behind for one of a series of corners which United did not make the most of.
Having lost out in a mix-up with Hall, Ali Omar – he had a storming match - did even better to get back and block a dangerous cross by Liam Mandeville.
Joe Lewis and Ex-Gulls loanee Scott Quigley had a no-holds-barred duel, Lewis picking up a cut above his left eye in the process.
Hall cleverly side-footed a Little corner, and again Loach dived to his left to save, with Wright also sending a snapshot over the bar in a packed goalmouth.
Shaun MacDonald in the Torquay goal did not have a serious save to make in the first half as Chesterfield were forced to play on the counter, although Curtis Weston did send one long-range volley wide on the stroke of half-time.
United may have done everything but score in the first half, but they put that right in the second.
After Ben Wynter, having another polished game in defence, got in a crucial challenge to stop Quigley finishing a King Cross, Torquay went even harder for the lead.
Lemonheigh-Evans headed a Duke-McKenna cross over and, after Chiori Johnson replaced Hall, the Gulls did the business.
Wynter sent a 25-yard screamer narrowly wide with Loach beaten, and in the 70th minute came the Breakthrough.
Omar broke up an attack, drove forward, found Wright, he touched a short pass to Duke-McKenna on the right, the ‘Duke’ cut inside past a man onto his left foot and then drilled a perfect 20-yard shot low past Loach and into the bottom left-hand corner…1-0.
Eight minutes later, after Lewis had a shot deflected wide and Chesterfield sub Danny Rowe hit the left hand post with a 35-yard howitzer, United wrapped it up.
Weston was beaten to the ball by Little, pulled his man back, referee Kirk saw it clearly, pointed to the spot and Little then drove the penalty down the middle as Loach dived to his right… 2-0.
It would have been justice if Torquay had grabbed a third, and both Wright and Omar were inches away from doing it against a Chesterfield side they had completely broken.
“It showed that we’re one club on and off the field,” said a smiling Gary Johnson after his Torquay United side had dented Chesterfield’s Play-Off chances and ended the Plainmoor season with a rousing 2-0 win in front of a 3,000-plus crowd (writes Dave Thomas).
The Gulls, who still have to play leaders Stockport County and Southend United away next week, were completing their strong form against many of the top sides in the National League – they have now taken four points off Wrexham, Notts County and Chesterfield and three off Stockport so far.
Johnson, who has inspired a powerful run which has left Torquay just short of the Play-Offs, said: “We had to make sure that we kept our professional pride and our personal pride going – that’s very important to me.
“It’s vital to their football careers, to help them become as good as they can be. Today you could see the effort that the lads put into it.
“I don’t remember Shaun (MacDonald) having a save to make in the first half, and then we scored two great goals in the second – young Stephen Duke-McKenna’s was special and Armani (Little) has stuck his penalty away really well after a great build up.
“Defensively we were sound, and we won the battle in midfield. But we’ve still got two more games, and we want to perform in both of those and see where we end up.”
Torquay United (3-1-4-2): MacDonald; Wynter, Lewis, Omar; Hall (Johnson 57); Duke-McKenna, Lapslie (Felix 82), Little, Martin; Wright (Koszela 90+1), Lemonheigh-Evans; subs not used – Halstead, O’Connell.
Chesterfield (3-5-2): Loach; Williams, Gunning, Grimes; King, Weston (Khan 82), Oyeleke (Kellerman 46), Mandeville, Whittle; Asa ta, Quigley; subs not used – Maguire, Denton.
Booked: King 37, Rowe 72.
Referee: Thomas Kirk (Manchester).
Attendance: 3,075 (894 Spireites fans).
Torbay Weekly Newsletter
Join the newsletter to receive the latest updates in your inbox.