Torquay United fights hard for Bromley draw

Torbay Weekly

It was another draw - a fourth on the trot for the Gulls - but it was definitely one gained for Torquay United after they battled to keep Play-Off chasing Bromley at bay with only ten men at Plainmoor.

The 38th minute sending-off of centre-back Joe Lewis, for a 'professional' shirt-tug on Bromley striker Gary Alexander, left Gary Johnson's United with a huge task ahead of them, and into a strong wind in the second half.

But so hard did those ten men work, and with such discipline, that Bromley could not break them down in a display which the Plainmoor faithful latched onto with more wholehearted support.

Ben Wynter, Dean Moxey and goalkeeper Shaun MacDonald were all outstanding in defence, but everyone did their bit in a gutsy rear-guard action.

United's players carried a Ukrainian flag onto the pitch, and the kick-off was preceded by a minute's applause for those suffering in eastern Europe.

Injured trio Asa Hall, Dan Martin and Dan Holman were close to fitness, but not close enough, so Johnson named the same side that drew 1-1 at Wealdstone seven days before.

But Bromley boss Andy Woodman, who was without first-choice goalie Mark Cousins, brought in Ellery Balcombe and made a couple of changes, holding back men like Chris Bush, Luke Coulson, Joe Partington, James Alabi and Liam Trotter on what must have been the most experienced bench in the division.

Bromley made their intent obvious by forcing five corners in the first 12 minutes, sending big defenders Byron Webster and Omar Sowunmi up for those set-pieces, and long throws by Jack Cawley, at every opportunity.

But the Gulls withstood that early pressure and then took over for a spell.

Danny Wright was inches away from touching in a cross by Stephen Wearne, after he cut in from the left, and Connor Lemonheigh-Evans hit the side-netting with a stooping head from Armani Little's left-wing corner.

Little overhit a free-kick in the 19th minute and immediately went down, needing treatment for what looked like a hip injury.

But he continued, handing free-kick duties to Dean Moxey, and in the 22nd minute, from a half-cleared Moxey free-kick, Wearne chipped the back into the goalmouth where Lemonheigh-Evans' eight-yard header was destined for the roof of the net before Balcombe tipped it over.

Sowunmi had to come up with a terrific block to stop Wynter scoring with a firm shot from 12 yards and Tom Lapslie headed wide, when he should have hit the target on Wynter's cross, as United kept up the pressure.

Wright, Wynter and Little all overhit passes which would have put teammates through on goal and, after some great work to clear outside his area by Shaun MacDonald, the game took a major turn in the 38th minute.

The wind stopped Lewis beating Gary Alexander in the air, and the Bromley striker was then strong enough to turn the Gulls' defender, who pulled his man back as he headed towards goal.

It was little surprise when referee Paul Marsden pulled out his red card, and then a yellow for Lemonheigh-Evans, presumably for dissent.

United responded well to that setback, Lemonheigh-Evans working room for a shot just off target and the same player missing on an angle after Balcombe had parried a Moxey free-kick.

Wynter came up with a perfectly time cover tackle early in the second half, and Woodman waited only until the 59th minute before making a double substitution - Alabi on up front and Trotter in midfield.

But United, with Ali Omar on for the limping Little in a 4-4-1 formation, worked so hard and with such commitment that Bromley could not create a single clear chance until one fell for the Gulls in the 71st minute.

Hustling by Duke-McKenna and Wright forced a mistake in the visitors' defence, Wearne was onto the loose ball, took aim and curled a 16-yard shot just over the left angle of post and bar.

MacDonald finally had to make a save, at close range as Alabi tried to hook the ball over his shoulder almost on the goal line, and he went on to complete another fine afternoon in goal with one important catch under pressure from Cheek and, in stoppage-time, a match-saving parry from Bromley sub Luke Coulson.

The Plainmoor crowd urged United to go for something more than a point in the closing stages - that would have been something to behold in the circumstances, and a draw was a deserved reward for a manful effort.

Torquay United manager Gary Johnson hailed the spirit and commitment of his side after ten men battled from the 38th minute to earn a 0-0 draw against Bromley, and he also questioned the decision to send off Joe Lewis.

Referee Paul Marsden dismissed Lewis for pulling back Bromley striker Gary Alexander, and Johnson did not challenge that foul, but he said: "We believe that Dean Moxey was getting back to cover, although we will look at the replays again."

It was a straight red card for Lewis, and an automatic three-match suspension, as United - they have lost only twice in 14 games - try to gatecrash the Play-Offs after the frustration of four successive draws.

"In the circumstances, it was a good point and a point gained," said Johnson.

"I've just told the lads they did our club proud, against a big, strong 'land of the giants' team like Bromley.

"We had to compete, and we did.  Bromley do score late goals sometimes, but we held out right to the end.

"It was a long time for the lads to play with ten men, but they did show great endurance and, although Shaun MacDonald wasn't overworked, what he did do he did very well.

"Unfortunately, we've drawn four on the trot now, but we haven't lost again, we were strong-willed and what you have seen is that nobody has given up, not me or the players."

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Torquay United (4-4-1-1): MacDonald; Johnson, Wynter, Lewis, Moxey; Duke-McKenna, Little (Omar 47), Lapslie, Wearne; Lemonheigh-Evans; Wright (Felix 84); subs not used - Halstead (gk), O'Connell, Lolos.

Sent Off: Lewis 38. Booked: Lemonheigh-Evans 39, Johnson 51, Duke-McKenna 84, Felix 90+2..

Bromley (3-5-2): Balcombe; Sowunmi, Webster, Cawley; Parsons, Arthurs (Trotter 59), Wagstaff, Bingham, Whitely (Coulson 79); Alexander (Alabi 59), Cheek; subs not used - Partington, Bush.

Booked: Cheek 43, Coulson 82.

Referee: Paul Marsden (Gtr Manchester).

Attendance: 2,350 (141 Bromley fans).

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