TUFC vs Wealdstone: Gulls draw with late equaliser after promising start

Torbay Weekly

WEALDSTONE 1 TORQUAY UNITED 1

Dominant but wasteful before half-time and below-par in a second half which saw manager Gary Johnson take substitute Klaidi Lolos off only ten minutes after he had sent him on, Torquay United had to settle for a third successive draw against lowly Wealdstone which did little to boost their National League Play-Off hopes.

Behind closed doors at Grosvenor Vale, defender Ben Wynter touched in an 81st minute equaliser from an Armani Little free-kick to spare the Gulls' blushes.

Home sub Jaydn Mundle-Smith had given the Stones the lead ten minutes before.

Before Wynter's goal, United were staring what would have been a numbing defeat in the face.

They had failed to turn almost non-stop pressure into goals in the first half, and then fallen away in the second as Wealdstone realised that Torquay's bark was worse than their bite.

Injuries to Asa Hall and Dan Martin, both sustained in the 0-0 midweek draw against Boreham Wood, prompted recalls for Little in midfield and Chiori Johnson, who played at right-back in another reshuffled defence.

How United weren't ahead by half-time was down to their own failure near goal.

They pressured Wealdstone's attempts to play out from the back, dominated territory and possession and did everything right, except where it counted.

The Stones spent the first 45 minutes chasing the ball as the Gulls put together move after move, without testing home goalkeeper George Wickens nearly as much as they should have done.

Stephen Duke-McKenna, again a livewire on the right wing, curled one early shot into the hands of Wickens after Connor Lemonheigh-Evans had set him up, but the first big chance fell to Lemonheigh-Evans in the 19th minute.

He played a one-two with Duke-McKenna, bore down on goal with Wickens to beat, but seemed in two minds over how to finish and ended up with a weak shot which Wickens kept out.

Four minutes later Little slipped Johnson in on the right, his cross found Danny Wright at the far post, but Wright's header looped across the face of goal and just wide - another opportunity gone.

Tom Lapslie was having another strong game as the midfield 'anchorman' as the traffic continued almost all one-way - Wright had a shot blocked in front of goal from Little's diagonal cross in the 35th minute.

But pressure without goals is a dangerous combination - United's set-pieces were again disappointing - and, sure enough, in the 38th minute Wealdstone nearly punished them.

They failed to cut out a right-wing free-kick by Aaron Henry, the ball hit Ben Wynter at the far-post and Shaun MacDonald, who had been a spectator until that moment, had to pull off a brilliant point-blank save to keep his side on terms.

Wealdstone could hardly continue as passively as they had done before half-time, and they duly restarted in much more positive mood.

Rhys Browne had a shot deflected behind - referee Richardson gave a goal-kick which infuriated the hosts - and Moxey had to come up with a strong, alert header to clear Charles Clayden's left-wing cross.

Johnson had seen enough by the 57th minute, when he withdrew Wright and sent on Klaidi Lolos.

But only ten minutes later Johnson then hauled Lolos off and sent on Keelan O'Connell - Lolos, on the opposite side from the dugouts, walked disconsolately round the pitch and headed straight into the dressing-room.

It meant that, once again, United had no specialist strikers on the pitch.

Worse was to come in the 71st minute, when the Gulls were badly caught out by a pitch-length counter-attack.

Wickens threw the ball out to Browne on halfway, he had time and space to run at the United defence and slipped Mundle-Smith in on the left for an angled shot past MacDonald from ten yards…1-0.

Joe Felix replaced Johnson with 15 minutes to go, but it looked as if United were heading for a damaging defeat until the 81st minute.

Then, they won a free-kick wide on the left, Little curled the free-kick into the goalmouth where Wynter touched the ball past Wickens from close-range…1-1.

It was a huge relief in the circumstances, but moments later United nearly fell behind again.

Browne outpaced the Gulls defence on the counter, and MacDonald had to come up with another top save to deflect the effort behind.

In an end-to-end finale, United thought they had the winner in the 88th minute.

Lemonheigh-Evans drove to the left bye-line, pulled the ball back for Wearne to 'score', but the linesman's flag was up - the ball was just over the line before Lemonheigh-Evans crossed it.

United also claimed a 'handball' penalty deep into stoppage-time, but Mr Richardson waived them away - a frustrating end to an exasperating evening.

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Wealdstone (3-5-2): Wickens; McAvoy, Cook, Tavares; Sesay (Mundle-Wmith 57), Charles, Ferguson (Cooper 77), Henry (Dyer 85), Clayden; Umerah, Browne; subs not used - Okimo, Jackson.

Booked: Ferguson 75.

Torquay United (4-4-1-1): MacDonald; Johnson (Felix 75), Wynter, Lewis, Moxey; Duke-McKenna, Little, Lapslie, Wearne; Lemonheigh-Evans; Wright (Lolos 57/O'Connell 67); subs not used - Halstead (gk), Omar.

Booked: None.

Referee: David Richardson (W Riding).

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