'BRITTLE' is the word for Torquay United at the moment. On a good day, when things are going well and their confidence is up, they can be a handful, as Cheltenham Town discovered to their cost a fortnight ago, but York City's first goal in their 3-0 win at Plainmoor on Saturday hit them like a Henry Cooper hook to the point of the chin.
From that moment on, it was as if United's legs had gone, their head still spinning from the shock of the blow.
The Gulls had been doing OK until then – nothing special, but certainly as good as anything the Minstermen had been able to produce and probably a little better. But that opener by Wes Fletcher changed everything.
United ended up suffering the sort of home defeat that no team should allow twice in the same season, and, when fourth official Richard Hulme held up his board to signal five minutes of stoppage-time, it was greeted by groans from the Plainmoor faithful. They had seen enough and wanted to go home.
Of course, there are mitigating circumstances. Manager Alan Knill is without both his first-choice centre-backs, crucial to any side in League Two, and he also lost Ben Harding before half-time, just when his summer signing was showing clear signs that he is starting to look the part in central midfield.
At that point United had probably edged a goalless but lively and entertaining first half. York did not trouble Martin Rice in that first 45 minutes, while Jordan Chapell, Harding and Karl Hawley twice all went close for United.
Knill had made three changes, recalling Hawley in attack and introducing loan signings Ade Azeez up front and Anthony O'Connor in defence.
Apart from getting beaten by Fletcher for the first goal, O'Connor, from Blackburn Rovers, can look back on his debut with some satisfaction – he was committed, decisive in the air and on the ground, and clear-thinking.
On the occasions when he was turned and running at the York defence, Azeez also looked a threat, while Dale Tonge and Kevin Nicholson went forward willingly from full-back.
There were reasons for Torquay to be optimistic at the start of the second half, and in the 52nd minute York goalkeeper Mike Ingham had to pull off saves in quick succession from Hawley and Billy Bodin.
At that point United looked at least an even-money bet to win the game. But from Ingham's second block from Bodin, the play swung straight to the other end, York forced a throw on their right and, crucially, United let their guard down.
They did not close down midfielder Craig Clay well enough on Luke O'Neill's throw, and Clay found Fletcher just outside the six-yard box.
The former Burnley striker's touch had let him down several times in the first half, but this time it was spot-on. He controlled the ball, turned against O'Connor and volleyed firmly past Rice.
O'Connor headed a Kevin Nicholson corner over and Damon Lathrope, who had replaced Harding, had a 25-yard effort deflected wide, but that Fletcher goal galvanised York and seemed to knock the stuffing out of United.
Worthington sensed that his team had Torquay on the ropes and made two attacking substitutions, Ashley Chambers for winger Ryan Brobbel and Richie Bowman for Fletcher.
In the 66th minute Knill sent on Elliot Benyon for Azeez, only for York to score again seconds later. Carson took the set-piece 22 yards out, went for goal and Rice tipped the ball on to the underside of his bar and into the net for 2-0.
When a lower-division side are chasing a game, the forward balls nearly always get longer, higher and more hopeful, and Benyon and Hawley had little chance against Danny Parslow and David McGurk in the closing stages.
United also offered little threat from midfield or their wings – Courtney Cameron replaced Bodin in the 70th minute – and York rubbed more salt into the wounds three minutes later.
Rice did well to parry McGurk's header from a Carson corner, but Jarvis was there to poke the ball over the line from point-blank range.
It was the former Torquay striker's sixth goal of the season and it was the last thing that United needed in the circumstances.
Hawley fired over under pressure just as those five extra minutes were signalled, but by then everyone except York's celebrating band of followers just wanted it to end.