Torquay United occupy the final League Two play-off place
tonight after a Danny Stevens strike proved enough to seal three points against
Morecambe at Plainmoor.
The 25-year-old's first-half strike was an example of accomplished
finishing on an afternoon littered with wayward strikes, and Stevens' first
goal of the league campaign also secured United back-to-back wins for the first
time since March.
Manager Martin Ling had challenged his players to leave the
inconsistency in the changing room and build on Tuesday night's spirited
victory over league leaders Gillingham, and with Morecambe missing key frontmen
Kevin Ellison and Richard Brodie because of suspension, the Gulls knew that
this was an opportunity to prove they can string wins together.
In a game which took had a tempo as low as the temperature,
Torquay only managed to test Morecambe stopper Barry Roche five times out of 17
attempts, with top scorer Rene Howe displaying an uncharacteristic profligacy in
front of goal.
On 13 minutes captain Lee Mansell failed to capitalise on a glorious
chance created from a Kevin Nicholson corner, miscuing his left-footed shot
from eight yards out and failing to make positive contact with the ball.
The next chance 10 minutes later fell to Stevens, who was
first to the ball after a Mansell free kick from 25 yards had been charged down
by a Shrimps player, but his attempt from just inside the penalty box was
thrashed over Roche's goal at the Babbacombe end.
But just before the half-hour mark, Stevens, who was roaming
between the left wing and a more central role, managed to atone for his earlier
miss after latching onto a threaded Billy Bodin pass into the left channel and
darting deep into the Morecambe box before slotting a left-footed strike across
Roche and into the bottom right corner...1-0.
Bodin was proving to be a thorn in the Shrimps' side, with
his probing runs inside from the right wing causing a headache among the away
side's back four.
Jim Bentley's depleted squad did threaten on occasion, with
Lewis Alessandra looking the most likely to beat Michael Poke in the United goal.
The 23-year-old, in for the missing frontmen, stung the fingers of Poke 39
minutes in after being allowed to go on a mazy run to the edge of the Torquay
box and getting a left-footed shot in.
Alessandra went close again two minutes later with another
left-footed drive from a similar area, but the effort went inches wide of the
Immediately after this Morecambe attack, the Gulls broke and
Bodin beat two defenders to go deep inside the Shrimps' box, but he tried to
take on a third and stood on the ball instead of testing the goalkeeper.
In the second half Morecambe were beginning to string more
passes together but rarely caused Poke problems, with Aaron Downes and Brian
Saah comfortably handling the attackers.
Torquay's best chance fell to Bodin on 70 minutes when Howe
won the ball on the half-way line, raced forward and sent Bodin clear on the
right, but the summer signing was unable to finish with that jinxed right boot
from inside the penalty area, his shot spooning harmlessly over the bar.
Bodin, who showed promise with some good passes and tricky
runs, was replaced by Niall Thompson shortly after his skied effort, and the
youth team product upped the pace down the right flank.
Howe, who wasted a couple of chances from just outside the
box, made way for Ryan Jarvis seven minutes from time – perhaps Ling knew the
top scorer was simply having an off day.
Despite the introduction of Thompson and Ryan Jarvis, the
Gulls were unable to double their lead.
The second-half's most interesting highlight came in the
dying minutes when the Morecambe stopper came up and managed to meet two
successive corners with his head after trying to salvage a point from the game,
but his foray into the Torquay box proved fruitless.
The Gulls managed to hold on and secure the
three points in a game which proved to be all about the points, rather than the