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Torquay United deserved better after frustrating Fleetwood

By Herald Express  |  Posted: March 13, 2014

FLEET OF FOOT: Enoch Showunmi takes on Fleetwood's Mark Roberts

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PLAINMOOR was filled with understandable gloom after recent home defeats to relegation rivals Northampton Town and Accrington Stanley – Torquay United had deserved little else.

But at least the disappointment after promotion chasers Fleetwood Town won here was all about the result, rather than the performance.

Just as they had done in their recent 1-1 draw against Burton Albion, another club with eyes on the top of the table, United gave as good as they got for most of a tight match.

Set up by manager Chris Hargreaves to give Fleetwood a contest first and foremost, the Gulls did just that.

It was hardly a classic, and that wasn't a surprise – Fleetwood hadn't scored for four games, United are in dire straits and Plainmoor demands piano-shifters rather than players at the moment.

But Fleetwood were drawn into the sort of scrap that suited Torquay, who proceeded to dominate the 'stats' – more possession, more corners, more shots.

But there's only one statistic that really counts.

For all their pressure, United failed to score, and it was Fleetwood who finally produced a moment of quality to win the match in the 74th minute.

Opposing fans may enjoy barracking Town's centre-forward Jon Parkin, and the big targetman is carrying a few extra pounds these days.

But the former Hull, Stoke, Preston and Cardiff player can still deliver when his team needs it most.

Parkin, on as a second-half sub, had already lifted Fleetwood's attack before the ball fell for him, just outside United's area, after a tackle between Steven Schumacher and Joss Labadie.

Parkin slipped an inviting pass between defender Krystian Pearce and Aaron Downes, teammate Jamille Matt 'read' the ball, nipped round Pearce and tucked a ten-yard shot past Martin Rice...1-0.

It was particularly tough on Rice, Pearce and Downes.

Rice, recalled in place of Michael Poke, had made the two best saves of the match, from Matt and Antoni Sarcevic in the second half.

Pearce was outstanding, apart from that Matt moment, and Downes let nothing past him, in the air or on the ground.

Hargreaves, who gave a home debut to new loan centre-forward Enoch Showunmi from Notts County, had picked a team to stay in the match as long as possible.

They did that, and they might have done more with quicker thinking near goal.

They had several goalbound shots blocked, and captain Lee Mansell missed badly when he should have hit the target midway through the second half.

It was a measure of Town manager Graham Alexander's concern that he made the first changes, sending on first Parkin and then switching from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2, a move matched by Hargreaves.

United had two big shouts for penalties – for a 'handball' in the first half and when Nathan Pond appeared to fell Labadie as he was about to shoot in the 83rd minute.

Those sort of decisions just aren't going United's way at the moment, and Pond was a little lucky to escape with only a booking from referee Steve Rushton when he pulled Courtney Cameron back with a neck-high 'grab' in stoppage-time.

United never gave up, and Jayden Stockley and Labadie both went close in the closing stages.

But Town held on for a win that dealt another body blow to the Gulls, especially over a weekend which saw every other team in the bottom half of the table, bar AFC Wimbledon, gain ground on them.

Torquay United (4-3-3): Rice; Tonge, Pearce, Downes, Nicholson; Mansell (Chapell 70), Lathrope, Labadie; Benyon (Stockley 70), Showunmi, Hawley (Cameron 63); subs not used – Poke (gk), Harding, Stevens, O'Connor.

Booked: Mansell (foul 23).

Fleetwood Town (3-5-2): Maxwell; Pond, Goodall (Morris 66), Roberts; McLaughlin, Schumacher, Murdoch (Hughes 66), Sarcevic, Taylor; Matt, Evans (Parkin 52); subs not used – Davies (gk), Blair, Jordan, Mandron.

Booked: McLaughlin (foul 80), Pond (foul 90+1).

Referee: Steve Rushton (Staffs).

Attendance: 2,245 (79 Town fans).

Statistics: Fouls – United 6, Fleetwood 19; Offsides – United 2, Fleetwood 1; Corners – United 5, Fleetwood 1; Shots/Headers On Target – United 6, Fleetwood 3; Off Target – United 10, Fleetwood 3; Hit Woodwork – United 0 Fleetwood 1.

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