FORMER Torquay United youth player Sam Malsom scored the first goal that the new-look Gulls have conceded and ended their 100 per cent pre-season record in a lively encounter against Tiverton Town at Ladysmead on Tuesday night.
Malsom had no luck when United's original youth scheme was closed in 2004, and he could not earn himself a pro contract with Plymouth Argyle.
The Teignmouth-based forward took himself all over northern Europe, even played in the UEFA Cup and had a season in the Football League with Hereford United a couple of years ago.
But, after spending last season with Weymouth and Dorchester, he is now wearing the amber shirt of newly-ambitious Southern League club Tiverton under manager John Clarkson.
Alan Knill's United were not at full-strength, but they were the better side in the first half, and deserved their 1-0 interval lead, care of a peach of a shot by midfielder Nathan Craig.
New Tivvy winger Dan Smith twice went close in the first half-dozen minutes, and referee Andrew Bennett had to jump on an early spat between Marcus Martin and Lee Mansell, just to underline that it was going to be no stroll.
But United's crisp passing and movement, allied to the quality of Niall Thompson and Billy Bodin on the wings and the workrate of young striker Danny Sullivan, gave them a clear edge.
Thompson's pace was a constant threat, although he did miss a couple of good chances when he was clear with Town's Canadian international goalie Jonathan Vercosi to beat.
The breakthrough came in the 37th minute.
Sullivan, a livewire throughout, laid the ball off to Craig 25 yards out and the Welshman's first-time left-foot shot gave Vercosi no chance on its way into the bottom right-hand corner.
Clarkson made eight changes at half-time and two more later in the second half. Knill restricted himself to three – Ben Harding took over from Mansell in midfield and Jordan Chapell and Courtney Cameron replaced Bodin and Thompson.
Tiverton's new faces visibly lifted them, none more so than Malsom on the left wing, Josh Concanen and Nick Rudge in midfield and former Truro striker Matt Wright at centre-forward.
Wright twice went close before Rudge's jinking run and cross from the right gave the alert Malsom the chance to equalise from six yards out...1-1.
Tivvy nearly won it too, Adam Kelly stretching not quite far enough at the far post to finish off more good work by Malsom on the left.
After previous 'clean sheet' wins over the Royal Marines (4-0), Yeovil (2-0) and Salisbury (1-0), the game may not have told Knill much he did not already know, mainly that a centre-forward is a top priority.
But on this evidence Tiverton should be a real force in the SL Division One (S&W) this season.
Tiverton Town (4-3-3): Vercosi (Hider 46/Law 80); Hopkinson (Gray 46), Villis, Gardner, Long (Reed 46); Krac (Rudge 65), Heveran (Kelly 46), Martin (C. Wright 46); Smith (Concanen (46), Carter (M. Wright 46), Searle (Malsom 46).
Torquay United (4-4-2): C. Thompson; Hutchings, McKenzie, Downes, Cruise; N. Thompson (Cameron 46), Mansell (Harding 46), Craig, Bodin (Chapell 46); Sullivan, Yeoman; subs not used – Tonge, Nicholson, Rice (gk).
A BILLY BODIN penalty in the 55th minute was enough for United to win 1-0 at Salisbury City in last Saturday's friendly.
The 'Ray Mac' Stadium pitch had clearly suffered during the dry spell, and it was another drainingly hot day.
Alan Knill fielded trialists Scott Rendell and Shaun Cooper, as he had done in the 2-0 midweek win over Yeovil Town.
Luton Town striker Rendell had to go off in the 32nd minute with hamstring trouble, and he's now returned to Kenilworth Road.
But there was another impressive 90 minutes for Cooper in central defence, and talks between Knill and the former Portsmouth and AFC Bournemouth player are ongoing.
Salisbury, with new player-assistant manager Warren Feeney watching from the grandstand, had their moments, ex-Exeter winger Elliott Frear hitting the bar.
But United finished the stronger, with Bodin, Elliot Benyon and Ashley Yeoman all going close in the closing stages.
United (4-4-2): Rice; Tonge, Cooper, Downes, Nicholson (Cruise 60); Cameron (N. Thompson 46), Mansell (Lathrope 60), Harding, Chapell (Bodin 46); Rendell (Yeoman 32), Benyon (Sullivan 70).