Blissett Strike Moves United Clear of Relegation Zone
Vanarama National League:
Torquay United 1 – 0 Southport
Torquay United moved out of the relegation places in the National League with a one-nil win over Southport on Saturday afternoon at the Launa Windows Stadium. It’s fair to say that the game was not a classic but a win is a win and at this stage of the season the points are vital if United are to continue with their fight for survival writes SSD’s Matt Green.
Kevin Nicholson made two changes from Tuesday night’s starting 11 with Toby Ajala coming in for Josh Rees and target man Nathan Blissett returning following his recent injury, Andre Wright replaced.
And the pair were involved in the only goal of the game as Ajala, with only ten minutes remaining, picked the ball up midway inside the Southport half and drove towards the box before passing to Dan Butler on the left flank. Butler’s low cross somehow found its way to Blissett who guided the ball into the empty net with the side of his right foot. Blissett’s goal was his fifth in seven starts for Torquay and United’s first strike in three fixtures following a spell of nil-nils.
The opening 45 minutes had offered little quality from either side and underlined both teams’ status at the bottom end of the National League, although you’d have to say that the visitors had the better of the chances to open the scoring.
Indeed we had to wait until the 11th minute for the first opportunity, with Mark O’Brien heading over following a corner by Adam Blakeman; this was after a Gary Jones free kick had been deflected out for a corner by the United wall. Then two minutes later, Southport’s Louis Almond had a left-footed strike from the edge of the area deflected off the head of Nathan Smith for another corner as the visitors pressed for the opening goal. Mike Phenix had a half chance on 32 minutes, again for the visitors, as he cut inside from the left and shot straight at Brendan Moore in the United goal. The home fans had to wait until the final minute of the half before Torquay created any real opportunity and it was only a half chance at that, Courtney Richards latching onto a deflected Blissett strike and side-footing his follow up wide from close range.
Following an unconvincing first half, Nicholson made a change at half time with Iffy Allen coming on for Aman Verma. Jon Viscosi in the Southport goal then gave his team-mates a worrying moment when, in the 52nd minute, he came running out to clear his lines and missed the ball completely before it was hooked away for a throw before United’s Shaun Harrad could get on to the ‘keeper’s error. Torquay then changed their personnel upfront with Andre Wright coming on for Harrad in the 56th minute to partner Blissett in attack. Louis Almond tried his luck from 30 yards with a high-foot shot that went high and wide in the 62nd minute for Southport. Butler, a minute later, thought he’d then have a go from a very ambitious distance, following a Danny Racchi free kick but again the attempt cleared the bar by a large margin at the Babbacombe end. The visitors then had a great attempt to take the lead as Almond latched on to a fine through ball in the 67th minute, only to be denied by a fine low save by Moore in the United goal before the ball was finally cleared by Angus MacDonald. The United skipper was then in the action again when he was floored by a Gary Jones drive from 25 yards; the shot was on target but the Gulls centre-back put his body on the line once again. Just moments before United’s winner from Blissett, the Sandgrounders had another great opportunity to take the lead after MacDonald had given a free kick away wide out on the right. Adam Blakeman delivered an excellent ball in from the free kick which Josh Thompson should have scored from but his effort went wide and Torquay took full advantages with their next attack. With the clock running down, and five minutes of stoppage time to be added, the visitors pressed for what would have been a deserved equaliser, Steven Hewitt, Craig Westcarr and Phenix all going close before the final whistle.
The result now extends Torquay’s unbeaten run to eight games and they now have a seven day gap before their next fixture, away at Dover Athletic on Saturday 3pm, before entertaining Eastleigh back at the Launa Windows Stadium on Easter Monday 3pm.
TUFC: Moore, Berry, MacDonald (Capt), Smith, Butler, Ajala, Racchi (Rees 82), Richards, Verma (Allen 45), Harrad (Wright 56), Blissett.
Subs Not Used: Fisher, Rees, Chaney.
TUFC Bookings: MacDonald.
Attendance: 1,783 (33 Away).
Referee: Mr R Whiten.