Dover Delight: Sparkes Strike Seals Gulls Win
Torquay United returned to winning ways on Saturday afternoon with a 2 – 1 victory over Dover Athletic. Dan Sparkes scored the winner for United a minute after Dover Athletic had got their equaliser in the 75th minute. Jamie Reid had given the Gulls the lead just after the break. writes SSD’s Matt Green.
Manager Kevin Nicholson made three changes from the starting eleven that took to the field against North Ferriby United. Damon Lathrope (injured), Sam Chaney (injured) and Brett Williams (rested) were replaced by West Brom loanee Joe Ward, Courtney Richards, returning from injury, and Jamie Reid respectively.
After some early pressure from the visitors in the opening minutes, which resulted in a quick flurry of corners and a penalty appeal, the Gulls found their feet and started to make some chances of their own. First, Reid saw a header go just wide before both Reid and Nathan Blissett had a couple of efforts from inside the box after Barrow failed to clear their lines. Ward was at the heart of most of Torquay’s chances within the opening 20 minutes. The West Brom man also picked up an early booking in the second minute before creating a chance for himself on 11 minutes, trying his luck from distance. Minutes later, his delightful through ball saw Blissett try and lob the advancing ‘keeper from just inside the area but the United forward also managed to clear the bar. Ward then produced a diagonal cross to Blissett who managed to control and then cross the ball low but unfortunately the ball was just behind Richards, who had made his way into the six yard box. The game then opened up for both sides, with possibly the best chance falling to Dover, when Aswad Thomas saw his header from inside the six-yard box go narrowly over after Brendan Moore in the United goal, had misjudged the deep cross; luckily for Torquay, the referee’s assistant had flagged for offside. Aman Verma, Reid and then Sparkes all had efforts from just inside the area as Dover failed to clear but none of the united trio could get that decisive strike to test Steve Arnold. Winger Ricky Modeste then shot from a tight angle in the 34th minute for the away side. Two minutes before the break, a driving run by Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, starting from inside his own area, saw the Torquay left-back shoot over from inside the box.
The second half was only a minute old when Reid put the home side one up. The United man turned well from just inside the six-yard box, before firing low and across goal to find the bottom corner of Dover’s net, Ward again the provider from the right. The home side continued to create chances in the opening quarter of the second half with Rowe-Turner producing a great cross from the left for Reid but the ball was just too high for the forward. Sparkes and Richards then failed to convert good opportunities while, at the other end, Moses Emmanuel almost punished some poor defending by Verma. United continued to press and Ward produced an impressive diagonal cross which found the head of Sparkes, only for a fine save by Arnold to deny the United midfielder.With Torquay failing to take their chances to put the game to bed, there was always a chance Dover could get their equaliser – and they did, Dover sub Ricky Millar producing a fine free-kick that beat Moore in the 75th minute. The decision to award the set-piece in the first place was a questionable one with most in the crowd judging that Luke Young had won the ball fairly on the edge of the area. Straight from the kick-off, Nicholson’s men went forward and got themselves back in front. Blissett flicked the ball onto Sparkes who managed to beat the last man before sliding the ball under the ‘keeper and into the empty net. Millar once more nearly got the scores level but he shot wide before Ward almost finished off a great first start for United with a fabulous volley. With the 90 minutes up, Dover piled the pressure on, Millar and former Torquay forward Tyrone Marsh both going close, the latter hitting the inside of the post before the ball rolled safely across the six-yard box.
Torquay will have to recover their energy quickly for Monday’s fixture away to Braintree before returning to Plainmoor for the visit of Lincoln City next Saturday.
TUFC: Moore, Verma, Gallifuoco, McGinty, Rowe-Turner, Ward, Richards (capt), Young, Sparkes, Reid (Williams 70), Blissett.
Subs Not Used: Robba, Chamberlain, Scrivens.
TUFC Bookings: Ward (02), Rowe-Turner(22).
Dover: Arnold, Grimes (capt), Parkinson, Orlu, Modeste, Magi (Millar 71), Kinnear (Moore 61), Stevenson, Thomas, Emmanuel (Marsh 58), Lafayette.
Subs Not Used: Pinnock, Sterling.
Dover Bookings: Thomas (23), Modeste (53).
Attendance: 1,793 (116 away).
Referee: Mr A. Quelch
MOTM: Reid (TUFC)