TUFC 2 – 0 Dover Ath
The old cliche tells us “The game isn’t played on paper”. Never was this more true than at the Launa Windows Stadium this afternoon where what appeared to be a routine win for an in form, promotion chasing Torquay United side was, in actual fact, a fortunate victory over a resolute Dover Athletic.
With the last five games producing five wins and four straight clean sheets within a sequence of form that has seen The Gulls go nine games without a loss, topped off most recently with a victory over promotion rivals via a last minute wonder strike, the confidence of the Plainmoor faithful was obvious to see in the pre game build up. Dover’s recent run of results could not be more different, and victory over them was not anticipated but expected.
Gulls manager Chris Hargreaves had predictably kept his faith with with the line up that had built up this momentous run of form, with no changes being made to the side that beat Woking on Tuesday while Dover manager Chris Kinnear gave a league debut to Goalkeeper Andrew Raffterty.
Torquay were largely on the back foot in the opening exchanges, Chris Hargreaves trusted 4-4-2 formation was bring nullified effectively by Dover’s 5-3-2 set up. Chris Kinnears tactical decisions looked to have paid off, with The Gulls being outnumbered in midfield and attack and struggling to create anything in the final third.
As a result the best chances were falling to Dover. The opening 20 minutes saw Gulls defenders Dale Tonge and Angus Macdonald denying dangerous Dover counter attacks with last grasp defending, while Whites forward Ricky Miller sent a header from a free kick narrowly wide of Martin Rice’s far post.
On 25 minutes Torquay had their first real spell of pressure. Good link up play down the left wing by Tom Cruise and Toby Ajala released Ryan Bowman whose low shot was put behind for the first of a flurry of Torquay corners. Chris Hargreaves young side seemed buoyed by the increase in volume around the Launa Windows Stadium and moments later Gulls captain Luke Young hit a vicious left footed strike against the inside of Dovers post from 25 yards.
This action was followed 6 minutes later by Dover left wing back Tyrone Sterling who fired his low strike straight at Martin Rice when clear through on goal after an overlap. A key chance that Dover would be made to rue almost immediately. Torquay broke down their left flank once again after good play between Cruise and Jordan Chappel saw Torquay win another corner. Luke Young delivered to Aaron Downes whose low header squirmed its way under the debutant Keeper Rafferty.
Conceding did little to dampen Dover’s spirits, but despite this Torquay kept up the pressure in the dying minutes of the half as Angus Macdonald had a header from a free kick well saved and Courtney Richards had a shot from outside the box clumsily tipped over the bar.
The second half saw Dover emerge from the dressing room reinvigorated, with popular attacking midfielder Christian Nanetti bought on in place of striker Jake Reid. The Whites pressed desperately for an equaliser, dominating both possession and territory in the first 25 minutes of the second half as Nanetti’s pace and skill caused Torquay problems. They could have equalised on the hour when an unmarked Matt Lock headed straight at Rice from a free kick and should have equalised on 68 minutes when a deflected shot fell to a open Ricky Miller who scuffed his shot wide of the far post.
Chris Hargreaves decision to introduce Courtney Cameron in place of Jordan Chapell on 69 minutes saw Torquay improve, and moments later Ryan Bowman really should have won the game, when he received Courtney Richards lovely through ball with only the keeper to beat, but fired his initial shot straight at the on rushing keeper before following up with a rebound from a tight angle that hit the outside of the post.
This spell of pressure was not to last however, as Dover’s Ricky Miller missed a splendid opportunity to equalise with 10 minutes to go after Martin Rice’s questionable decision to come off his goal line to collect a long ball saw Miller round the stranded ‘Keeper only to miss the target with an empty goal at his mercy.
Spurning the opportunity seemed to take the wind out of Dovers sails and The Gulls duly responded with a good spell of possession and territory.
The winner finally came in the games dying moments after a short corner found its way to Courtney Cameron whose low cross from the by line deflected in off the unfortunate Dover centre back Tom Bonner.
TUFC: Rice, Tonge, Cruise, Downes, MacDonald, Ajala (Wakefield 80), Young (Capt), Richards, Chapell (Cameron 68), Ofori-Acheampong, Bowman
Subs Not Used: Seabright, Pearce, Yeoman
Dover: Rafferty, Orlu, Lock (Saunders 70), Sterling, Bonner, Essam, Kinnear (Payne 86), Deverdics, Miller, Stone, Reid (Nanetti 46)
Subs Not Used: Raggett, Elder
Bookings: Orlu, Bonner, Lock
Referee: Paul Rees
(Match Report Written By Tom Goble)