A League 2 blog with an overwhelmingly pro-Torquay United bias
Unfortunately the lure of a Gulls match so close to home meant that I headed to Roots Hall today rather than taking part in the brilliantly-conceived Non League Day, although I did manage to drag my football-sceptic flatmate along with me, which resulted in an additional £18 in the coffers of a club in dire financial straits.
It turns out that I wasn’t the only one able to give Southend a helping hand today, as Torquay dropped their first league points of the season. This was the Gulls’ third away match in a row and it looked as if the miles had dulled their edge as they struggled to impose themselves on the game. The 3 points were far from gifted to the Shrimpers however – they overran Torquay for much of the contest and were deserved winners; their hastily-assembled side appears to be gelling nicely under Paul Sturrock and on this form can be certain of challenging for a quick return to League 1.
Torquay were quick out of the blocks and carved out a few early chances, with Chris Zebroski finding space on the edge of the box (as he did when winning a penalty at Port Vale last week), but it was Southend who opened the scoring from a corner after 15 minutes: Anthony Grant striking the ball across Scott Bevan and into the top corner. The home side were on top for most of what followed, with the Gulls outpassed and kept on the back foot for long periods by an energetic and fluid Southend. Agonisingly the hosts nabbed a second shortly before the interval, just as Torquay had begun to reassert themselves: Josh Simpson capitalising on a lost ball in midfield to convert his first goal for the club. This followed what had been a promising spell for the Gulls in which Wayne Carlisle shot narrowly past the post and a well-struck Mark Ellis effort had clipped the corner of the bar.
|A rare first half attack for the Gulls|
To his credit, Paul Buckle used half time to change things around, withdrawing Danny Stevens and sending on Martin Gritton to provide a more physical presence up front, with Zebroski dropping into midfield. The change gave the Gulls a more robust shape, and while still second best they were able to make more profitable use of the ball. It was Zebroski who eventually breached the Shrimpers’ defence from close range with 12 minutes left, tapping in a Gritton shot that had rebounded off the post. This galvanised the Gulls as they surged forward in search of the equaliser. Lamentably, none was forthcoming despite Torquay creating some decent chances: Nicky Wroe directed a cross the wrong side of the post and Southend keeper Glenn Morris dived well to keep out a powerful header.
While the match finished with a first league defeat for Torquay, the purpose with which they pressed for an equaliser showed a spirit that will stand them in good stead as they look to build on their impressive start to the season. Despite conceding twice, the Gulls’ defence was again impressive; Mark Ellis justifying the interest shown in him with a solid performance alongside the indomitable Guy Branston.
Torquay’s next match is at home to Accrington on Saturday.