United scrapped and fought and came away from the Merseyrail Community Stadium with a vital three points to take them out of the relegation places in the National League.
Goals from Luke Young and a first Torquay United goal for Ruairi Keating - a 90th minute winner, earned the Gulls all three points. Southport equalized in the 47th minute with a fantastic goal only for Ruairi Keating to strike.
Torquay United player-manager Kevin Nicholson made two changes to the side that lost against Guiseley at home seven days ago. Defender Giancarlo Gallifuoco and Jamie Reid made way for Jared Hodgkiss and Shaun Harrad respectively. United started the match in a 4-3-3 formation.
The match was always going to reflect the circumstances. Both sides are fighting to stay in the National League and found it difficult not to send the ball long when shorter passes were possibly the better options.
Both teams showed some nerves in the opening minutes. A few runs by Shaun Harrad and Brett Williams showed some intent by the Gulls, but conceding territory through simple mistakes were giving Southport encouragement.
Southport game revolved around long balls and pressure inside the box, and United stood up to the challenge without totally convincing over the full 90 minutes.
United’s first chance fell to Aman Verma. Fresh from his cracking strike against Guiseley he fancied doing it again and he came very close to doing that in the 13th minute. His first shot hit Williams but his second attempt went just wide of the post.
The stand-in skipper was involved in a further incident that meant some medical attention. United went down to ten men temporarily when Verma had to have a bandaged applied to his head.
United took the lead in the 36th minute thanks to a moment of quality, something that was largely absent from the game. Dan Sparkes provided a low cross that found Luke Young at around about the penalty spot to dispatch the ball into the net.
Southport soon equalized after the break when Jim Stevenson rattled a shot into the net. There wasn’t much Brendan Moore could do about it. Despite standing up to a lot of pressure inside their box, United found themselves back on level terms with their opponents.
United had Brendan Moore to thank in the 50th minute when he saved from Andrai Jones. Moore had more to do later in the half. He pulled off at least three top-class saves and deserves a mention for keeping United in the match.
Brett Williams will be wondering how he didn’t get a goal today. A chance fell in the 52nd minute which he put wide and then a fantastic save by Southport ‘keeper King kept out an almost certain goal in the 55th minute.
The ball was going from one penalty box to the other. A little more composure here and there and the score would have been very different.
The introduction of Jamie Reid saw a turning point in the game. United took advantage of some tired legs and Reid stretched Southport’s back four to relive some of the pressure that they had built up.
Keating came on for Williams in the 81st minute and he could have scored before his 90th minute winner. Jamie Reid, once again got behind Southport’s defence and beat outrushing ‘keeper King. His ball to Keating inside the box found Keating, but a defender jumped with him and managed to ruin a great chance.
Then came the winner. United broke on their opponents who were caught short at the back as they pushed men forward searching for a winner.
Dan Sparkes once again came up with an assist. He pass found Keating who squeezed the ball underneath King to send the travelling Yellow Army into raptures.
What a moment for Keating, who had struggled to make the squad after feeling unwell late in the week. It’s a moment he’ll never forget and something that player-manager Kevin Nicholson will hope can arrest the series of results that dropped United into the relegation places.
The three points takes united out of the bottom four and into 20th place in the National League. Results largely went United’s way but the fight continues on Tuesday night when we welcome Tranmere Rovers to Plainmoor.
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