Howe pen 4, Bodin 67, Mansell 81
THE Gulls got back on the winning trail with a terrific attacking display against Accrington on a chilly autumnal afternoon at Plainmoor.
Rene Howe made it six goals from the last six games with the opener, confidently dispatching a penalty after a handball in the fourth minute. United created and wasted countless chances for the next hour, and Stanley took advantage with an equaliser from Padraig Amond.
Fortunately, Yellow gloom lasted just two minutes, as Billy Bodin popped up to make it 2-1 and a decent day was made almost perfect by a late third from Lee Mansell completing the win.
United boss Martin Ling opted for a slight change in personnel and system after the disappointing 2-1 loss at Wycombe Wanderers last weekend.
A reversion to 4-3-3 yielded a return to starting duty for Danny Stevens at the expense of Ryan Jarvis. Lloyd Macklin also missed out, as the boss recalled fit-again Damon Lathrope to his engine room.
A training ground injury to Niall Thompson allowed Craig Easton, recovered from a hamstring problem, to take the youngster’s place on the bench.
Accrington manager Paul Cook made four changes to the team defeated 3-2 by Rochdale seven days ago. Leading scorer Amond was a surprise omission, along with Aiden Chippendale, Aristote Nsiala and Lee Molyneux. The Stanley replacements were Dean Winnard, Jack Sampson, Michael Liddle and Karl Sheppard.
Sadly for Liddle, the game was just four minutes old when an innocuous cross from Nathan Craig struck his hand in the penalty area, and referee Simon Hooper had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Howe, who else, grabbed the ball and with a slight stutter in his run-up, stroked a confident penalty into the bottom left corner, sending the Accrington ‘keeper Ian Dunbavin sprawling helplessly in the opposite direction.
The visitors were severely on the back-foot and Yellow pressure was cranked up even further by fabulous whipped set-pieces from the delicious left-foot of Craig, the second of which missing the head of Brian Saah by a fraction.
Gradually, Accrington settled back into the task at hand, displaying some impressive fluency in their passing, with one move culminating in a skidding shot by Rommy Boco warming the hands of Michael Poke in the United goal.
The Gulls came back into the ascendancy with an exchange between Bodin and Howe picking out Stevens, who took a touch to come inside on his favoured right peg before lashing a dipping shot inches beyond Dunbavin’s far post.
As the game dipped into a lull, residents of Bristow’s Bench were kept warmly entertained by Cook straining his larynx beyond the limit with yelled instructions to his troops. It was half-tempting to lend him a microphone, or at least supply some Strepsils.
Even the shrills screams of Cook were overshadowed by a beautifully fluid move from United, started by Lathrope pinging the ball wide and ending with a deep cross to Howe nodded back across goal for Stevens, who just failed to reach the pass.
Stevens was again involved on the half-hour, picking up a neat flick from Howe to spread the ball for Craig. The Welshman opted for an instant deft header for his compatriot Bodin to have a crack but the final shot was weak.
Howe and Craig were the two men seemingly involved in all United’s best work, and their latest exchange created space for Lathrope to have a dig from distance with his left foot, forcing Dunbavin into a decent block down to his right.
The first period concluded with an ambitious grass-cutter from Sampson, comfortably held by Poke and the Gulls deservedly supped on a half-time tea with their one-goal lead intact.
To their credit, Accrington emerged full of fire for the start of the second half and a swerving free-kick from Piero Mingoia had Poke diving low to his right in producing a fine save.
A slip by Rob Atkinson instantly had Stanley back on the defensive, however, as Howe raced clear but rather than opting for his usual slide-rule finish, the big striker went for power and Dunbavin was equal to the challenge with an excellent save.
The next chance was even better, as a threaded the ball found Bodin, who was free and clear, but the finish was hit disappointingly straight at the exposed Dunbavin. Two clear openings squandered and the advantage remained worryingly slender.
Stanley always remained in the game and the Gulls were grateful to the solid partnership of Aaron Downes and Saah for keeping the rearguard tight, although the latter was perhaps slightly fortunate that a cumbersome challenge in the box went unpunished.
At the other end, yet another glorious chance created by a fabulous reverse pass from Bodin to Stevens, but Dunbavin somehow got enough on the shot to squirm the ball wide. Next attack, Howe set up Kevin Nicholson for a fizzing 25-yard effort just over the bar.
In football, when you keep spurning clear-cut opportunities, the opposition will inevitably exact painful revenge, and Accrington duly delivered.
Moments after emerging from the bench, Bohan Dixon clipped over a deep cross for Amond, who, perhaps proving a point to his boss, cushioned a terrific header into the far corner, leaving Poke with no chance.
After seeing the effect it can have, Ling immediately turned to his replacements, bringing on Lloyd Macklin for Stevens, but it was actually two of his starters that combined to restore the Yellow lead.
Craig, once again fantastic as the pass-master in United’s midfield, found space on the right to swing over a perfect cross for Bodin, who ignored previous misses to guide a sweet header beyond Dunbavin.
From dancing down the touchline, Cook was back to berating players, and who could blame him. After finally finding parity, despite the concession of numerous chances, going behind again so quickly was a painful blow for the visiting boss.
The excellent Craig was withdrawn for Craig Easton in the closing minutes, as United naturally sought to protect the three points against an increasingly adventurous Accrington approach.
When the Yellows did come forward, the dazzling feet of Bodin picked out the run of Mansell but the skipper was momentarily denied the goal his all-action display warranted by another strong block from Dunbavin.
Thankfully, the captain only had to wait for the subsequent corner before notching his first of the season, steering in a neat header after a deep delivery from Nicholson, and that was surely that.
The one downside was Macklin limping off toward the end but even his individual pain could not mask collective Yellow joy at a vital victory.
There was just enough time for Easton to force another fine block from Dunbavin, while Howe and Mansell failed to add a fourth with shots that sailed high into the Family Stand.
Oh well, we still won.
Gulls (4-3-3): 1 Michael Poke; 2 Joe Oastler, 5 Brian Saah, 4 Aaron Downes, 3 Kevin Nicholson; 7 Lee Mansell (capt), 6 Damon Lathrope, 20 Nathan Craig (18 Craig Easton 77); 15 Billy Bodin, 9 Rene Howe, 19 Danny Stevens (14 Lloyd Macklin 66 (21 Thomas Cruise 83)). Substitutes (not used): 8 Ryan Jarvis, 13 Martin Rice (GK), 23 Ashley Yeoman, 30 Kirtys MacKenzie.
Booked: Howe 73
Accrington (4-4-1-1): 25 Ian Dunbavin; 29 Rob Atkinson, 2 Peter Murphy, 6 Dean Winnard, 3 Michael Liddle; 33 Rommy Boco, 4 Luke Joyce (capt), 28 Danny Schofield (15 Bohan Dixon 61), 20 Jack Sampson (10 Will Hatfield 77); 30 Piero Mingoia; 9 Karl Sheppard (23 Padraig Amond 61). Substitutes (not used): 7 Craig Lindfield, 11 Aiden Chippendale, 12 George Miller, 22 Andrew Dawber (GK).
Booked: Murphy 45
Referee: Simon Hooper
Attendance: 2,474 (82 away).