TORQUAY United prevented equalling a club-record eighth successive defeat against Accrington, as both relegation-threatened sides played out a goalless draw at the Store First Stadium.
The home side thought they had won the game on 86 minutes as Will Hatfield slotted home, but this time there was to be no late drama, with the goal was ruled out for offside.
Gulls’ manager Alan Knill made two changes to the side which lost 2-1 at home to Wycombe on Tuesday, with Joe Oastler and fit-again skipper Lee Mansell recalled in the place of Danny Leadbitter and Craig Easton respectively.
Accy boss Leam Richardson also made a couple of changes to the side which triumphed 3-0 at Rochdale in midweek, promoting two-goal winger Lee Molyneux and ex-United loanee Tom Aldred to the starting eleven.
United wasted little time in putting the hosts under pressure, with a promising attack in the opening minute, a delightful through ball from Damon Lathrope found Ryan Jarvis bearing down on goal, but his goal-bound shot was deflected behind for a corner by Aldred to prevent the Gulls taking an early lead.
It was an encouraging start which was soon built upon as Torquay bossed possession. Elliot Benyon was proving a constant menace to the Stanley backline, chasing the ball down the channels at every opportunity.
Another slick move from the Yellows on 20 minutes nearly provided the travelling Yellow Army with the reward they craved, but with Billy Bodin about to apply the finishing touch, experienced defender Nicky Hunt just managed to intercept the ball in the nick of time.
Following a lengthy delay in which a member of the match officials had to be replaced, Accrington had their first attempt on goal. Winning a free-kick 25-yards out, former Plymouth man Molyneux fired in a swerving low drive towards the goal which Michael Poke did well to parry, and then showed excellent reflexes to claim Romuauld Boco’s headed follow-up.
On the half-hour, Bodin’s excellent skills on the by-line were let down by a disappointing shot from a testing angle, when a cross to a better-placed colleague would have resulted in a more realistic goal-scoring opportunity.
United’s lack of conviction in the final third deprived them of the lead their build-up play deserved, and Accrington began to gain a foothold with a number of dangerous set-pieces as the game headed towards the interval.
Welsh winger Bodin set about putting that right in the opening seconds of the second period. A mazy left-wing run finished just inside the box, with a fizzing effort over the bar.
At the other end, Oastler came up with an important touch behind after Boco’s dangerous cross, with a number of Stanley attackers lurking dangerously nearby.
The home side had definitely upped the ante following the break, and the United defence had to be alert to keep the scoreline blank.
Some neat play from Mansell and Bodin found Kevin Nicholson in space approaching the area, but his cross toward Benyon proved too strong for the Gulls’ onrushing striker.
Nicholson’s delivery was better on 62 minutes as United came within inches of taking the lead. His corner found Benyon, whose close-range header was cleared off the line by Boco.
Danny Leadbitter was introduced into the fray with fifteen minutes remaining at the expense of Jarvis, in the hope that a burst of pace could provide the key to unlocking the Accrington defence.
It was down the other flank though, that United created their next chance with nine minutes remaining, as Nicholson’s cross found Benyon once again, but this time his looping header failed to dip in time to trouble Paul Rachubka in-between the Stanley sticks.
Torquay’s hearts were in their mouths with four minutes remaining, as a misplaced pass set Boco away. Poke’s save could only push the ball into the path of Hatfield, and the substitute fired the loose ball into the net. Thankfully the goal was chalked off, and the offside decision appeared to be correct.
Both keepers were called into action during the dying stages. First, Poke came up with a dramatic double save from James Gray as the forward bore down on goal, and then with the final act of the match, Rachubka just managed to prevent Nicholson’s last-gasp free-kick squeezing inside his near post.
The final whistle that blew seconds later signalled a stalemate which did little to settle either side’s nerves down at the foot of the table, but a clean sheet and a point has at least given Knill’s men something to work on.
Gulls [4-4-2]: 1 Michael Poke; 2 Joe Oastler, 5 Brian Saah, 16 Angus MacDonald, 3 Kevin Nicholson; 8 Ryan Jarvis [12 Daniel Leadbitter], 7 Lee Mansell [capt], 6 Damon Lathrope, 15 Billy Bodin; 9 Rene Howe, 26 Elliot Benyon. Substitutes [not used]: 11 Ian Morris, 13 Martin Rice [GK], 19 Danny Stevens, 20 Nathan Craig, 21 Thomas Cruise, 29 Niall Thompson.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson