Hyde 58, 77
WE have a chance.
Torquay United took a huge step forward in the quest for League 2 survival with an epic 3-2 win over Barnet, a result that saw the Gulls jump out of the relegation zone..
The Bees took United’s place in the bottom two on a night that started with Elliot Benyon notching a fine header on 25 minutes. Barnet equalised with the first touch from Jake Hyde but Billy Bodin immediately restored the Yellow advantage with a strike on the hour-mark.
When Brian Saah made it 3-1 on 71 minutes, the game was surely up but Barnet fought back with a tremendous finish from Hyde.
The grandstand finish was painful to watch but this was to be a special Yellow night, and the players were rewarded for a performance full of heart, full of quality and full of attacking intent.
United boss Alan Knill made four changes to personnel and a switch in formation from the side defeated 1-0 at Gillingham 10 days ago. The extra three days rest after Saturday’s postponed clash was enough recovery time for Michael Poke to return between the sticks, bumping Martin Rice down to the bench.
The reversion to 4-4-2 allowed Benyon to take his place alongside Rene Howe in attack and Ryan Jarvis was recalled to a wing slot vacated by Jordan Chapell’s recall from his loan spell by Sheffield United. The selection shuffling led to Ian Morris dropping out of midfield to join the substitutes.
Barnet player-manager Edgar Davids made two changes from the side beaten 2-0 by Chesterfield the weekend before last, exchanging his front-pairing of Hyde and Jon Nurse with the speedy Keanu Marsh-Brown and youngster Harry Crawford.
Yellow intentions were stated within the first two minutes, as Joe Oastler forced a loose pass from Davids and Howe spun beautifully on the edge of the box to rifle in a left-footed shot that prompted an unconvincing save from Barnet stopper Graham Stack.
There was real purpose in United’s early work, typified by the energy of captain Lee Mansell in midfield and a busy start from Howe and Benyon had the visiting defence on their guard from the first whistle.
To their credit, Barnet weathered the Yellow storm and forced Poke into his first action with a swinging free-kick from Davids that the United ‘keeper bravely punched clear under pressure.
Stack then had a crazy moment, racing from his goal for a weak clearance to Benyon, who quickly controlled the ball before attempting the extraordinary from 45 yards but the former Arsenal and Reading custodian had recovered his ground to gather the bouncing effort.
The game then descended into a scrappy period of midfield tussling that was perhaps appropriate for the significance of the occasion, as both sides desperately sought to avoid the big mistake. When a moment of quality arrived with a deft header from Benyon, Mansell’s side-foot shot from distance was well wide.
Moments later, the Gulls were in front and Plainmoor erupted.
The move started with a clipped Kevin Nicholson free-kick to the back post, where Saah rose highest to steer an intelligent nod inside for Benyon to send a thumping header into the top corner. It was hardly rocket science but smacked of a training ground routine perfectly executed.
The Gulls next required a spell of consolidation and special mention had to go the way of Lathrope, who was snapping into tackles and playing with real authority in the engine room.
United’s problem was an impressive reaction from the Bees, who immediately lifted their tempo and the Yellows were slightly fortunate to see Crawford steer a close-range volley wide after persistent
wing-work from Marsh-Brown.
The next Barnet corner was subsequently smashed clear with defiance by Aaron Downes, leading to a swift break for Howe to release Bodin. His pass was then ideal for Benyon but a moment of hesitation was enough for the visitors to hack clear.
Poke then came to the fore with two stunning saves in quick succession. The first was a parry clear from Marsh-Brown but when the ball rebounded to Crawford, his prod at goal was brilliantly turned wide by United’s new hero.
Lathrope was first to grasp the reprieve, racing forward after determined work from Mansell and Howe, but the midfielder was denied his first goal as a Yellow by a decent Stack save from his stinging shot.
Half-time approached and the nerves inside TQ1 were already shredded. A second United goal was obviously top of the wish-list and it so nearly arrived from another clever training ground move.
When Nicholson stood over a corner, everyone expected a whipped delivery but the left-back instead rolled the ball to Jarvis running in from the edge of the box and he was unlucky to see his controlled finish scrambled off the line by the Barnet defence.
A second period of massive importance begun in worrying fashion, as Barnet surged down the right flank and the square pass from Crawford was heading for the home net before Saah intervened with a crucial block.
A slack pass in the Barnet defence then presented Benyon with a chance to feed the ball wide for Jarvis, who guided a left-foot shot back across goal that lacked the necessary venom to beat a sprawling Stack.
The next Yellow foray was a half-cleared corner hooked back into the danger area by Howe but Benyon was unable to generate real power in his header, and Stack comfortably held the effort. It was an incredibly open start to the second-half, preferable to United sitting deep, but still tough on viewer nerves.
Barnet upped the ante by withdrawing the quiet John Oster for leading scorer Hyde and disaster immediately struck.
United attempted to rush forward and play the offside trap from a Davids free-kick but the assistant’s flag stayed down for Hyde to enjoy the freedom of Plainmoor before heading past the exposed Poke.
Hearts sank inside TQ1 but the players refused to yield and instantly restored their advantage through the belligerence of Howe picking out Bodin in the left channel and his instant shot from 20 yards nestled beautifully in the bottom corner.
It was a fine strike but, in truth, very poor goalkeeping from Stack, who allowed the ball to squirm under his body and find the net.
The compelling drama continued with a lung-busting run down the right by Mansell and his deep cross was perfect for Bodin, but this time the Welshman got his technique wrong in looping the volley well over.
A massive wave of Yellow relief then swept over Plainmoor as a high and deep Mansell corner found Saah at the far post, and the centre-back capped an assured personal performance with a looping header back over Stack and in off the post.
It was far from pretty but the significance of the goal could be summed up by the normally reserved Saah racing away with delight in front of a buoyant Bristow’s Bench. Davids picked up a booking in the aftermath and promptly removed himself for the fresh legs of Luke Gambin.
Barnet then got back into the game with an excellent goal. A fizzing cross from the left by Gambin was popped in the air for Hyde to lash a super volley past Poke and you had to applaud their resilience.
From savouring the rare luxury of a two-goal lead, the pressure was soon returned to Yellow shoulders and the Bees stated their intentions by bringing on striker Jon Nurse for Marsh-Brown. Knill then showed he was not resting on the lead by removing Benyon for the fresh legs of Ashley Yeoman.
The new man wasted little time in getting involved, displaying nifty feet to create room for a shot that eventually drifted wide. Gambin responded with a scuttling shot that Poke could only push around the post.
United were naturally sitting deeper as the game entered its final stages and the Yellow Army did a magnificent job in rousing the troops for one final effort. Ian Morris was drafted in for Jarvis to help out in the dying seconds.
Five minutes of injury-time was just excruciating to watch but Morris did have a chance to settle the issue after neat work from Yeoman and Bodin. Unfortunately, the Irishman was caught in two minds and the moment had passed.
Back to the brave rearguard and United stayed strong for three huge points. A thundering tackle from Lathrope in the last minute telling the story of a courageous display.
The trip to Morecambe is the next hurdle to overcome in a dramatic climax but, for now, well played lads.
Gulls [4-4-2]: 1 Michael Poke; 2 Joe Oastler, 5 Brian Saah, 4 Aaron Downes, 3 Kevin Nicholson; 8 Ryan Jarvis [11 Ian Morris 89], 7 Lee Mansell [capt], 6 Damon Lathrope, 15 Billy Bodin; 9 Rene Howe, 26 Elliot Benyon [23 Ashley Yeoman 80]. Substitutes [not used]: 13 Martin Rice [GK], 16 Angus MacDonald, 19 Danny Stevens, 20 Nathan Craig, 21 Thomas Cruise.
Booked: Saah 30, Oastler 69
Barnet [4-5-1]: 29 Graham Stack; 15 Andy Yiadom, 30 David Stephens, 40 Tom Flanagan, 26 Elliot Johnson; 38 Edgar Davids [capt] [12 Luke Gambin 75], 8 Mark Byrne, 20 Curtis Weston, 31 John Oster [19 Jake Hyde 58], 49 Keanu Marsh-Brown [10 Jon Nurse 80]; 42 Harry Crawford. Substitutes [not used]: 4 Clovis Kamdjo, 27 Mauro Vilhete, 34 Chiro N’Toko, 48 Michel Kuipers [GK].
Booked: Yiadom 45, Davids 71
Referee: Andy Woolmer
Attendance: 2,722 [86 away].