ON the day, United succumbed to a superior Plymouth Argyle side and went down to a 2-0 defeat after a goal apiece from forward Caolan Lavery and midfielder Lewis Alessandra.
The Gulls were once again made to suffer for not taking chances at one end and then conceding at pivotal times.
Alan Knill made just one change to the side that met Exeter on Boxing Day. Jordan Chapell came into the side at the expense of fellow wide-man Courtney Cameron. Argyle remained unchanged from their 1-1 draw away to AFC Wimbledon.
Despite heavy rain in the build up to the game, conditions at Home Park eased closer to kick off. The Yeovil Town, Exeter City, and Bristol Rover fixtures all succumbed to the weather, leaving Home Park the only Westcountry venue for professional football.
United and Plymouth played out a first half that was hotly contested but was shaded by the Pilgrims. Michael Poke continued his fine form in goal as he certainly had more to deal with than his opposite number, Luke McCormick.
The first surprise came not through team selection or match action, but when United emerged to the pitch wearing the relatively new light blue third kit.
United were soon on the attack without truly testing goalkeeper McCormick. It was Plymouth, with the guile of Alessandra and Andres Gurrieri who looked the more threatening.
Alessandra nearly found a way through United’s backline when he took on, and nearly beat, Aaron Downes in a foot race. The talismanic defender was shown a yellow card for bringing Alessandra down on the edge of the box. The former Oldham man was a threat again when he took aim from twenty-five yards and fired a shot that Poke had to tip over the bar.
A Gurrieri cross then fell to Reuben Reid but the Argyle front man wasn’t set to finish and the chance went begging. Plymouth were finding space and time on the ball and created one of the best opportunities in the first half when Reid found himself one-on-one with Poke. It was an acute angle but Poke did well to spread himself and smother the shot.
Another Gurrieri cross-field ball found Lavery on the charge and United short in defence. Poke came out of his goal and fouled Lavery on the edge of the box, but the Yellow custodian was aided by having covering defenders, as the referee only showed a yellow card.
Lee Mansell had United’s best chance of the first half when the ball fell to him on the edge of Argyle’s box. He struck it right-footed and only just missed the target by a yard or two.
Lavery was a constant threat with his pace and direct running. He then had a shot from twenty-five yards that sailed over the bar and into the Torquay United fans. It was a sign of his intent.
Plymouth Argyle came out firing in the second half. They worked the ball intelligently and were finding time and space to pick their passes in and around United’s penalty box.
In the 60th minute, Lavery got in front of his man and swept the ball in from close-range. It was a goal created by Alessandra after his patient build up play on the left of midfield.
Jordan Chapell tried to reply for United straight away. He took aim from twenty-five yards and had McCormick diving to his right to tip the ball away from danger. Plymouth then had a shot cleared off the line. Poke saved from Reid and the ball went loose. Lavery struck it low and hard but Anthony O’Connor cleared to save United going two goals behind.
Karl Hawley, full of effort and running, then improvised himself a chance from a Chapell cross. Hawley’s first touch inside the box took the ball up high. His overhead kick went just wide.
Plymouth were turning the screw and sealed the game in the 85th minute when Hourihane’s cross was headed in at close range by Alessandra.
Hawley and Bodin combined on a United counter attack but Bodin was unable to keep his shot down and give United fans something to enjoy on the trip home.
Argyle: 23 Luke McCormick; 4 Maxime Blanchard, 16 Neal Trotman, 17 Curtis Nelson, 25 Ben Purrington; 27 Andres Gurrieri, 11 Dominic Blizzard, 6 Conor Hourihane (Captain), 7 Lewis Alessandra; 9 Reuben Reid (26 Tope Obadeyi 88), 13 Caolan Lavery (14 Luke Young 79). Substitutes: 1 Jake Cole, 2 Durrell Berry, 5 Guy Branston, 8 Rommy Boco, 19 Nathan Thomas.
Bookings: Lavery 60, Alessandra 86
Torquay (4-1-4-1): 1 Michael Poke; 2 Dale Tonge, 4 Aaron Downes, 29 Anthony O'Connor, 21 Thomas Cruise; 36 Damien Mozika (26 Elliot Benyon 71); 10 Billy Bodin, 7 Lee Mansell (captain), 17 Jak McCourt, 12 Jordan Chapell (19 Jayden Stockley 77); 9 Karl Hawley. Substitutes: 5 Krystian Pearce, 11 Courtney Cameron, 13 Martin Rice (GK), 20 Nathan Craig, 31 Daniel Sullivan.
Bookings: Downes 5, Poke 40
Referee: Keith Stroud
Attendance: 10, 126 (888)