TORQUAY United produced a superb comeback to record an excellent 2-1 win at big-spending Eastleigh on a special day for those with a Yellow heart.
Deon Burton notched on 17 minutes to give the home side a perfect start but the Gulls soon steadied the ship, and Ollivier Gueguen equalised on his full debut in the dying seconds of the first-half.
United were simply excellent after the break and with both sides throwing men forward in the search for three points, Ryan Bowman was the one to pop up with a massive goal for the Gulls.
Manager Chris Hargreaves made two changes from the team that defeated FC United of Manchester in the FA Trophy last weekend. Gueguen came in for the injured Aaron Downes and Jordan Chapell started ahead of James McQuilkin.
A tidy move involving Toby Ajala, Corutney Richards and Levi Ives presented Bowman with an early sighter on the Eastleigh goal, but Gueguen was the main man in the opening exchanges, defending stoutly under pressure from the Spitfires.
Bowman then found Ajala for a shot well blocked, but the tide swiftly turned in Eastleigh’s favour, as the experienced Burton converted from close-range after a weak clearance from United.
It was a soft goal and now the pressure was all on Yellow shoulders. Former Gull Craig Stanley hit the bar for a home side now brimming with confidence and Harrgeaves’ plans were thrown in the air with Chapell limping off to be replaced by Courtney Cameron on the half-hour.
A fabulous save from Martin Rice to deny Harry Pell proved to be the platform for United’s equaliser, as Gueguen pounced on a loose ball after Richards had won the header from Luke Young’s corner.
The half-time team-talk suddenly had a completely different complexion and a fairly turgid first period was replaced by an entertaining second half, starting with Ajala’s cross for Louis Briscoe requiring a desperate late challenge from the home side.
While clear-cut chances remained scarce, the whole attitude of the game had changed and it was clear both teams fancied the victory, making for a far more enjoyable spectacle.
Eastleigh spurned a good opening when James Constable fired over and the punishment was extremely welcome. Cameron, who was excellent throughout, created the chance with a delicious shot against the post and Bowman did the poacher’s job to slot home the rebound.
United had to withstand the inevitable siege from Eastleigh in the closing minutes but this was three points richly deserved, and a terrific boost ahead of the FA Trophy Semi-Final at Wrexham next weekend.
United (4-4-2): 1 Martin Rice; 5 Krystian Pearce, 21 Angus MacDonald, 26 Ollivier Gueguen, 25 Levi Ives; 12 Jordan Chapell (11 Courtney Cameron 30), 16 Courtney Richards, 8 Luke Young, 10 Toby Ajala (22 James McQuilkin 90); 7 Louis Briscoe (24 Duane Ofori-Acheampong 81), 9 Ryan Bowman. Substitutes (not used): 14 Ashley Yeoman, 23 Jordan Seabright (GK).
Booked: Pearce, Ajala, McQuilkin
Referee: Craig Hicks