O'Kane pen 17
ROYAL MARINES 0
UNITED'S warm up to the 2012/-3 season got underway with a 3-0 win over the Royal Marines in a match which also raised funds for the Help the Heroes charity.
First-half strikes from Danny Stevens and Eunan O'Kane gave United a healthy interval advantage, before Lee Mansell added some gloss to the scoreline during the latter stages.
The Gulls fielded a completely different XI for both halves, giving the Yellow Army the chance to welcome back last season's heroes, and also give a Yellow welcome to new quartet Michael Poke, Billy Bodin, Craig Easton and Thomas Cruise.
Torquay started brightly, no doubt relieved to be back on the football field after a gruelling but enjoyable stay at Stonehouse Barracks.
The home side took just six minutes to open the scoring - following some slick passing in midfield, Ryan Jarvis found space on the right hand side of the penalty box, and squared the ball for Stevens to slot home from point-blank range.
The lead was then doubled almost as quickly, when on 17 minutes Saul Halpin was sent crashing to earth inside the box and the referee pointed to the spot. Irishman O'Kane calmly stepped up and sent Marines' keeper Mulholland the wrong way from the resulting penalty to make it 2-0.
A sprint down the right wing from Dan Leadbitter nearly brought more joy moments later. His surging run culminated with a penetrative ball across the face of goal. Jarvis was lurking dangerously at the back post, but, off balance, could only fire wide of the target.
Stevens, who notched an impressive ten strikes as United marched to last season's play-offs, was looking eager to keep up the glorious habit and nearly grabbed his second of the evening after a tempting through ball from O'Kane. Mulholland though, got down well to palm the ball away to safety.
The Marines were proving a test for United's professionals though, and Brian Saah had to be alert to prevent Sam Logan from halving the deficit five minutes before the break.
The action then reverted back to the other end. Firstly, Ian Morris' left-footed effort from 20 yards narrowly curled the wrong side of the far post and then after Jarvis had chased down a loose ball, Stevens was given the chance to capitalise, but again, the ball drifted wide of the goal.
As expected, boss Martin Ling made the full quota of substitutions at half time to give all his players a run-out in what was primarily a fitness exercise ahead of the Gulls' opening match of the season against Leicester in the Capital One Cup on August 14.
United's new faces wasted little time in picking up where their first half colleagues left off, with first-year pro Kirtys MacKenzie just failing to divert in a Kevin Nicholson corner.
Billy Bodin, making his first appearance in a Torquay shirt since his long-awaited move from Swindon earlier this summer, showed some of the skills that made him such a hit during last year's loan spell by threading a lovely ball forward which Mansell clipped just over the bar.
United's captain, another who caught the scoring bug last time out, came even closer moments later with a full-blooded drive which replacement stopper Karl Little did well to palm behind.
The Marines' determination and impressive fitness levels ensured the match remained a competitive and enjoyable encounter, whilst glovesman Lewis enjoyed taking centre stage during the last half hour with a series of superb reaction saves to deny a rejuvenated-looking Rene Howe and Mansell, again, amongst others.
Torquay's captain was not to be denied though, and rounded off the scoring eleven minutes from time by sweeping home the loose ball inside the box, much to the delight of the 612 fans who packed out the Family Stand to witness the first steps on what we all hope will be another enjoyable season for all at TQ1.
United 1st half: Rice; Leadbitter, Hutchings, Saah, Craig; O'Kane, Lathrope, Morris; Halpin, Jarvis, Stevens
United 2nd half: Poke; Oastler, MacKenzie, Cruise, Nicholson; Mansell, Easton, Yeoman; Thompson, Howe, Bodin