Rene Howe's perseverance and a little fortune earns Torquay United a deserved away win
If at first you do not succeed, try and try again.
Torquay United centre-forward Rene Howe used just that maxim to score the Gulls' richly-deserved winner in bizarre fashion in a 1-0 win at AFC Wimbledon last night.
Howe kept chasing down every lost cause – and he got his reward in the 34th minute with his fourth goal of the season. In truth United, putting last Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Rotherham United well behind them, could and should have won much more emphatically.
It was United's first away win this season and, although their own goalkeeper Michael Poke was busy off his line during the second half, he did not have a goalbound shot to save during a half when the Dons tried hard to save themselves. But they were always second-best against a Torquay side which looked full of ideas and penetration.
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United's start may not have been too auspicious – Poke had to make a smart parry from Luke Moore after only 40 seconds – but they soon put that scare behind them.
Wimbledon's veteran left-back Warren Cummings was often under severe pressure, and twice his mistakes nearly led to a Torquay goal.
In the sixth minute Cummings failed to cut out a diagonal ball by Kevin Nicholson, Lee Mansell nipped in and Brown had to push his shot round a post.
Then, 12 minutes later, Howe muscled Cummings off another Nicholson pass, and again Brown had to dive to tip the ball round his woodwork.
Billy Bodin also fired just wide from a deft through ball by Howe, and in the 23rd minute Mansell brought a full-length save from Brown with a left-foot drive from the edge of the penalty area.
In the 34th minute, Howe's persistence paid off with United's breakthrough. The big centre-forward again chased down a loose ball, not for the first time, but on this occasion he was rewarded. Brown's clearance cannoned off him and rolled into the empty net.
Yet their lead was nearly wiped out in the 42nd minute, in an almost exact repeat of their own goal. Poke dashed out of his area for a routine clearance, but his kick hit Luke Moore, rebounded towards goal and it was only Joe Oastler's alertness that saw him get back and clear the danger.
Wimbledon moved up a gear at the start of the second half, Byron Harrison shooting wide of the near-post from a right-wing cross by George Francomb and Sammy Moore forcing the Dons' first corner, in the 51st minute, with a shot deflected wide off Brian Saah.
But three minutes later United nearly grabbed the second goal they craved when Ian Morris's lofted through ball sent Howe clear and only a great tackle by Bennett deflected Howe's shot wide.
It was the signal for United to press forward as they had done in the first half. Morris fired over the bar, after Lee Mansell nodded down Craig Easton's lofted pass into the box. Then Bodin, never afraid to try a trick, nearly scored twice in the space of two minutes.
First, he fired just wide after a clever, jinking run from 20 yards out. Then he took a raking left-to-right pass by Easton, cut in from the right wing past two opponents and brought a fine low save from Brown with a firm shot from the edge of the area.
Ten minutes from time, Bodin made and then missed a real chance to end the contest, again beating a defender and goalkeeper Brown before delaying his shot and allowing Brown to get back and block the goalbound effort.
Wimbledon never stopped trying, testing Poke with a stream of high balls into United's goalmouth. But their cause was not helped when Christian Jolley, after being booked for a foul in the 73rd minute, was done by the pace of Torquay substitute Niall Thompson, brought him down, and was sent off by referee David Coote in the 88th minute.
Thompson nearly forced a clinching second goal in stoppage time, but Brown came up with a brilliant save to tip the shot away.
AFC Wimbledon (4-4-2): Brown; Bennett, Antwi, Balkestein (Francomb h-t), Cummings (Stratton 67); Harris (Yussuff h-t), S Moore, Gregory, Jolley; Harrison, L Moore. Substitutes (not used): Long, Fenlon, Merrifield, Jaimez-Ruiz (gk).
Bookings: S Moore, Jolley.
Sent off: Jolley 89.
Torquay United (4-3-3): Poke; Oastler, Saah, Downes, Nicholson; Mansell, Easton, Craig; Morris, Howe, Bodin (Thompson 84). Substitutes (not used): Jarvis, Leadbitter, Rice (gk), Stevens, Cruise, MacKenzie.
Goal: Howe 34.
Bookings: Oastler, Mansell.
Referee: D Coote (Nottinghamshire).