Torquay United fail to make first-half domination count
Torquay United slid to their second home defeat in the space of four days when promotion-chasing Rotherham United overpowered the Gulls in the second half at Plainmoor last night.
In the wake of Saturday's defeat at the hands of Fleetwood Town, and with manager Martin Ling still absent through illness, United have now taken only five points from the last 27, and this latest reverse dropped them to 18th place in npower League Two.
Just as they had done against Fleetwood, United had the better of the first half, but without scoring. They sent on new loan signing Elliot Benyon at the interval, but it was Rotherham who grabbed the initiative with a Lee Frecklington goal only 50 seconds after the restart.
Alex Revell made it 2-0 in the 59th minute and, although a Billy Bodin penalty gave Torquay a glimmer of hope in the 90th minute, the Millers rubbed salt into United's wounds by grabbing a third goal seconds later through substitute Kayode Odejayi.
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The match was also watched by Plainmoor's lowest crowd of the season – only 1,778.
Rotherham, physically stronger, were quicker to the ball in the first quarter of an hour of the game, and United's early passing left plenty to be desired but after about 20 minutes United moved up a gear. Damon Lathrope found Nicholson in space on the left, and his shot was deflected just over the bar by Mark Bradley.
The Millers' veteran goalkeeper Andy Warrington had no chance with that effort, but moments later he brilliantly tipped over a Lee Mansell volley from eight yards, after headers by Aaron Downes and Jarvis had set up the chance on a Nathan Craig cross.
The first half was held up for nearly five minutes when referee Brendan Malone had to withdraw because of a calf injury. Devon's Justin Amey took over in the middle, with Malone reverting to fourth official duties.
Rotherham's early superiority had evaporated as United, with Danny Leadbitter and Craig prominent on the right, forced the issue.
Warrington had to come up with another top-drawer save, this time parrying a Mansell shot, and Amey got it wrong when he ruled that Mansell's follow-up had gone for a goal-kick, when it clearly went behind off Davis's tackle.
Bodin headed a Craig cross just over, Yeoman hit the side-netting from a narrow angle and Jarvis hooked over the advancing Warrington and wide on a through-ball by Bodin.
In six minutes of first-half stoppage time, both teams nearly scored. Bodin forced another excellent low save from Warrington after a run from halfway, but then Rotherham winger Kieron Agard found himself clear just outside the area and it took an important save with his legs by Michael Poke to keep out the shot.
Taylor decided that something extra was needed for the second half, and he sent on Elliot Benyon for Craig, pairing Jarvis and Benyon up front with Yeoman wide right but 50 seconds after the restart Rotherham took the lead.
Daniel Kearns mounted a counter-attack down the visitors' left, found Frecklington just outside the area and he flicked the ball up over two defenders before volleying in off the diving Poke.
United responded and Bodin firing not far wide from 30 yards after popping up on the right wing. Benyon lost no time in making the sort of runs that United are hoping from him, and Nicholson was unlucky with a diagonal cross-shot which just evaded Jarvis in front of goal.
In the 59th minute Rotherham doubled their lead.
Revell was quickly on to Nardiello's flick-on, and the Millers' centre-forward held off Downes in a strong run down the left of the area before hitting a low shot across Poke and into the bottom right-hand corner to make it 2-0.
Taylor sent on Lloyd Macklin for Yeoman in the 66th minute, and he nearly pulled a goal back with his first touch.
A long throw from the left by Nicholson was flicked on by Downes, the ball fell for Macklin at the far post, and his shot was cleared off the line by Liam Ridehalgh.
Evans introduced fresh legs in his attack – Kayode Odejayi for Nardiello – and the former Cheltenham Town striker was soon running strongly.
Try as they might, United could not breach a determined Rotherham defence in the closing stages. Poke had to beat out another fierce drive by Frecklington, further evidence of the Millers' growing confidence and control. For all their first-half pressure, Torquay were "out-pointed" in the second.
That was until two late goals first lifted the Gulls and then slammed them back down again. In the 90th minute, Bodin was tripped by Mark Bradley, and the Welsh winger then fired the penalty in off the right-hand post.
But a minute later Rotherham went straight to the other end and finished the job. Substitute Courtney Cameron broke clear on the right, pulled back a low cross and Odejayi had only to tap the ball over the unguarded line.
Torquay United (4-2-3-1): Poke; Leadbitter, Saah, Downes, Nicholson; Lathrope, Mansell; Craig (Benyon 46), Yeoman (Macklin 66), Bodin; Jarvis. Substitutes (not used): Rice (gk), MacDonald, Easton, Stevens, Cruise.
Goal: Bodin pen 90.
Booked: Downes 78, Macklin 82.
Rotherham United (4-4-2): Warrington; Bradley, Davis, Mullins, Ridehalgh; Agard (Cameron 80), Arnason, Frecklington, Kearns; Nardiello (Odejayi 68), Revell (Slew 75). Substitutes (not used): Tonge, Pringle, Thompson (gk), Rowe.
Goal: Frecklington 46, Revell 59, Odejayi 90.
Booked: Davis 39.
Referee: B Malone (Wiltshire) – replaced by J Amey (Devon) 28 minutes.