Torquay find their finishing touch with resounding win over Robins
CALLUM BALL was on-the-ball on Saturday, scoring twice as Torquay United swept aside Cheltenham Town 4-2 at Plainmoor with goals at key times.
The on-loan Derby County target man, 20, claimed his first goals of the season with first-half strikes and it was no coincidence that United's first Plainmoor League Two win swiftly followed.
Ball converted a Jordan Chapell pass to open the scoring in the second minute and then doubled his tally in first-half stoppage time, after Byron Harrison had levelled from a 12th-minute free-kick.
Ball's strike partner, Karl Hawley, made it 3-1 in the 48th minute and, although Terry Gornell went solo to make it 3-2 in the 65th minute, Ball teed up winger Chapell to cap the Gulls' victory on 89 minutes.
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The fourth goal was again a combination of United's two impressive forwards, with Chapell firing home after being teed up by Ball following the Gulls' best move of the game, sweeping down the left at pace and started by industrious midfielder Ben Harding.
Pre-match, the terrace talk was about how United had only scored six goals in seven League games and once in the previous four competitive first team games.
The reserves had scored four in a Devon St Luke's Challenge Cup tie at Plainmoor in midweek but there was no mention – seriously – of United's first team repeating the second team's feat.
How little we learn about this game and its constant ability to surprise.
United – who had not scored first in the previous nine competitive matches – started on the front foot, with central midfielder Harding firing just over from 20 yards in the opening minute.
The oohs and aahs from that scorching, rising drive had barely died down when United charged forward down the left again.
The ball was crossed in to Chapell, whose quick thinking enabled him to tee up Ball despite the ball seeming to get stuck under his foot. Ball first-timed the ball home from 12 yards, giving unguarded Town goalkeeper Scott Brown scant chance.
Ball's early opener was cancelled out from a 12th-minute free-kick as right-back Keith Lowe's floated cross from 30 yards out was headed home by target man Byron Harrison on the six-yard line with the United defence static.
Torquay goalkeeper Martin Rice displayed his growing confidence with a brilliant one-handed save to deny Town central defender Steve Elliott on the half hour, with Lowe looping his follow-up on to the bar before an acrobatic clearance by home skipper Lee Mansell.
It was proverbial end-to-end stuff as Sido Jombati cleared Hawley's 32nd-minute effort off the line and Brown was forced to flap over Mansell's audacious volley on the spin from 20 yards.
As half-time approached, there was no let-up in the tempo. In the 42nd minute, Harrison diverted danger man Jermaine McGlashan's left-wing cross just past the far post as both sides pressed for the all-important second goal.
It came in rather bizarre fashion in the second minute of first-half stoppage time.
Ball claimed his second goal, swiping at Hawley's cross from the left. The skewered shot deflected off Ball's marker, Elliott, and looped over Brown and in.
Hawley extended Torquay's lead in the 48th minute when he beat Brown with a low angled shot from ten yards after cutting inside from the left following yet more good work down the flank from United's man of the match, Chapell.
Cheltenham reduced the deficit on 65 minutes when Terry Gornell latched on to a Russell Penn through ball to fire under Rice, but the Gulls still had a hunger for goals.
Harding, having his best home game since his summer switch from Northampton Town, tested Brown with a thumping rising drive as United shot on sight – to the delight of home fans in the ground.
Just as those same supporters started to call for a final whistle, Harding drove forward again, finding Ball down the left.
The 20-year-old striker pinged the ball into the penalty area and Chapell pounced, drilling the ball home past diving Brown to more home delight.
All talk among the 'Yellow Army' on the way home will have been about how United scored four goals to claim their biggest win of the season.
Next up? Newport County away next Saturday.