Torquay United let lead slip as two late Wycombe goals condemn Gulls to seventh straight loss
Torquay United crashed to their seventh successive defeat, one short of an unwanted club record, when Wycombe Wanderers came from behind to win 2-1 and complete the "double" over the Gulls at Plainmoor last night.
Despite being outplayed for most of the first half, United took the lead through Ryan Jarvis' seventh goal of the season in the 37th minute.
They then made and missed a couple of potentially priceless chances to extend their lead before Wycombe, inspired by their 39-year-old player-manager Gareth Ainsworth, turned the match around.
Ainsworth, who brought himself on early in the second half, laid on a stream of crosses from the right wing, and it finally paid off.
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In the 76th minute Sam Wood forced home the equaliser after United had failed to deal with a Dean Morgan cross. Five minutes later it was Ainsworth who delivered the ball which Matt McClure eventually fired home after taking a touch and working some room for a shot which could have a huge bearing on Torquay's hopes of avoiding relegation.
If he did not know it already, United's interim manager Alan Knill has a huge job on his hands. And it's fellow strugglers Accrington Stanley away next up on Saturday.
The Gulls, with Damon Lathrope in for ill captain Lee Mansell in midfield, were on the back foot from the first whistle as Wycombe, first to every ball, kept them penned in their own half for the first quarter of an hour.
Josh Scowen, who had been the star of Wycombe's 2-1 win over Torquay at Adams Park in October, had a fierce drive tipped over the bar by Michael Poke, Stuart Lewis went close and, in the 11th minute, Matt McClure headed a Scowen corner against the near post.
Dean Morgan also gave Danny Leadbitter the slip on United's right, and only a timely interception by Kevin Nicholson stopped McClure giving Wycombe what would have been a deserved lead.
It took United 20 minutes to register so much as a corner, but a decent attempt at goal was well beyond them.
Indeed, Wycombe simply grew in confidence with each United mistake, and in the 34th minute Joel Grant must have wondered how he had not laid on the opening goal when his low cross eluded two teammates in front of goal. Nicholson hacked clear.
Yet, amazingly, and after being outplayed for so long, United took the lead with their first shot on target.
In the 37th minute Jarvis found Billy Bodin with a raking ball from right to left.
Bodin tricked his way between two men on a run into the area, slipped the ball back to Jarvis, who had made his way into the area and he drove a 15-yard right-foot shot into the top right-hand corner, with a touch off defender Charles Dunne.
Wycombe player-manage Gareth Ainsworth, his players and staff could hardly believe their luck, or lack of it, and their mood was not improved when Poke had to save with his legs from a Bruno Andrade shot.
Yet United very nearly increased their lead just before the interval. In the 43rd minute, after Leadbitter had been pushed over, Bodin's 22-yard free-kick was tipped over by an acrobatic save from Wycombe goalkeeper Jordan Archer.
At the interval Wycombe had forced ten corners to United's four, and had registered nine attempts at goal to United's three.
Knill, who had promoted young loan defender Angus MacDonald in place of the injured Aaron Downes at centre back, must have been aware of the strength on Wycombe's bench and when the first change came, after only 50 minutes, it was on the wing, where Ainsworth introduced himself after Grant limped off.
Ainsworth lost no time getting his first good cross in, the move only spoiled by Morgan's handball in the goalmouth, but the warning was there.
United did go close to extending their lead in the 55th minute when Craig Easton floated a diagonal cross over the retreating Wycombe defence and Howe headed just over with Archer struggling.
United were still being outgunned in midfield, where they missed Mansell's combative work, but the running of Elliot Benyon up front, against his old club, at least gave them a chance of grabbing something on the break. In the 55th minute only a timely challenge by Dunne stopped Benyon shooting home on the turn from Leadbitter's cross.
Four minutes later Wycombe sent on Anthony Stewart for Andrade.
Knill's first change saw Joe Oastler replace Easton in central midfield.
United hearts missed a beat when Poke came for a Morgan cross and missed it. Leadbitter got the ball away.
But in the 72nd minute United could, no should, have made it 2-0.
First, only a terrific block by Winfield stopped Bodin scoring after a Howe shot had been blocked.
And from Nicholson's ensuing corner Saah missed a point-blank header by a hair's breadth with the goal at his mercy.
In the 76th minute Wycombe punished Torquay for that moment.
Morgan broke clear on their right, United twice blocked shots in the goalmouth, but Wood was there at the far-post to force the ball over the line from close range to make it 1-1.
But Wycombe were not finished there. In fact, far from it. Poke had to make a smart low save to keep out a McClure shot before the visitors made it 2-1.
Ainsworth, who had been terrific since arriving on the scene, delivered another low cross from the right, United only just blocked two shots in the goalmouth, but McClure was at the far-post to force the loose ball over the line from close-range.
It felt like a pivotal moment in United's season, and Wycombe survived the closing stages without too many scares.
Torquay United (4-4-2): Poke; Leadbitter, Saah, MacDonald, Nicholson; Jarvis, Easton (Oastler 66), Lathrope, Bodin; Benyon, Howe. Substitutes (not used): Rice (gk), Macklin, Craig, Cruise, Yeoman, N Thompson.
Wycombe Wanderers (4-4-2): Archer; Harriman, Winfield, Dunne, Wood; Andrade (Stewart 59), Lewis, Scowen, Grant (Ainsworth 50); McClure, Morgan. Substitutes (not used): Spring, Oli, Harrison (gk), Kuffour, Hause.
Booked: Archer (time wasting) 90+1).
Referee: M Haywood (N Yorkshire).