Torquay remain frustrated as they fail to breach stubborn resistance
When they would have greeted any scruffy old goal like a scrapbook classic, Torquay United just could not break down a stubborn Hartlepool United defence on a day of frustration at Plainmoor.
You can add the Pools' midfield to that defence too, for the visitors pulled up the proverbial drawbridge, confronted Alan Knill's Gulls with a 4-5-1 formation, and effectively said: 'See if you can get through this lot'.
Torquay's work-in-progress is not far enough down the road yet to overcome that sort of resistance – it was not hard to see why Hartlepool have not scored a goal in five League Two games so far.
But the Gulls still created enough chances to have won the game, and they deserve credit for trying to keep passing the ball and to draw the opposition out of their defensive shell.
A Gift Voucher for a 2 hour SUP lesson on any of our programmed dates between April and September 2014. £19.50 for 1 person or £33 for 2 people with this voucher
Terms: Voucher must be present at point of sale. Standard MBC T's & C's apply please see our website for details
Contact: 01752 404567
Valid until: Tuesday, December 24 2013
It did not work in the end, but developing teams often have to go through afternoons like this, on their way to a brighter future, and they usually have to do it while some fans voice doubting discontent from the terraces, as they did on Saturday. It goes with the territory.
One thing would have been sure to force Hartlepool to open up – an early goal, and Torquay should have scored at least one.
Jordan Chapell , who hit the net twice in the 2-1 win at Northampton Town seven days earlier, was denied by visiting defender Neil Austin and goalkeeper Scott Flinders, both in the first 45 seconds.
Karl Hawley also headed over from Billy Bodin's cross in the second minute of a dynamic start.
Aaron Downes – he and Krystian Pearce both impressed in the heart of Torquay's defence – did have to come up with an important block from Hartlepool's Matt Dolan, and the Gulls were soon 'doubling up' on Steve Howard to stop the visitors' veteran centre-forward from winning too much ball in the air.
Howard, 37, got himself involved in a series of spats as he tried to give his attack some reasons to be cheerful. He had to go off for treatment to a gash on his cheek, and ended up being withdrawn at half-time with a booking for his pains.
Hawley, Bodin – he should at least have hit the target when Callum Ball slipped him clear – and Ball from 20 yards all went close for the Gulls.
Their passing in midfield was sometimes erratic and Chapell's final ball did not match his eager approach work, and Torquay knew they had the wind to contend with in the second half.
Howard's problems were the signal for Pools manager Colin Cooper to lower his sights, and after the interval he left substitute Luke James to fend for himself up front and posted nine outfield men behind the ball whenever possible.
Without ever playing as well as they did on the counter at Northampton, Torquay battered away through the second half, often passing the ball along the back line to try and tempt Hartlepool to advance and leave some precious space to exploit.
Bodin missed a great chance, blazing over in the 53rd minute after a good move with Kevin Nicholson and Ball.
Former Plymouth Argyle midfielder Simon Walton scooped a Ball cross away with Courtney Cameron closing in at the far post, and Jack Baldwin nearly headed a Cameron cross into his own net, Flinders saving on his line.
Then Nicholson set up Ball on the left, his cross-shot beat Flinders, and substitute Elliot Benyon chested the ball over the line – with his first touch after replacing Hawley – only to be ruled offside.
Damon Lathrope replaced Ben Harding in midfield, as Knill sought the key to unlock the safe, but there was always the danger that Torquay might get caught by a sucker punch, as sometimes happens on afternoons like this.
Martin Rice, who had another reassuring game in goal, had denied James in the 57th minute, and in stoppage time he watched with relief as Brad Walker shot just wide when he was clear.
Few people saw the linesman's flag go up for offside, but it was still too close for comfort.