Vital point at least stops record-equalling slump
ACCRINGTON Stanley manager Leam Richardson was furious, and with justification, about the offside decision which disallowed Will Hatfield's later 'winner' at the Crown Ground.
But the officials didn't just get that one wrong. How referee Jeremy Simpson turned down a penalty for a scything tackle on Torquay United defender Brian Saah in the second half is just as big a mystery.
Replays showed Hatfield was onside as he followed up Michael Poke's parry from Rommy Boco in the 86th minute.
United were saved then by the flag of linesman Glen Hart. But Mr Simpson was less than five yards away when Saah went down under a mistimed tackle by Peter Murphu around the hour-mark. Saah just managed to avoid having his feet planted, or else he could have been badly hurt.
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Apparently, Mr Simpson ruled that contact was minimal. So that made it alright, then?
In that case, you can charge around the pitch, aiming reckless tackles at all and sundry, and, as long as you don't make contact, it's fine.
In any event, the two decisions just about cancelled each other out. No, let's not go there..!
Poke had to make more significant saves than opposite number Paul Rachubka, but on the balance of play United deserved the point that at least stopped their losing streak reaching a record-equalling eighth successive defeat.
The fact that it came in what nearly everyone had described as a 'must not lose' game against fellow relegation strugglers made it all the more important.
New Gulls boss Alan Knill recalled captain Lee Mansell in midfield and Joe Oastler at right-back, both players responding with spirited and authoritative displays.
Passing the ball better, United dominated the first 20 minutes without quite making it count.
Accrington looked jittery and ill-at-ease in the face of United's positive start, but they still went closest to scoring with two free-kicks from Lee Molyneux.
Former Plymouth Argyle player Molyneux had contributed two long-range goals to Stanley's 3-0 win at Rochdale in midweek, and he showed that those efforts were no flukes.
Before half-time on Saturday he hit one from 25 yards and another from 30, both moving in flight, and Poke did well to parry them to safety.
Stanley upped the ante at the start of the second half, former Gulls loanee Tom Aldred heading not far over, but United survived that spell and then nearly grabbed the lead.
They should have had a penalty for the Murphy-Saah incident, Boco cleared a flick by the busy Elliot Benyon off the line, and Rene Howe volleyed over from a Kevin Nicholson cross.
In the 81st minute left-back Nicholson delivered again and Benyon looped a header just over, with Rachubka back-pedalling anxiously.
United centre-backs Saah and Angus MacDonald had coped well with the threat of ex-England striker James Beattie and James Gray, MacDonald sticking to his guns well after a slightly shaky start, and it was a similarly solid story for Oastler and Nicholson at full-back.
Knill sent on Danny Leadbitter for Ryan Jarvis on the right in the 75th minute, before home boss Richardson took off the tiring Beattie and introduced Hatfield in the 84th minute.
Two minutes later United gave the ball away cheaply, Boco counterattacked, Poke saved, Hatfield netted and Mr. Hart's flag kept the scores level. It wasn't quite over.
In stoppage time Poke pulled off a double-save, parrying Gray's shot and then diving at the feet of Muphy as he went to follow up, before Rachubka dropped to his left to keep out a goalbound 22-yard free-kick by Nicholson.
"It was so important that, if you can't win, don't lose," said Knill.
"The offside decision at the end may have been a little bit of luck, which we haven't had recently, but I don't think either side deserved to lose the game."
Accrington Stanley (4-4-1-1): Rachubka; Hunt, Winnard, Aldred, Wilson; Boco, Murphy, Joyce (Aganzi 73), Molyneux; Beattie (Hatfield 84); Gray; subs not used – Dawber (gk), Barnett, Miller, Clark, Carver.
Booked: Hunt (foul 43).
Torquay United (4-4-2): Poke; Oastler, Saah, MacDonald, Nicholson; Jarvis (Leadbitter 75), Lathrope, Mansell, Bodin; Howe, Benyon; subs not used – Rice (gk), Morris, Stevens, Craig, Cruise, N. Thompson.
Booked: Oastler (foul 52).
Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Lancs).
Attendance: 1,197 (120 Gulls fans).
Statistics: Fouls – Stanley 7, United 13; Offsides – Stanley 5, United 2; Corners – Stanley 14, United 6; Shots/Headers On Target – Stanley 5, United 4; Off Target – Stanley 6, United 4; Hit Woodwork – None.