Ten-man Torquay United battle back twice for point
Down to ten men after only three minutes and a goal behind after four, Torquay United shrugged off the dismissal of defender Aaron Downes to earn the bravest of draws – and it could be a precious one at that – against Dagenham & Redbridge in the East End last night, writes David Thomas.
Downes was sent off for bringing down Abu Ogogo, Medy Elito dispatching the penalty to give Alan Knill's Gulls a nightmare start.
United refused to accept another defeat and showed exactly the fighting spirit they will need to stay in the Football League. On-loan midfielder Joss Labadie scored his first goal for the club to equalise in the 71st minute.
United would have deserved a point for that recovery, but they had to overcome yet another setback when Dagenham regained the lead with five minutes left, Josh Scott volleying into the roof of the net.
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Again the Gulls fought back, and substitute Lloyd Macklin was felled for Rene Howe to score his 15th goal of the season from the penalty spot.
It may not have been the win which United still badly need, but it was exactly the sort of display that Knill must have been looking for.
The manager left out long-serving Kevin Nicholson and introduced Tom Cruise for only his second League start for the Gulls at left-back.
United also had the boost of a passed fitness-test for Labadie, who had been under treatment for a knee injury sustained during the 3-1 home defeat to Oxford United on Saturday.
But the best-laid plans had to be abandoned within minutes of the kick-off. Mansell tried to find a team-mate with a header in midfield, but only succeeded in knocking the ball over his defence.
Daggers midfielder Abu Ogogo nipped through, Downes tried desperately to turn and catch him, but he was always struggling to get there.
When he did close the gap, it was just inside the area and a nudge from behind was enough to send Ogogo over.
Referee Keith Stroud pointed to the spot and, ruling that Ogogo was through, sent Downes off. Melito drove the penalty into the top right-hand corner as Michael Poke dived the other way.
Knill promptly sacrificed striker Elliot Benyon, sent on young Reading loanee Angus MacDonald in Downes' place and left Howe to fend on his own up front.
United kept Dagenham at bay until the 16th minute when Poke came to the rescue.
Josh Scott set Melito away down Dageham's right, made ground into the middle and was there to meet Melito's cross with a firm header. Poke pulled off a top-drawer save to tip the ball over his bar.
Six minutes later Dagenham missed a wonderful chance.
Scott crossed from the right and Billy Bingham, unmarked at the far post, volleyed wide from eight yards out.
Luke Howell had a goalbound shot blocked, and in the 42nd minute Scott Doe, up for a Matt Saunders corner, hit the near-post side-netting with a Melito then missed two chances. First, he was at full stretch as he tried to reach a Scott cross, slicing the ball over from six yards out.
Then Melito found himself in space inside the area, after good work by Olu Ilesanmi down the left, but he curled his shot wide with Poke to beat from 15 yards.
Burnett sent on Ben Strevens for Howell in the 70th minute, but United were now in full cry and a minute later they equalised. Saah had a header clawed from under his bar by Lewington, the ball eventually scrambled away for a corner on United's left.
Mansell took it, Saah headed back at the far post and Labadie was there to ram the ball into the roof of the net from point-blank range.
Bodin, with a shot and a header both at Lewington, threatened to snatch the lead as United went for all three points. Knill sent on Lloyd Macklin for Jarvis in the 76th minute to try and give the Gulls more pace.
Only Ilesanmi's last-ditch tackle stopped Macklin scoring on Bodin's through-ball, while MacDonald headed over and Labadie scraped the bar with a 25-yard free-kick.
So it seemed cruel when, in the 85th minute Dagenham regained the lead. Saunders delivered a diagonal cross from the right and Scott lunged in at the far post to volley into the roof of the net.
In the 88th minute home defender Luke Wilkinson flattened Macklin from behind as the United player went to chest the ball down and referee Stroud pointed to the spot for the second time in the match.
Up stepped Howe and, with his trademark stuttering run, sent Lewington the wrong way with the penalty.
Dagenham & Redbridge (4-4-2): Lewington; Hoyte, Wilkinson, Doe, Ilesanmi; Saunders, Howell (Strevens 70), Ogogo, Bingham (Green 79); Scott, Melito. Substitutes (not used): Seabright (gk), Reed, Maher, Dennis, Gracco.
Torquay United (4-4-2): Poke; Oastler, Saah, Downes, Cruise; Jarvis (Macklin 76), Labadie, Mansell, Bodin; Benyon (MacDonald 4), Howe. Substitutes Rice (gk), Nicholson, Lathrope, Stevens, Craig.
Sent off: Downes 3.
Referee: K Stroud (Hampshire).