Result: Southport 2-1 Torquay
After a gutsy fightback with ten men, Torquay United handed all three points to relegation scrappers Southport with a catalogue of errors five minutes from time at Haig Avenue.
Toby Ajala’s 85th minute equaliser seemed to have rewarded the Gulls after they had fallen behind as early as the ninth minute and then seen captain Luke Young sent off only three minutes later.
There was no doubt that United deserved a point, but mistakes by French defender Ollivier Gueguen initially and then goalkeeper Martin Rice helped to lay the late winner on a plate for Southport winger Paul Smith.
Manager Chris Hargreaves said: “It really is a sickener.
“Having fought so well and so hard with ten men, and then to concede two goals from two shots they had all afternoon, especially the way the winner went in, it’s hard to take.
“The players put in so much hard work that I’m disappointed for them.”
Hargreaves did not argue with the decision to dismiss Young.
“It was a moment of madness from my captain,” he said. “Five years ago it would have been a talking-to, and maybe not even a yellow card, but nowadays you just can do it – very disappointing.
“It was a big error of judgment, and Luke will have to learn from it.”
It was obvious from the first whistle that the wind was going to play a major part in the match.
The conditions ruled out most thoughts of getting the ball down and passing it. Safety-first was the priority, especially for unchanged United, who had to play into the wind in the first half.
The Gulls needed to make a solid start, but they didn’t.
Gueguen had to concede a hasty corner after Aaron Downes had failed to close down Richard Brodie quickly enough in the United penalty area.
And in the eighth minute Downes clearly pulled back Brodie after the Port striker had beaten him on the turn, giving away a free-kick from which Southport scored.
Kay whipped a 25-yard shot over the wall and into the top right-hand corner…1-0.
A couple of minutes later Kay went in late on Young in midfield, and the Gulls skipper reacted angrily with a grab-push on his opponent.
Referee Ian Hussin, who had given the free-kick in United’s favour, booked Kay but then showed the red card to Young.
The captain’s armband went to Downes, and Hargreaves ‘sacrificed’ Louis Briscoe to send on Ben Harding in a 4-4-1 formation.
United did a good job to stay in the game until half-time.
They took few risks, limited Southport to few opportunities and might even have scored in the 35th minute.
Downes’ long ball gave Ajala a chance to beat Will Beesley for pace, but he fired over on a narrow angle with Bowman and Courtney Cameron both available in the middle.
Hargreaves waited until the 55th minute before making a second change, new signing Kadell Daniel for Bowman, who had a recurrence of a groin problem.
But Daniel’s introduction was delayed while he took off a wristband, United playing on with nine men for a couple of minutes.
Daniel went to the right wing, with Ajala up front and United began their fightback.
With the wind now behind, they penned Southport in their own half and nearly equalised in the 62nd minute.
Gueguen flicked on a Cameron free-kick from the left and Downes was only inches away from finishing the move.
James McQuilkin had a 25-yarder deflected over the bar, and Daniel fired not far wide from 30 yards.
An equaliser looked on, and it came in the 77th minute.
McQuilkin’s 30-yard free-kick rebounded off the bar and Ajala, following in, bundled the ball over the line…1-1.
That really should have been it, and United seemed to be seeing the game out until the 85th minute.
Then, Gueguen allowed substitute Connor McCarthy away when he should have cleared and when Rice came off his line and didn’t cut out the cross, it left Smith with an easy chance to score by the right-hand post…2-1 to Port.
It was a great result for the home team, trying to pull away from relegation trouble, but it was a second numbing away defeat in the space of four days for Torquay after they had led 2-0 and lost 3-2 at Woking on Tuesday night.
Southport (4-1-4-1): Thompson; Challoner, Davies, Foster, Beesley; George (Hewitt 74); Smith, Joyce, Kay, Donnelly; Brodie (McCarthy 65). Substitutes (not used): Usai, Rutherford, Fitzpatrick.
Goals: Kay 9, Smith 85.
Booked: Kay 12, Foster 60, Donnelly 90+1.
Torquay United (4-4-2): Rice; Dawson (Yeoman 74), Gueguen, Downes, Pearce; Ajala, McQuilkin, Young, Cameron; Briscoe (Harding 15), Bowman (Daniel 57). Substitutes (not used): Richards, Prynn.
Goal: Ajala 77.
Sent Off: Young 12.
Booked: Downes 8.
Referee: Ian Hussin (Merseyside).
Report by: David Thomas (West Morning News)
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