It may have been scrappy, it may have been ugly, but Torquay fans will be delighted to have another three points in the bag after a tense encounter at Plainmoor.
Torquay came off the back of a surprise 1-0 win at Crawley Town but had lost their previous home match against Bradford, while Aldershot were the form team coming into this fixture on the back of a club record six consecutive wins in League Two.
However, it was the Gulls that began the brighter of the two teams, looking determined to end Aldershot’s winning streak. Within five minutes Damon Lathrope’s looping cross had picked out Rene Howe to score with a header, but his effort was disallowed for offside.
Aldershot failed to heed this warning and just seven minutes in Torquay took the lead with a legitimate goal. Winger Ryan Jarvis, making his full Torquay debut due to Danny Stevens’ injury, picked out Eunan O’Kane in space on the left hand side. With a chance to shoot but with Aldershot defenders bearing down on him, the former Everton midfielder showed great composure by risking the wrath of the crowd and playing a perfect slide pass to the onrushing Howe at the back post. This time the striker timed his run to perfection, and Torquay had something to defend.
The goal saw a shift in momentum as Torquay dropped deeper and allowed Aldershot to attack, missing the opportunity to grab a second goal that would have effectively killed the game off before the break. Aldershot inevitably began to test Bobby Olejnik in the Torquay goal, with Josh Payne coming closest to an equaliser with a swerving free-kick that forced Olejnik into a great flying save. However, Torquay held on relatively comfortably until half-time.
Aldershot began the second half the better of the two sides, winning 50-50 battles and penning Torquay into their own half, leaving Rene Howe an isolated figure up front. As the half wore on, play deteriorated into what resembled a game of one-bounce: an Aldershot attack would be repelled by a Mark Ellis header or a Brian Saah hoof, but the visitors would quickly return the ball into Torquay’s half, starting the whole process again. It was not football for the purists.
The poor standard of the football, particularly from Torquay, was brightened by the honest eagerness of Shots forward Guy Madjo to get back in to the game. Throughout the half Madjo insisted on grabbing the ball from behind the goal and returning it to Olejnik as soon as possible, making the Torquay ballboy redundant and predictably receiving abuse from the home support.
The substitutions made by each manager reflected their respective aims. Torquay boss Martin Ling replaced Howe, the lone striker for most of the evening, with defender Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, while Aldershot made the more offensive switch of Peter Vincenti for Adam Mekki.
Despite Madjo’s best efforts, Aldershot eventually ran out of time despite showing glimpses of quality that would have been enough to salvage a point in other matches. Olejnik had to make a couple of important catches from corners but was otherwise troubled, with centre-back pairing Ellis and Saah defending resolutely.
The full-time whistle was greeted with cheers by relieved Gulls fans, and despite the sometimes ugly football, Torquay had got the result they needed. Aldershot could still manage a late surge to the play-off places, but will undoubtedly be disappointed not to have gotten at least the point they probably deserved.
Torquay: Olejnik, Oastler, Saah, Ellis, Nicholson, Jarvis (Atieno 71), Mansell, Lathrope, Morris (McPhee 90), O’Kane, Howe (Rowe-Turner 78). Subs not used: Rice, MacDonald.
Aldershot: Young, Herd, Jones, Morris, Bradley, Payne, Mekki (Vincenti 58), Murphy (Doughty 58), Straker, Hylton, Madjo (Risser 83). Subs not used: Smith, Clement.