Category: Non-League

Torquay United will face Conference North side Harrogate Town in the first round of the FA Cup on Saturday after the North Yorkshire club finally emerged victorious from a qualifying round clash with Hyde FC.

With 87 minutes played at Hyde’s Ewen Fields ground on 20 October, Harrogate had looked to be heading out of the competition. Former Everton striker Phil Jevons had given the hosts the lead early on, but Harrogate scrambled an equaliser late on through substitute Leon Osbourne to secure a replay on home turf.

Leon Osbourne (third-from-left Harrogate player) is mobbed after scoring a late equalizer in the 1-1 draw at Hyde

Although a lethal combination of bad weather and an over-used Wetherby Road caused the replay to be postponed and moved to Station View (home of neighbours Harrogate  Railway Athletic), when the sides finally met again yesterday Harrogate prevailed… just. Although Hyde’s pre-match preparations were severely hampered by heavy traffic that meant their coach arrived so late that kick-off had to be delayed by 15 minutes, Harrogate showed admirable determination to match their opponents for the duration of normal time.

180 minutes had failed to separate the two sides, but when Harrogate’s winner came deep into extra time, it was again from the boot of a substitute – this time 19-year-old defender Dan Clayton emerged as his team’s hero.

The victory sets Harrogate up for a long trip to Plainmoor, home of League Two Torquay United, in a replica of the 2005 first-round draw. That year, Harrogate deservedly earned a 1-1 draw in the Westcountry before again matching their professional counterparts at home – only to be cruelly beaten on penalties. That first-round replay remains the furthest Harrogate have ever progressed in the FA Cup.

Although Simon Weaver’s men will be hoping to avenge that loss and surpass their club record, they will face a strong Torquay side that is now sitting in the League Two play-off places after recovering from an indifferent start to the campaign. The Gulls are still unbeaten at home in the league and have won their last four games at Plainmoor – even recovering a 3-0 deficit to beat Aldershot 4-3 and pipping league leaders Gillingham 2-1.

Exits at the first hurdle of both the League Cup and Johnstone’s Paint Trophy  – to Leicester City and Yeovil Town respectively – leave this fixture as United’s last chance of cup success; Martin Ling’s side will doubtless be looking to continue a fine record in the FA Cup that has seen them reach the third round in five of the last seven seasons.

Torquay boss Ling is hoping for a fund-raising Cup run

However, Ling has also admitted that he sees the competition as a chance to boost the club’s coffers – with the January transfer window looming, Torquay need all the cash they can get to fund mid-season signings, and the £18,000 reward for beating Harrogate is a good start. Former Premier League midfielder Ling told BBC Sport: “It’s about money. It’s cruel to say that, because of the glory of the Cup, but it may mean me signing a player or having the the wages to sign a player that can help us go up [to League One]. That’s what the FA Cup’s about to me.”

United’s midfield has been particularly decimated by injury this season, with Ian Morris, Lloyd Macklin and Saul Halpin all currently suffering lengthy spells on the sidelines, while holding midfielders Damon Lathrope and Craig Easton have only recently returned to action after limping out of early games against Cheltenham and Chesterfield respectively. Though Ling resisted a late foray into the loan market earlier this month, the temptation to reinforce may prove too great if funds are made available through a decent cup run.


Images: Hyde 1-1 Harrogate –; Ling –

Torquay United goalkeeper Martin Rice has revealed that his penalty save in a 1-0 FA Trophy final defeat to Ebbsfleet United in 2008 is the best stop he has made in a nine-year senior career that has also taken in multiple seasons at both Exeter City and Truro City.

Rice first joined Torquay in 2007 after moving from Devon rivals and hometown club Exeter City, but, finding first-team opportunities limited at Plainmoor, joined non-league Truro two years later. A successful stay at Treyew Road – which took in two promotions in his three seasons at the club – convinced new Torquay manager Martin Ling to swoop for Rice’s signature in July 2011 after both of United’s senior goalkeepers in 2010-11, Scott Bevan and Danny Potter, had joined the Plainmoor exodus started by boss Paul Buckle’s defection to Bristol Rovers earlier that summer.

“The best save I ever made”: Rice produces a fine stop to deny McPhee

Lured by the promise of professional football, Rice found himself behind first-choice goalkeeper Bobby Olejnik on his return to Torquay, but earned praise from coaching staff and team-mates alike for his superb attitude and enthusiasm – so much so that United left-back Kevin Nicholson named the custodian as his “Player of the Season” despite the fact that Rice did not made a single league appearance in 2011-12! Says Ling: “The enthusiasm and drive he brings to the place is phenomenal…I’ve been really pleased with how he has done the job as number two.”

Although Torquay inevitably lost Olejnik this summer, to Championship side Peterborough United, Rice has once more found himself beginning the season on the bench, with new signing Michael Poke assuming the role of first-choice goalkeeper. Ironically, Poke was one of the glovesmen obstructing Rice’s path to first-team football in his initial spell at United: the pair formed the club’s goalkeeping unit in the 2008-09 promotion-winning campaign, and Martin was on the bench as Torquay, with Poke between the posts, defeated Cambridge United in the play-off final on 17 May 2009.

Rice had, however, started at Wembley in United’s 1-0 FA Trophy final defeat to Ebbsfleet United in May 2008, and it was in this game that the goalkeeper made what he believes to be the best save of his career – a spot-kick stop to deny future Torquay team-mate Chris McPhee when the scores were still level. In an interview with Torquay’s match-day programme about the science and demands of his position, Rice said “The best save I ever made was the penalty at Wembley, especially as I’d given the pen away!”

The 26-year-old added: “I have always loved the role [of a goalkeeper] and there are so many different areas to work on: handling crosses, shot-stopping, kicking…making saves is the obvious area of glory for a ‘keeper but coming for crosses is equally satisfying because you know it’s helping out the defenders.”

Echoing Matt Barlow’s musings in today’s Daily Mail, Rice admitted the isolation of his position can be a drawback: “The life of a goalkeeper can be lonely and standing out on the pitch can sometimes be a lonely place, but you’ve always got to be on your toes and ready for the ball coming over the top.

“It is a different psychology [compared to outfield positions] but you can sometimes think about things too much; if you make a mistake, it’s important not to excessively study what happened and keep your mind on the game.”


Watch the save in question:


Torquay United last night continued their 100% percent victory in pre-season friendlies with a 2-0 win over Southern League Division One side Tiverton Town, following a 3-0 defeat of the Royal Marines on Friday. Yesterday’s match also marked the opening of United’s new stand, Bristow’s Bench.

Unsurprisingly, most Torquay fans chose to sit in the impressive Bristow’s Bench, with only a smattering of supporters situated in the Family Stand and even fewer in the Popside. United manager Martin Ling’s decision to play a different XI in each half provided the club’s fans with a chance to see almost the entire squad in action –  including new signing Aaron Downes, whose transfer had only been completed hours earlier.

The teamsheet issued before the game carried one ominous sign, however, with playmaker Eunan O’Kane not even listed as a substitute. Having rejected a move to Crawley in June, United fans and players alike were hoping the midfielder would begin the 2012-13 at Plainmoor, but he was left out last night amid rumours of a £175,000 bid from League One side AFC Bournemouth.

Torquay fans pack the gleaming new stand as the teams walk out

With Torquay’s first half XI a blend of first-team regulars – including captain Lee Mansell and last season’s top scorer Rene Howe – untried youngsters such as Niall Thompson and Kirtys MacKenzie, and new signings Downes and Craig Easton, the Gulls predictably struggled early on against a more unified and familiar Tiverton side which contained Torquay record appearance holder Kevin Hill in midfield.

However, early pressure from the visitors was soon cancelled out by a good spell from Torquay, Howe making a nuisance of himself up front while left-back Kevin Nicholson aimed to use winger Thompson’s pace to good effect with a number of sweeping crossfield balls. The match progressed into an even, entertaining tussle, with chances at both ends  – Tiverton’s Andy Taylor warmed new Torquay goalkeeper Michael Poke’s gloves with a fierce volley midway through the first half.

Despite having previously struggled to impose himself on the game from an unfamiliar central midfield role, Torquay’s Ashley Yeoman broke the deadlock on 37 minutes. Picking up possession on the edge of the Tiverton box, the 20-year-old punished United’s visitors with a low shot that flew under Tivvy goalkeeper Chris Wright.

New centre-back Downes provided further encouragement with a stellar45 minute display, combining assured defending with accurate passing and a calm on the ball unusual for a lower-league defender. Brought after the departure of aerial specialist Mark Ellis – with Ling promising an aerially “dominant”  replacement – Downes won every header and repelled every high ball.

Had Ling not been forced to replace injured right-back Joe Oastler with former Newcastle defender Daniel Leadbitter on the half-hour mark, Torquay’s second-half line-up would have seen 11 new players enter the fray. As it was, 10 changes were made, with back-up goalkeeper Martin Rice replacing Poke, new signing Tom Cruise taking Nicholson’s left-back berth, and 16-year-old apprentice Jake Hutchings occupying central defence alongside Brian Saah.

The surplus of wingers in the second half side – four widemen competed for two spots – meant that United’s regular left- and right-sided midfielders Ian Morris and Danny Stevens, along with new signing Nathan Craig, were forced to alternately occupy unfamiliar central roles.

Torquay captain Lee Mansell (in black) motors through the Tivvy midfield

With Torquay’s first-choice wingers out of the way, much-maligned midfielder Lloyd Macklin was presented with a chance to impress the club’s fans and coaches. He didn’t disappoint. Attempting to force his way back into the first-team picture after being publicly criticized by Ling for his attitude, and subsequently trialling at Conference side Hereford, Macklin did his playing prospects no harm with a fine display.

Tormenting Tiverton’s backline with his electrifying pace, Macklin saw as much of the ball as anyone in the second half, whipping over several dangerous crosses and linking up well with right-back and off-field friend Leadbitter. Sprinting onto a through ball midway around the hour mark, Macklin found himself one-on-one but saw his shot blocked by the solid Wright.

Former Premier League forward Ryan Jarvis, occupying Howe’s role as lone frontman, was guilty of missing a guilt-edged chance soon afterwards, side-footing over the bar from close range. He was almost punished when Tiverton centre-back Dave Kendall headed narrowly over from a corner minutes later.

However, it was United’s night, and the win was assured 20 minutes from time. Leadbitter’s cross was headed against the woodwork by Jarvis, but as Tiverton’s defence breathed a sigh of relief, Stevens nipped in to convert the rebound…via the far post. The remainder of the game was dominated by Torquay, with Macklin almost extending the lead with a powerful drive on 80 minutes, Wright producing an impressive save.

As the clock wound down, Ling took the opportunity to provide substitutes George Artemi and Danny Sullivan with 20-minute cameos, with both youngsters doing well to impress in their short slots. Artemi, a Thurrock centre-half on trial at Plainmoor, was playing out-of-position at right-back, but took advantage of his wide role to embark on a marauding run late on which almost led to a third goal.

Playing on United’s left wing, pacy teenager Sullivan showed glimpses of the talent and form that has seen him net four times in his last two youth team outings. A hat-trick against Kingsteignton’s senior side last week had been followed up by a solitary strike in Torquay’s 4-2 defeat of Pulse Premier two days later – which Ling attended – and more goals could see Sullivan fast-tracked into the first team.

Result: Torquay United 2-0 Tiverton Town

Goals: Ashley Yeoman ’37, Danny Stevens ’68

Officials: Referee – Marc Whaley; Linesmen – Andy Tinkler, Ian Loader; Fouth Official – Sean Rothwell

Teams: Torquay: 1st half – Michael Poke, Joe Oastler (Daniel Leadbitter 30), Kirtys MacKenzie, Aaron Downes, Kevin Nicholson, Niall Thompson, Lee Mansell, Craig Easton, Ashley Yeoman, Billy Bodin, Rene Howe.

2nd half – Martin Rice, Daniel Leadbitter (George Artemi 68), Brian Saah, Jake Hutchings, Tom Cruise, Lloyd Macklin, Damon Lathrope, Ian Morris, Nathan Craig, Danny Stevens (Danny Sullivan 68), Ryan Jarvis.

Tiverton: Chris Wright, Josh Concanen, Lewis Tasker, Kevin Hill, Paul Kendall, Adam Faux, Andy Taylor, Harry Nodwell, Michael Nardiello, Joe Bushin, Josh Searle, Liam Ellis, Tom Tricker, Owen Howe, Tom Gardner, Jules Emati-Emati, David Steele, Russell Jee, George Swain, Mark Saunders.


Artemi on Trial

Former Southend defender George Artemi has confirmed that he is currently on trial with League Two side Torquay United. The Gulls are known to be on the lookout for a new central defender to replace Mark Ellis, who left for Crewe Alexandra in June.

Although Torquay boss Martin Ling is desperate to sign another defender before the start of the 2012-13 season, many fans will be surprised to learn of 19-year-old Artemi’s trial – Ling had promised the new centre-back would have “experience and at least 100 games of professional football under his belt”.

Artemi at Rusden & Diamonds in 2009

That Artemi has spent most of his senior career in the reserve teams of professional clubs or playing in non-league suggests that either Ling thinks very highly of him indeed, or sees the ex-Rushden & Diamonds man as a third-choice centre-back. The Gulls completed the signing of former Arsenal youngster Tom Cruise in late June, and Cruise’s ability to play on the left side of defence or midfielder means that Artemi could take his place in United’s central defensive roster – with Cruise now seen as cover at full-back.

Beginning his career in Leyton Orient’s youth system, Artemi was part of Ling’s regime at Brisbane Road when the manager spent six years at the club between 2003 and 2009. A former captain of Orient’s youth sides, Artemi trialled with Rushden & Diamonds in the 2008-09 season, and, after impressing for the club’s youth team, made his senior debut aged 17 in a Hillier Senior Cup clash with Kettering Town.

Although he has a distinct lack of Football League experience, Artemi is no stranger to the rough-and-tumble of men’s football – described as a “strong, no-nonsense centre-back” by Diamonds, he faced 6ft strikers Anthony Elding and Moses Ashikodi on his debut for the club, and has since enjoyed loan spells further down the football pyramid with Great Wakering Rovers and Malden & Tiptree.

Following a trial with Southend in March 2011, Artemi signed a contract with the Roots Hall club, but he found first-team opportunities hard to come by and, after more loan spells, was released at the end of the year. Artemi, of Cypriot origin but fluent in Spanish, joined Bishop’s Stortford in January 2012, but would spend just two months at the club before leaving for Conference South outfit Thurrock in March.

Relegation-threatened Thurrock had little chance of survival – they would ultimately be relegated in the first week of April – and Artemi was handed his debut in March, starting against mid-table Weston-super-Mare in a 2-2 draw. Though the result was a good one for Thurrock on their travels, Artemi was replaced just 14 minutes into the match and failed to appear again in 2011-12.

Should he join Torquay on a permanent basis if his trial proves successful, Artemi will complete a hat-trick of players on the club’s books with Cypriot heritage. Left-back Alex Avraamides and 15-year-old midfielder Charalambos Mouzouros are both members of United’s youth team, and both impressed in the U-18 side’s 4-2 victory over international academy Pulse Premier on Friday.

With the Gulls also linked with Morecambe centre-back Chris McCready and ex-Crawley stopper Pablo Mills, it seems unlikely that Ling would take the risk of having Artemi, untried in the Football League, in his starting line-up. However, the youngster could provide valuable cover across the backline and act as back-up to the first-choice pairing of Brian Saah and the expected signing of a new, experienced centre-back.


Clarke Catches Chris

Salisbury City have completed the signing of utility man Chris McPhee as player-coach, following the 29-year-old’s release from Torquay United earlier this week. Having stated his intent to land a coaching role, McPhee’s move benefits both player and club: Salisbury gain a player with vast Conference and Football League experience, vital to a side that finished mid-table in the Conference South last season.

McPhee boasts a wealth of Conference experience

Indeed, Salisbury boss Darrell Clarke gushed: “I am over the moon to bring someone of Chris’ ability and experience into the squad. Players of his calibre do not become available too often, and we have beaten off several high-profile clubs to get his signature. It’s a huge bonus that Chris will also be assisting me and Mikey [Harris, assistant manager] on the training ground. I’d like to thank the Board for their continued support, and we’re all very excited about starting the season.”

McPhee’s versatility could also prove pivotal to Salisbury’s success: he featured mainly in central midfield for Torquay last season, but has also operated as a forward for previous clubs and even represented England at “C” level at right-back and centre-half. Experience playing in many different roles allows McPhee to provide cover for many positions in Salisbury’s small squad.

The man himself told the club’s official website: “It’s been a strange summer, as I thought I would probably be going out on loan somewhere this season. After speaking to Salisbury, I believe this is the best move for my future and I am excited about working with the Gaffer and Mikey. The season can’t come soon enough and I’m really keen to get started. I am delighted to be able to help push this club forward both on and off the pitch and develop the young players at the football club.”

The fact that clubs higher up England’s football pyramid – including Newport County and Hereford United – were thought to be interested in McPhee’s services means that some may view his decision to join Salisbury as illogical, an opinion the ex-Brighton trainee disagrees with: “Some people may say it’s a step down, as I could have played at Blue Square Bet Premier [England’s fifth division] level.  But I’m 29 and by 35 I want to have all my coaching badges and look at managerial roles further down the line.”


McPhee Moves On

Torquay United have confirmed the release of midfielder Chris McPhee following talks with manager Martin Ling that resulted in a mutual agreement that the player’s future lies elsewhere. The news comes despite BBC Sport reporting that a loan move was on the cards just 24 hours ago.

Having returned to Plainmoor in June 2011, after previously spending a season with the club in 2006-07, McPhee found first-team opportunities limited under Ling. Initially used as a substitute or starting central midfielder, McPhee made 26 league appearances in 2011-12 but gradually fell out of favour as the season wore on, even struggling to hold down a place on the bench after January.

Indeed, he last featured for the Gulls on 6 March, in a 1-0 home defeat of Aldershot. Unsurprisingly, both player and manager thought a change of scenery was required, and Torquay transfer-listed McPhee in late May, along with winger Lloyd Macklin.

McPhee struggled to break into United’s starting XI last season

Following this move, it looked as if McPhee would be either sold, or loaned out to a Conference National club for the first half of the 2012-13 campaign, returning in January – or being recalled earlier if required – to assist in what Ling hopes will be a push for promotion. With McPhee having spent most of his career in the South of the country, taking in spells with Swindon and Weymouth as well as Torquay, rumours linking the 29-year-old with loan or permanent moves to Newport County and Hereford United seemed well-founded.

McPhee’s experience in non-league, combined with his versatility – he can play anywhere across midfield as well as up front – would benefit any Conference club, but today’s release scuppers any chance of a temporary move for the ex-Brighton trainee. Ling’s decision to cut McPhee from his now 22-man squad has fuelled hope that the former Leyton Orient chief is about to announce the signing of another attacker, as Ling has previously stated his squad will consist of 24 men – McPhee’s replacement, plus the imminent signing of a new centre-back, would bring the group back up to the requisite number.

Despite acknowledging that there had been “considerable loan interest” in McPhee in recent weeks, a club statement claimed “a permanent departure would be the best option for both parities”. Manager Ling added: “”We have reached an agreement for Chris to leave the club with immediate effect and pursue his career elsewhere. Chris is very much interested in combining a coaching role with his playing duties and sees his best opportunity with a club outside the Football League.”

McPhee now looks set to join a leading Conference side, with the added financial impact of having to pay all of McPhee’s wages (likely to be higher if a coaching role is involved) rather than a propotion, as would have been the case with a loan deal. The 2008 FA Trophy winner is unlikely to be short of offers, though, and could be tempted by a Conference South side if coaching duties are available.



Former Torquay United defender Lathaniel Rowe-Turner has joined Conference National side Luton Town on a two-year deal. The 22-year-old had been a free agent after being released by Torquay in May 2012.

By joining Luton, Rowe-Turner will link up with ex-Gulls boss Paul Buckle, who initially brought the left-back to Plainmoor in 2010. Although he enjoyed loan spells with Redditch United and King’s Lynn in 2009, this will be Rowe-Turner’s first permanent stint in non-league football.

Rowe-Turner poses for the Luton paparazzi

Rowe-Turner has a fine Football League pedigree, having come through the ranks at local club Leicester City, being part of the Foxes side that won the 2006-07 FA Youth Premier League and being named the club’s Academy Player of the Year in 2008. The defender spent a brief loan spell with Cheltenham Town in 2008 and played 35 league games for Torquay during his three-season stay at Plainmoor.

Lathaniel, nicknamed Snoop, will join fellow ex-Torquay players Alex Lawless and Scott Rendell in Luton’s new-look squad, with the defender becoming Paul Buckle’s sixth signing of a busy summer. Although Luton are currently in the Conference, the club has suffered three play-off defeats in as many years, and under the guidance of Buckle – who won promotion to League Two with Torquay in 2009 – the Hatters look set to challenge for the title this season.

Clearly pleased to have joined one of England’s bigger non-league clubs, and to have earned the security of a two-year contract, Rowe-Turner took to his Twitter account to say “Thanks for all the welcome [to Luton] tweets…can’t wait to get started”. The defender’s versatility – he primarily operates at left-back but can also play in central defence and featured in midfield for Torquay last season – means that he provides valuable back-up in a number of positions in Buckle’s squad.


Palmer’s a Poppy

Former Torquay United defender Ed Palmer has joined Southern League Premier side Kettering Town on a one-year deal. Palmer was released by the Gulls in May and had been without a club until signing on the dotted line at Nene Park on Monday.

The 20-year-old centre-back becomes new Kettering manager John Beck’s first signing after the boss best known for his spell in charge of Cambridge in the early 1990s was appointed Poppies chief two weeks ago.

Palmer (left) is happy to have joined Kettering

Palmer failed to make a first-team appearance for Torquay but enjoyed loan spells at non-league sides Weymouth and Truro City after graduating from United’s youth academy in 2010. Clearly pleased to have hooked up with one of the bigger clubs in the Southern League, Palmer said “[I’m] happy and excited to be joining Kettering. Can’t wait for [the] season to start now!” after the deal was completed.

Palmer’s signing at Kettering matches Torquay manager Martin Ling’s prediction for the youngster: on releasing Ed, Ling said “Ed has got ability and did very well down at Truro. I feel that he can play Conference South or Conference level but hasn’t quite got enough for me at this moment in time.”

The Totnes-born defender may well benefit from a season’s playing time at a club three divisions below Torquay, and given Kettering’s financial worries – the club finished bottom of the Conference National last season amid crippling debts of £1.2 million – Palmer is likely to be one of the Poppies’ first-choice centre-backs – manager Beck will not have the funds to employ a large squad.