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Triumphant Town Go Top
By: Gareth Edwards
THREE superb goals from the Mariners helped Russell Slade's side to a 3-0 over bottom club Torquay and this saw them go top of Coca Cola League Two. A brace from Michael Reddy and a Rob Jones special set up the win and a decent all-round team performance got exactly what it deserved: three points.
The Mariners lined up with an orthodox 4-4-2, with Andy Parkinson's failed fitness test causing the only change: Terry Barwick deputising at right-wing for his full Mariners debut. Other than that Town were unchanged from the line-up that saw them break the club record of six-straight away wins, at Peterborough last week.
Torquay, whose first win had come the week before, had veteran stopper Andy Marriott between the sticks and target man Leon Constantine up-front with former Arsenal trainee, the nippy Jo Kuffour.
Town kicked off towards the Osmond end to begin the first half but it was the South-coast side who settled the better in the early stages. The pace of young striker Kuffour caused Town a few early scares but inspired by the battling of midfield engine Paul Bolland, they finally got out of the starting blocks. Gary Jones almost set Reddy through for Town's first effort but Sharp recovered well to make the tackle. Kalala then hit a tame effort wide from way out and this was unfortunately the full extent of the goalmouth action at either end, in the first fifteen minutes.
Reddy then perked up decidedly and began to cause problems, as always, with his pace and power, almost forging an opportunity for himself, but was denied by a decent stop from Marriott. Cohen was cynically hacked down when trying to break through from midfield but Kalala hit the resulting free-kick wide. A similar foul on Reddy led to Steve Woods being shown the yellow card, but Barwick could fare little better with the free-kick. Town's best chance then fell to Gary Jones, who met McDermott's whipped cross with a looping header across the goalkeeper. Marriott once again proved equal to it however, and somehow managed to tip the ball onto the crossbar and even then Paul Bolland was only inches away from tucking in the rebound. The Town faithful did not have to wait long for a goal, and it came from the rather unlikely source of Rob Jones' left boot. Gary Croft's long free-kick into the box was chased diligently by Kalala and the ball was only half cleared, leaving the centre back to punish this defensive indecision with a crisp volley struck high and hard and past the helpless goalie. Town saw out the half in professional fashion and their 1-0 lead at the break was definitely no less than they deserved.
Half Time: Town 1 Torquay 0
Town emerged from the tunnel for the second half, unchanged, with the news that Notts County were behind against Shrewsbury meaning if results remained the same they would go top. This, however, did not seem to have a positive effect and once again Torquay started the brighter, with several neat passing moves causing the Town defenders problems. Steve Mildenhall was called into action for the first time, making a smart stop from Sharp's flick on and Gary Croft was fortunately on hand to make a vital goal-line block form Constantine's header. It was now that the Mariners needed to stand up and be counted and Michael Reddy did just that by leading a swift counter attack that brought Town a goal very much against the run of play. Gary Jones received the ball whilst dropping off into the hole and chipped a perfect ball into the space between the keeper and his defence. Reddy timed his run to perfection, rounded the stranded keeper and tapped in, in front of the Pontoon who responded with chants of "Easy!" followed by the Annie's song.
Slade then decided to rotate the team slightly, perhaps with one eye on the Spurs game on Tuesday, and brought on Ciaran Toner for Barwick and Martin Gritton, against his former club, for Gary Jones. Gritton almost made an immediate impact by nearly setting Reddy through again. Reddy then took matters into his own hands and picked up the ball just inside the opposition half. He simply took the defence apart with his direct and quick running and the finish was especially well-taken, a little prod inside the near post catching out Marriott. With the game effectively over, the fans began to chant "we are top of the league", whilst Reddy strived to grab his hat-trick. Fortune, however, deserted him in the latter stages, with Marriott pulling off a brave stop from a yard to deny him the match ball.
As the final whistle blew, the Town fans acknowledged the team's efforts and many left the ground in haste to buy their tickets for the upcoming matches against Tottenham and Boston. The fans who have been able to get tickets for these games will now hope the Mariners can turn in equally good performances in both of these games.
Full Time: Town 3 Torquay 0
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