The U's were left frustrated with just a point today as they drew 0-0 with Torquay. A second half performance full of bright attacking ideas came to nothing as Torquay keeper Martin Rice turned in a Man of the Match performance to earn his side a point.
United had three chances inside the first minute as Tom Craddock freed James Constable with the first attack of the match only for keeper Martin Rice to save twice at the striker’s feet then comfortably catch Sean Rigg’s follow up header as the U’s started very brightly.
With Liam Davis making his first start of the season at left back, Johnny Mullins partnering Jake Wright at centre half and Simon Heslop offering width on the right of a four man midfield United had good balance, with only a Kevin Nicolson free kick after eight minutes and a replica from Nathan Craig on 32 causing Ryan Clarke any concern in the first half.
However United had failed to make some attractive approach play really count themselves in the opening period, with several inviting crosses flashing just in front of forwards or the final pass going astray. The duel between Rigg and right back Joseph Oastler and the abrasive approach of Gulls’ striker Ryan Jarvis, who by our reckoning had been late into challenges and laid out all of the United back four within 37 minutes, had made it an intriguing 45 minutes to watch without a great deal happening in front of goal.
There was the worrying sight of top scorer Craddock limping off at half time to be replaced by JP Pittman, but the sub soon showed his pace and power to get an early run at goal in the second half before fizzing a left footed drive over the top.
Pittman’s extra pace seemed to unnerve the visitors defence and the the second half was played mostly with United on the front foot, playing with far more tempo. Torquay did bundle in a 53rd minute ‘goal’, well after the offside flag had gone up, but at the other end Constable blazed over from the edge of the box a minute later, and then the excellent Rigg planted two shots narrowly wide of the right hand post within a minute of each other.
A trademark Peter Leven free kick on 64, again for a foul on Pittman, produced a smart save from Rice, but the keeper saved his best for the 70th minute as he somehow clawed away another Constable effort as the striker fired at goal from ten yards out after clever build up play by Pittman. The ball seemed beyond Rice but somehow he managed to get it over his crossbar.
With eight minutes to go Rice should have finally been beaten as Constable turned cleverly on to a dinked pass from sub Adam Chapman but blazed the opportunity over the top, and two minutes later it was Leven's turn to be denied by the keeper as his goalbound effort was once again beaten away by the flying keeper. When Pittman raced away on to another magnificent Chapman pass a minute later it seemed a goal just had to come but instead the ball across was hacked clear by defender Brian Saah, before a blatant barge in the back of Constable earned merely the disapproval of the crowd rather than a penalty.
Just to confirm that United's luck was out Andy Whing then nodded a corner on to the post with two minutes to go, and a final desperate bombardment in injury time still failed to bring the goal that the performance had merited.
Credit to the fans who roared their team on and gave unstinting support. On another day that backing would have been rewarded with a win.
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Report by Chris Williams. Pictures by Steve Daniels. Stats by PA Sports
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