Torquay United’s amazing start to the season just gets better and better, after the Gulls dumped League One Bournemouth out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy on Tuesday night.
The key to the success was, once again, another clean sheet. After conceding their first goal in 998 minutes against Port Vale on Saturday, the Cherries would have been hoping to exploit a more charitable Gulls backline – but instead, they were left short-changed.
Bournemouth, who have started the season well themselves, just couldn’t find a way past a resolute Torquay defence. During normal time, centre half Mark Ellis was immense, but they had no more luck in the penalty shoot-out which followed the goalless draw.
Torquay stopper Scott Bevan looked on as Bournemouth’s first two spot kicks failed to find the back of the net, before saving Marc Pugh’s effort himself. Successful spot kicks from Chris Robertson, Nicky Wroe and Kevin Nicholson sealed United’s safe passage through to the Second Round, and wrapped up yet another impressive result for Paul Buckle’s irrepressible side.
All in all, it rounded off an excellent 24 hours for the club, as news began to filter through in the early evening that no club had seen fit to poach any of the Gulls’ rising stars on transfer deadline day.
A collective sigh of relief for all supporters indeed but, given the red-hot form the team is in at the moment - the last 100 per cent record in the Football League, for a start - it’s quite a shock that no club seems to have seriously tested the club’s stance on not needing to sell their top players.
In truth, as Paul Buckle admitted himself as the deadline approached, it would have been very difficult for the club to turn down a serious offer for the likes of Mark Ellis and Elliot Benyon. At one point towards the end of last season, it appeared Ellis was on his way out of the club – how glad now everybody connected with the club are that an agreement was met.
The bustling youngster, who Premier League Bolton Wanderers signed for £90,000 from Exeter City as a 16 year old, left the Trotters without making a first team appearance.
He initially found it hard to break into the Gulls side, playing only a bit-part role in helping them regain their Football League status and then being loaned out to Conference side Forest Green Rovers the following year.
Since linking up with the experienced Guy Branston during last Spring’s successful relegation battle though, he has come of age in some style. Elliot Benyon has steadily improved his goal tally with every season since becoming one of Paul Buckle’s first signings in 2007.
After successful spells at Conference level with St Albans and Crawley Town prior to joining the club, the striker is now gaining admirers throughout the game with his performances in League Two.
United will now go to face Southend at Roots Hall on Saturday, the scene of the club’s greatest triumph of recent years.
In 2004 a 2-1 win for the Gulls on the last day of the season clinched automatic promotion to League One for Leroy Rosenior’s side and, whilst it may be a little too early to start getting carried away, this amazing opening month for Torquay has left their fans with every right to dream!
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.