Torquay United 4-2 Notts County - It is important to our club to win promotion back to the Football League, says Torquay United boss Gary Johnson

Saturday 12th June 2021
Torquay United 4 – 2 Notts County
Kickoff 12/06/2021 12:00

(after extra time)
Vanarama National League Play-Off Semi-Final
Saturday 12 June 2021
Stephen McCartney reports watching on BT Sport

TORQUAY UNITED manager Gary Johnson says his side are one step away from celebrating a return to the Football League for the first time since 2014.

The 65-year-old Londoner, who signed a new contract yesterday, guided the club to runners-up in the Vanarama National League, collecting 80 points from their 42 league games, finishing four points adrift of champions Sutton United.

Notts County finished 10 points behind in fifth-place in the table and sealed a thrilling 3-2 home win over Chesterfield in the Play-Off Eliminator seven days ago, while Hartlepool United ended Bromley’s promotion hopes with a 3-2 win at Victoria Park last Sunday.

Johnson’s side will travel to Bristol City’s Ashton Gate next Sunday to contest the winner-takes-all Promotion Final against Stockport County or Hartlepool United.

Torquay United got off to a dream start with recalled striker Danny Wright heading home after only 35 seconds before Notts County levelled through another header, this time from striker Ruben Rodriques.

Wright slotted home his second goal of the game early in the second half before Notts County equalised within three minutes through a rare goal from Adam Chicksen, who relishes the opportunity to get forward from his position as the left-sided centre-half.

Torquay United scored twice in extra-time on a warm and sunny day at Plainmoor with captain Asa Hall scoring from another header from a set-piece before left-back Dean Moxey tucked home a controversial penalty.

“Feel good, it’s a big game, two great clubs, both clubs want to get into the Football League and we’ve gone that one step further and we’ve beat a top team, they’re a good team, as are we,” Johnson told BT Sport afterwards.

“We had to do a few adjustments at half-time and we’ve got it. We started off fantastic both halves, we started well and then we let them have the ball a little bit, didn’t we? 

“They’re a good team. Second half we had to get a little bit tighter, a bit closer, we looked well in the game.

“We wanted it, you could see we wanted it and we got the prize. There’s still one big game to go and you’ve got to win that one otherwise all of this is (a waste of time).

“Well, you’ve got to go and win it anyway. It is important to our club and everybody wants to do that (win promotion) as you can see by all the fans, they deserve to be in the Football League.

“What a great game we’ve had today. We’ll enjoy this. Hopefully it’s been good for TV.  You’ve had a fantastic game for every single play-off game.

“We’re not there yet though but we’re as close as you can be. Stockport and Hartlepool are both good, strong teams, so we’ll take whatever comes.”

Notts County were expecting a long throw from Moxey, but he threw it short to centre-half Joe Lewis, who whipped in a deep cross from the left and Wright buried his header into the far corner, via a deflection off Chicksen’s head, from eight-yards to give Torquay United the early advantage.

Notts County offered very little in an attacking sense during the first-half and Enzio Boldewijn cracked a 25-yard drive harmlessly over the crossbar.

Moxey’s second throw was indeed long and Hall flicked the ball on at the near post for striker Connor Lemonheigh-Evans to throw himself at the ball to steer his header over.

Notts County grabbed an equaliser in the 39th minute, courtesy of good build-up play down the right.

Boldewijn held the ball up on the corner of the box and fed right-wing-back Dion Kelly-Evans on the overlap and he cut into the box and put in a great cross for Rodriques to plant his header across the diving keeper into the far corner from eight-yards.

The equaliser gave Notts County much more belief and centre-half Richard Brindley wasn’t too far away from finding the top far corner with a dipping right-footed drive from 30-yards.

Boldewijn floated in a cross into the Torquay United box but striker Kyle Wootton rose to steer his header over the crossbar in the last action of the first-half.

However, Torquay United regained the lead just two minutes and 21 seconds into the second half.

Tom Wynter stole the ball off Calvin Miller on the half-way line and released winger Adam Randell who cut into the box and put in on a plate for Wright, who swept his first-time right-footed shot past the diving keeper into the left-hand corner.

However, Notts County showed the same kind of desire that they showed against Chesterfield last time out, to grab an equaliser just 184 seconds from going behind.

Rodriques delivered a deep corner from the right, which former Bromley defender Brindley knocked down and Chicksen took a touch before rifling his left-footed drive into the roof of the net.

Visiting keeper Sam Slocombe was called into making a save in the 57th minute, diving to his right to deny Kyle Cameron, after the defender turned left-winger was played in by a fine pass from Leomonheigh-Evans.

Miller broke towards the edge of the Torquay United box before teeing up Rodriques, whose right-footed angled drive flashed just past the foot of the upright.

And at the other ned, Moxey got down the left-channel and his cross was cleared out to Hall, who failed to keep his first-time shot on target.

Torquay United had a glorious chance to score the winner inside the final 14 minutes but the chance fell to their right-back.

Lemonheigh-Evans floated in a deep cross from the right, the ball was knocked down at the far post by Cameron and Wynter lashed his first-time shot over the crossbar in the centre of the box some 10-yards from goal.

Torquay United kept knocking on the door and Hall put the ball into the Notts County box and Lemonheigh-Evans jumped above Mark Ellis to steer his header past the right-hand post.

The impressive Rodriques had a headed chance inside the final five minutes, seeing his diving header bounce across the face of goal and past the far post after throwing himself at Michael Doyle’s ball into the Torquay United box.

Torquay United forced one last chance in normal time after Doyle bundled over Lemonheigh-Evans on the edge of the box but substitute Jake Andrews’ resulting free-kick was gathered by Slocombe at the second attempt at his near post.

Notts County created the first opening of the first-period of extra-time but Wootton failed to keep his shot down as the ball dropped to him inside the Torquay United box after 80 seconds.

However, Torquay United regained the lead for a third time by scoring 10 minutes and 52 seconds in.

Wideman Andrews, who turned the game in his side’s favour when coming on as an 80th minute substitute, whipped in a great corner from the right towards and Hall got to the ball before Wootton at the near post to plant his downward header across Slocombe from eight-yards.

Hall required treatment to a cut to his head for six minutes after the goal, sustained after clashing heads with Wootton as he scored.

Referee Andrew Kitchen awarded a controversial penalty when Notts County’s 90th minute hero against Chesterfield, Ellis, clearly slid in to win the ball just before Torquay United substitute Billy Waters did and to add insult to injury, Ellis picked up the only yellow card of the game.

Moxey stepped up and clinically despatched the penalty into the top left-hand corner, sending Slocombe the wrong way, the goal being timed at three minutes and 28 seconds into time added on.

Notts County missed a lifeline at the end of the first-period when Wootton’s header was blocked by Lucas Covolan’s right thigh and Rodriques’ stabbed the rebound against the top of the crossbar from close range.

Now facing a mountain to climb for the second period, Notts County, who lost 3-1 to Harrogate in last season’s Promotion Final at Wembley Stadium, kept plugging away.

Doyle’s cross was knocked down by Wootton in the box and the ball fell to substitute Regan Griffiths, whose left-footed shot flashed agonisingly past the foot of the right-hand post from 12-yards after 84 seconds.

The threating Lemonheigh-Evans stung a 25-yard drive straight into Slocombe’s midriff for a comfortable save at the other end before Connell Rawlinson, a defender thrown on as an emergency target-man, struck a right-footed half-volley on the turn which flashed past the far post for Notts County.

Good play down the right by-line by Torquay United substitute Benjamin Mbunga-Kimpioka saw him cut the ball across the face of the goal only for Lemonheigh-Evans to clip his left-footed shot over the Notts County crossbar.

A great ball into the Torquay United box from Kelly-Evans was acrobatically hit on the hooked-volley by Wootton, which screamed over the crossbar at the end of another thrilling play-off clash in England’s fifth-tier.

Notts County manager Ian Burchnall told BT Sport: “We started the game, if you had page one of how not to start a game, it was that. It was terrible to concede after 35 seconds from a set-piece but I thought after that initial 10 minutes we were the better team in the first-half.  We created more chances.

“I think they had a tactic, they put a centre-back (Cameron) as a left-winger and they just hit him and played off him and it worked for them and that was ok.

“I thought in general we had the better of the play. I thought our goal was an excellent goal and we came out second half and did exactly what we did in the first-half, so that lack of focus early on cost us.

“I still think even after that we were the more aggressive team in terms of creating chances so two-two at the end of 90, I thought probably we deserved a bit more but then in extra-time it was a little bit chaotic.”

Reflecting on the controversial penalty decision, Burchnall said: “It’s not a penalty, it’s not a penalty! I think every single person in the crowd sees Mark (Ellis) plays the ball. I don’t know what the ref has seen.  I’ve watched it back four or five times, it’s a clear tackle, so it’s disappointing that it’s at that point. It’s a poor decision but we’re 3-2 down anyway. 

“We have to take responsibility for being 3-2 down as well. We could’ve done better during the game to have won it.

“We never gave up, we never gave up, even at 4-2 down. We hit the bar, we’ve had two or three big chances so still after that the boys never gave in. For that they should hold their heads up but it’s hugely disappointing.

“I felt the quality of football we played deserved a little bit more but at the end of the day Torquay had a game plan and they executed it well and good luck to them.”

Torquay United: Lucas Covolan, Ben Wynter, Dean Moxey, Amari Little (Billy Waters 96), Sam Sherring, Joe Lewis, Kyle Cameron (Jake Andrews 80), Asa Hall (Matt Buse 106), Danny Wright (Benjamin Mbunga-Kimpioka 90), Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, Adam Randell.
Sub: Shaun MacDonald

Goals: Danny Wright 1,48, Asa Hall 101, Dean Moxey 105 (penalty)

Notts County: Sam Slocombe, Dion Kelly-Evans, Adam Chicksen (Connell Rawlinson 105), Jake Reeves (Regan Griffiths 105), Mark Ellis, Richard Brindley, Calvin Miller (Jordan Barnett 86), Michael Doyle, Kyle Wootton, Ruben Rodriques, Enzio Boldewijn (Jimmy Knowles 73).
Sub: Ben Turner

Goals: Ruben Rodriques 39, Adam Chicksen 51

Booked: Mark Ellis 105

Attendance: 1,709
Referee: Mr Andrew Kitchen
Assistants: Mr Declan O’Shea & Mr Stephen Parkinson
Fourth Official: Mr Matthew Russell