It was by no means a classic but Cheltenham Town did what they needed to take all three points in a 1-0 win over struggling Torquay United.
The visitors were largely the better side in the first half and the Robins were struggling to form any kind of opportunity in front of goal although Cureton did come close. The second half began very much in the same manner but the introduction of Byron Harrison and David Noble turned the game on it's head. A Matt Richards volley on 75 minutes must have felt like a dagger to the heart of Torquay and the Robins were in no mood to let those three points go.
A win and a vital one too for Cheltenham Town but, for Torquay United, there was a long road ahead in the relegation scrap gathering momentum at the bottom of Sky Bet League 2.
Three games unbeaten and fresh off the back of two solid points away from home, the Robins came into this one confident but Torquay United, despite being stuck to the bottom of the division, also felt a surge of confidence following their win over Rochdale in midweek. Cheltenham Town had perhaps every right to go into this confidence hoping for maximum points but the message to the players ahead of kick off would have been to work hard and expect a fight.
A fight it was going to be and on loan forward Enoch Showunmi was certainly throwing his weight about in the early stages of the game. The first effort of the day fell to right back Dale Tonge who sent the ball flying over the bar in an effort to steal a quick advantage. A half volley from Stockley did little to threaten Brown's goal but it did keep the pressure up on the Robins backline with the visitors starting strongly. It wasn't a particularly good start by Cheltenham Town and they were slow out of the blocks compared to Torquay who were ultra positive from the very start. A first sniff at goal for the Robins came on 17 minutes when Cureton's through pass found Vincent but the winger could only drop a tame overhead effort into the arms of Martin Rice.
A Jayden Stockley header on 19 minutes forced Brown to push the ball over the bar as the visitors continued to dictate play in this fixture but Ashley Vincent did spark a reaction from a quiet crowd as he bust towards Torquay's area before dispatching a low effort past the far post. It probably took a good 25 minutes for the Robins to find their feet and carve out some good passages of play and they could have scored following a counter attack after a Labadie effort. Jermaine McGlashan's cross from the right wing found the boot of Gornell and it slipped through to Cureton but the striker's effort was dragged wide of the near post.
Jermaine McGlashan's 37th minutes strike could only be whipped wide of goal as Cheltenham continued to crawl their way through the game without making any real impact and Courtney Cameron almost made them pay five minutes from the break with a curling effort in front of goal that fortunately rose above the bar much to Scott Brown's relief. The half looked as though it was heading for a 0-0 scoreline but Jamie Cureton had a superb effort to take the lead as he skipped past Tonge but the shot was pounded away by Rice. The ball was loose but was snatched back up by the striker and his effort back in towards goal almost found the feet of Gornell although the flag had been raised for offside.
A yellow card for Sido Jombati following his best karate kid impression upon Shamir Goodwin and a goal line clearance from Ashley Vincent thankfully ended a poor first half for the home side and much, much more was needed from Mark Yates' team come the second period.
Half Time: Cheltenham Town 0-0 Torquay United
A response was needed from the players clad in Ruby and White and a cross across the face of goal by McGlashan almost gave them a perfect start but the Torquay defenders were quick to mop it up and clear their lines. The game soon sank into it's languid state however prompting Mark Yates to make an alteration on 54 minutes. Byron Harrison was brought on to replace Terry Gornell and instantly the big striker began to cause problems for the Torquay defence in a flat 4-4-2 formation. A Sam Deering effort from a freekick flew high over the bar as Cheltenham edged their way into the game with the sun beating down upon the Abbey Business Stadium pitch but nothing was being created and the midfield pairing of Richards and Deering was starting to prove ineffective.
A penalty shout for Byron Harrison was waved away by the referee despite a clear connection by the sloppy Downes but the striker came close seconds later when he rose high to head the long throw inches over the bar. The Robins' next change was one that proved most welcome as the home crowd applauded David Noble who replaced Sam Deering 20 minutes from time. His influence instantly started to show with a floated pas to McGlashan on the right wing forcing a decent long cross and a Vincent strike that had to be saved by Rice in goal.
It was by no means a classic performance but Cheltenham were slowly but surely starting to dictate the flow of the game and they grabbed a vital goal on 75 minutes courtesy of Matt Richards. Ashley Vincent's long throw from the left wing wasn't dealt with properly and the loose ball was caught well by the left boot of Richards with the shot taking a slight deflection to guide it in past Martin Rice. Torquay devastated, Cheltenham elated.
That goal inspired both teams into a more riveting game of football and a deadly cross from Torquay's left wing threatened to unravel Cheltenham's lead but they servived to clear their lines. Up the other end and Cheltenham could have stretched their lead when a Vincent cross was met by the head of Troy Brown but it was just over the bar. It was now end to end and far from the poor game that had been witnessed before 70 minutes. Torquay were not giving up without a fight and a low drive from Shamir Goodwin tested the gloves of Scott Brown well before Elliott swang a mighty boot to dispatch it from trouble.
Torquay didn't seem to have much left in the tanks as the final minutes rode in and Cheltenham were starting to ease their way to victory. Four minutes additional time were announced but it proved not enough for a Gulls side now in serious trouble. Cheltenham however were closing in on the play-offs - something unimaginable a few weeks ago.
Full Time: Cheltenham Town 1-0 Torquay United.
Cheltenham Town FC (4-2-3-1): S Brown (GK); Brundle, T Brown, Elliott (C); Jombati; Deering (Noble 69), Richards; McGlashan, Gornell (Harrison 54), Vincent; Cureton (Taylor 85)
Subs not used: Roberts (GK), Ihiekwe, Braham-Barrett, Kotwica
Torquay United FC (4-4-2): Rice (GK); Tonge, Downes, Pearce, Nicholson; Goodwin, Labadie (Mansell 83), Lathrope, Cameron; Showunmi (Chappell 68), Stockley
Subs not used: Poke (GK), Stevens, O'Connor, Harding, Chappell, Hawley
Referee: Mr. M. Haywood
Attendance: 3,105 (337 from Torquay)