Hard fought draw earns valuable point.
Chris Zebroski's first goal for Cheltenham Town secured a point for Cheltenham Town in a real end to end fixture this evening.
Cheltenham had taken the lead in this fixture through a close range Shaun Harrad header but a mad few minutes saw both Aaron Downes and Rene Howe scored headed goals past Scott Brown to steal the lead and give the Robins some work to do at half time. It was nervy times early on i nthe second half with Torquay coming close to extending the lead on a number of occasions but a later surge from Cheltenham Town sealed a deserved equaliser from former Gulls forward Chris Zebroski and a valuable point.
The Robins now head to Aldershot looking to continue their good start to the new league season.
A beautiful evening on the coast set up an interesting encounter between two sides that met only in May in the npower League Two play-off semi-finals - a clash in which Cheltenham Town were victorious. Perhaps there would be an undertone of revenge for the Gulls this evening but both clubs knew what to expect from eachother and the match was set to be a fascinating one. Mark Yates made no changes to his side that had beaten Dagenham & Redbridge 2-0 on the opening day of the season but it was another game without Alan Bennett (shoulder) and Kaid Mohamed (ankle) who were both sidelined.
It was a bright start from the Robins with Chris Zebroski and Jermaine McGlashan quickly utilising the wings well in the early stages with boos ringing round the stadium courtesy of the home support. It was Torquay however that chalked up the first effort on goal this evening and it came from the right back Joe Oastler but his long shot dribbled wide of goal and Brown remained untested. Torquay continued to press forward on the break and it wasn't long before former Swindon winger Billy Bodin was getting involved with a near post strike which Brown was quick to block. The Robins were playing some decent stuff and Harry Hooman came close to the opening goal when he thumped a header in from the corner only to see it blocked on the back post. Another corner was due but it was poor and the Gulls immediately struck on the counter attack with four players versus two. The possession finally fell to Lloyd Macklin but the forward's effort was wild and flew well wide of goal.
It had been a busy opening 15 minutes for both teams but the Robins took charge on 15 minutes with the simplest of goals. A corner was won by Chris Zebroski and the set piece was sent long towards the head of Hooman. The young defender sent the ball back in towards the far post where a lurking Shaun Harrad was waiting and the striker made no mistake in directing the ball into the back of the net for 1-0. Two goals in two games for the Bury loanee and Cheltenham were suddenly in charge.
Cheltenham's lead was a welcome one but not a long one as Torquay pushed on looking for the equaliser. It came on 22 minutes when a Nicholson freekick was soundly dropped towards the back post and straight to the head of Aaron Downes who stooped low to direct the header past Brown for 1-1. The Gulls were in full flow and they stunned Cheltenham Town again two minutes later when a Lee Mansell cross found the dominating figure of Rene Howe who thundered a header past Brown for 2-1 and the lead. It had been a mad few minutes for Cheltenham Town and two similar conceded goals will have caused concern for Mark Yates and the bench.
There needed to be a reaction from the Robins and they nearly got one when Jermaine McGlashan rose highest from a Billy Jones cross but his headed effort was over the bar and into the stand. The sudden change of pace almost woke the Robins up a little and they seemed to flow better when on the attack. Torquay were however performing really well at the back and Downes was producing a superb performance at the back to limit his opposition's opportunities. A stoppage in play was forced with Damon Lathrope catching his foot in the ground and hurting himself. There had been a break in play where Lathrope was forced to the sidelines after his foot in the pitch whilst on the turn and, despite re-joining play, he was eventually forced off and replaced by Craig Easton on 42 minutes. There was one final opportunity for the Robin to regain their foothold in this game just before half time but Jermaine McGlashan could only head Billy Jones' cross past the far post. Lloyd Macklin finished off the first half opportunities with a poor dragged effort past Brown's post but the whistle blew allowing Mark Yates to take his team into the changing room for a re-think.
Half Time: Torquay United 2-1 Cheltenham Town
Cheltenham Town needed to react in this half but they almost suffered the worst possible start when Harry Hooman got a pass all wrong and allowed the Gulls to break on the counter attack, The final effort came from Rene Howe but it was poor and wide of goal. They had another wonderful opportunity to stretch their lead when Aaron Downes flew in at the back post for a diving header but it was wide of goal and Cheltenham breathed a sigh of relief. The first Cheltenham effort of this half came from the unlikely source of Steve Elliott who picked the ball up just past the halfway line and fired a 30 yarder in at goal which wasn't too far away from target.
Cheltenham had settled into their passing game a lot more and it was causing a few concerns for Torquay but again the Gulls almost ripped the Robins defence open again with a clever passage of play involving Howe and Bodin but the winger's cross was steered wide by the incoming Macklin and another shot was wasted. The game was incredibly open at this point and some individual magic from Sido Jombati allowed the Portuguese right back to burst into the Torquay area and drop a neat pass Russ Penn but the midfielder's snap shot was inches wide of the post. Down the other end there could have been another goal for Torquay in the blink of an eye. Howe's control and through pass found Macklin who, in turn, sprayed wide to Billy Bodin but the forward was well shepharded by Deering and Brown was on hand to collect the ball at his feet.
Jeff Goulding was introduced at the expense of Sam Deering on 64 minutes and moments later a goal mouth scramble threatened to stretch the hosts' lead. One of their strikers caught hold of a decent effort which rolled against the post before Howe stole the loose possession and attempted a back heel effort that needed Sido Jombati to clear off the line and save Cheltenham. Efforts were thick and fast at each end but Cheltenham were looking the most likely to make something happen and Steve Elliott came so close to an equaliser when he headed Jones' corner in at the top corner but it was cleared off the line by the head of Oastler. Next up was Sido Jombati who unleashed a wonderful curled effort with his left foot only to be denied by a wonderful save by Michael Poke. It was all Cheltenham but Torquay were hanging on.
Cheltenham deserved a goal and they got it. A long ball forward found Chris Zebroski in the forward line and the forward used his strength to bounce off Downes and fire a shot in past Poke for the equaliser on 80 minutes. It was no more than Cheltenham deserved with a performance that was now hounding the Gulls defence.
Harry Hooman was yellow carded late on as the pressure ramped up here at Plainmoor. Torquay weren't about to settle for a draw having led the game so long but Cheltenham were holding firm. Shaun Harrad was replaced by Darryl Duffy minutes before the 90 after another telling performance in front of goal as Mark Yates looked to snatch the game right from under the noses of the Gulls. Three minutes were added on, could Cheltenham do it?
The clock ticked down and Cheltenham pushed forward but the Gulls held on. The referee's whistle called time on a fascinating match between two very good teams. A late effort from Billy Bodin and another from Billy Jones threatened to steal victories for both sides but a draw was the result and one Mark Yates will be pleased with.
Full Time: Torquay United 2-2 Cheltenham Town
Torquay United FC (4-3-3): Poke (GK); Oastler, Saah, Downes, Nicholson; Lathrope (Easton 42), Mansell (C), Morris; Macklin (Cruise 68), Howe (Jarvis 81), Bodin
Subs not used: Rice (GK), Leadbitter, MacKenzie, Thompson
Cheltenham Town FC (4-2-3-1): Brown (GK); Jombati, Hooman, Elliott, Jones; Penn, Pack (C); McGlashan, Deering (Goulding 64), Zebroski; Harrad (Duffy 87)
Subs not used: Roberts (GK), Lowe, Andrew, Hanks, Graham
Referee: Mr. Mick Russell
Attendance: 2,517 (237 from Cheltenham)
Robins Star Man: Chris Zebroski - He bagged his first goal as a Cheltenham Town player and what a goal it was against his former club. Good strong performance throughout.