Ice-cool Zak has final say as Robins earn late point
Report by John Edwards
Picture by Jonathan Moore
Altrincham 2 Torquay United 2
Zak Goodson rescued a point for Altrincham with a stunning late introduction as substitute as the Robins rounded off their home programme in dramatic style at The J.Davidson Stadium.
Alty were leading at half-time through another clinical finish from Regan Linney and looked to have the platform for a welcome win until a Torquay United side battling for Vanarama National League survival turned the tables with two second-half goals.
But manager Phil Parkinson had one more ace up his sleeve, as he sent on Goodson, just back from a loan spell at Spennymoor, as an 85th-minute replacement for Jordan Hulme and saw the talented Robins youngster earn and convert a last-minute penalty to secure a draw for his side and put a smile on 2,000-plus Alty faces.
The ground was bathed in glorious spring sunshine at kick-off, and there was even a splash of yellow across the Venditan Terrace away end, with a good number of travelling fans making the long journey from Devon, all resplendent in their team's colours.
After an evenly-contested but distinctly low-key opening 15 minutes, Alty fashioned the first real opening, thanks to the tenacity of Linney.
The Alty striker showed admirable strength and cunning to out-manoeuvre and out-muscle giant defender Nico Lawrence in a battle for a bouncing ball in the centre-circle, winning possession, to the dismay of the Torquay centre-back, and setting up Aaron Bennett for a shot that was blazed narrowly over.
Clear-cut chances had been in short supply, but there was one for Torquay in the 28th minute.
Lewis Collins cut in from the right and picked out an unmarked Frank Nouble with a cross the big striker should have buried from the edge of the six-yard box. Instead, he steered his header wide of the right-hand post, to the disbelief of his team-mates and manager Gary Johnson in the away technical area.
It was a glaring miss, but there was no sign of Yeovil being in any way deflated by it, as they dominated possession and virtually set up camp in the Alty half.
Credit to the Robins' defence, though - such was the protection they afforded Matt Gould that the Alty keeper scarcely had a save to make as half-time approached.
As a further bonus for Robins boss Phil Parkinson, the clinical touch he has been demanding at the other end of the pitch duly emerged as Alty went ahead with a peach of a goal in the 44th minute.
A nod of the head from Hulme directed the ball expertly into the path of Bennett, and when he rolled a pass towards Linney, lurking on the left of the area, the sure-footed frontrunner clipped a first-time shot past Mark Halstead before cupping his ears towards away fans who had been foolhardy enough to jeer him for being dispossessed a few moments earlier.
A perfect riposte by lethal Linney and one that sent Alty in a goal to the good, leaving Torquay fretting over their National League future more than ever.
There was almost more for the visitors to worry about in the 48th minute, when Elliot Osborne turned on the edge of the area and hit a shot that deflected off a defender and almost looped over Halstead, who had to stretch to get his hands to it.
After a fairly flat first half, the game suddenly exploded into life, with a near-miss for each side in quick succession.
In the 50th minute, Hulme teed up Bennett, who accelerated from right to left across the area and forced a shot past Halstead and towards an unguarded net. It looked a certain second goal for Alty, until Tom Lapslie dashed back and executed an astonishing scissor kick clearance off the line.
Seconds later, it was Torquay's turn to gasp in frustration as Aaron Jarvis hit a shot from no more than 12 yards through a crowded area only for Gould to deny him with a brilliant tip over.
There was nothing the Alty keeper could do about another Torquay effort that travelled through a packed area on the hour. It came after a corner was only half-cleared, skipper Asa Hall meeting the bouncing ball with a first-time shot into the top right corner to haul his side level.
Worse followed for Alty in the 69th minute when, after another Torquay attack was again only half dealt with, Hall latched on to a loose bouncing ball and hammered an unstoppable first-time volley beyond the diving Gould and just inside the left post to breath new life into his team's survival hopes.
Alty pressed for an equaliser and almost came up with one in the 82nd minute when Kyle Ferguson appeared to win the aerial duel for an Eddy Jones free-kick, only for his looping header to bounce off the top of the Torquay bar.
That didn't deter the Robins from continuing to take the fight to Torquay, and it paid off in dramatic circumstances in the 90th minute. Goodson had been on the pitch barely five minutes when he forced his way into the area and was upended as he shaped to shoot.
It was a clear penalty, the only doubt being who would take it, given that Linney has been Alty's spot-kick specialist but Goodson was first to get his hands on the ball.
The youngster showed no sign of passing on the responsibility to his team-mate, and who could blame him, considering the nerves of steel that enabled him to calmly place the ball on the spot and send Halstead the wrong way with the coolest of conversions.
Altrincham - Gould, Perritt, Ferguson, Baines, E.Jones, Lundstram, Marriott, Osborne (Pringle 79), Bennett (Burgess 73), Hulme (Goodson 85), Linney. Subs not used - Forde, Rodgers-Morris.
Booked - Linney, Lundstram, Hulme
Torquay United - Halstead, Lapslie (Evans 83), Hall, Jarvis, Donnellan, Lawrence, Wyatt (McGavin 90), Stobbs, Dawson, Collins, Nouble. Subs not used- Omar, Crowe, Lovett.
Booked - Wyatt
Referee - Ed Duckworth.
Attendance - 2,480 (354 away)