REPORT: Chorley 1-0 Torquay United: Johnson under pressure after shock loss

Torquay United’s woeful form continued after an upset defeat away to bottom-of-the-league Chorley. In light of the absence of regular first-team players Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, Opi Edwards, Liam Davies, Armani Little, Frankie Vincent and top-scoring Jamie Reid, the visiting Gulls made four changes to their starting XI from the home loss to Sutton a week before.

Chorley began the tie on the front foot, and wasted no time in challenging the hands of Shaun MacDonald in the Torquay net. United only ever really enjoyed a series of half-chances, and had it not been for the depleted squad, one of them may have come into fruition for the playoff contenders.

Torquay’s far-from-convincing defence was eventually capitalised on 24 minutes in when Marcus Carver nodded home an untidy goal from a Mark Ross cross, giving The Magpies a deserved lead. Victory Park erupted as the unsegregated fans began to clash in a war of words and fists.

With each passing minute a second Chorley goal seemed all the more likely, and the best chance to double their tally came early in the second half when a penalty was awarded. Charles Vernam – who had drawn the foul that led to the spot kick – stepped up to take but it was excellently saved by Shaun MacDonald through a spectacular stretch down to his left.

Sensing a change in momentum, Gary Johnson made two substitutions for the visitors, introducing Ruairí Keating and Manny Duku in an attempt to salvage a point for the English Riviera club – and it very nearly worked out for them.

As the match drew to a close, United finally put their foot in the door and launched a sequence of late charges on a now-desperate Chorley defence. The sudden resurgence culminated in a gilt-edged chance for substitute Duku with the last kick of the game.

A corner flew into the densely crowded box and found its way to the young Dutchman at the far post, just four yards from goal with an empty net to shoot at in front of the 200 travelling supporters. Many sunk to their knees, heads in hands, as he squandered his lines and somehow put the ball into the side netting.

The 1-0 win sees Chorley within reach of safety, now level on points with second-bottom Ebbsfleet. As for Torquay, they find themselves in eighth place, having been fifth and two points off top just one week earlier.

However, the biggest task for the Devonshire side is picking up the pieces after their third consecutive defeat in all competitions – a streak the likes of which they have not endured since February 2018.

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