Torquay United crashed out of FA Trophy contention on Saturday after a stagnant showing saw a very poor Halifax Town side leave the English Riviera with a 2-1 win and a place in the third round.
The Plainmoor faithful were treated to the yellow-clad debuts of Jackson Longridge – a Bradford City defender who joined on loan just a day earlier – and centre-back Gary Warren, a vastly experienced player who has made the temporary switch from the red and white stripes of local rivals Exeter City.
The former showed exactly the creativity that the Gulls have been looking for on the flanks following the long-term injury of usual left-back Liam Davis, and the terraces showed their appreciation for such a breath of fresh air as each contribution became evermore impressive.
With the wind behind them in the first half, United were far brighter than their Yorkshire counterparts as they stretched the defence and forced several spectacular saves out of Sam Johnson, who displayed cat-like agility to paw each shot away from danger.
The first half played out much in the same vein as it had begun. Torquay continued to work the ball in the attacking third, but barely tested Johnson again. The visitors struggled to string together any particular phase of possession, and it looked as though United would be the side to break the deadlock, although the Devon club was unable to capitalise on the consistent pressure.
Halifax emerged for the second half revitalised and were almost unrecognisable from the shambolic performance of the first 45. They soon reaped the rewards of their newly-discovered prowess when Tobi Sho-Silva opened The Shaymen’s account less than ten minutes after the restart.
The 29-strong travelling contingent who made the 592-mile-round journey to the Westcountry had reason to celebrate again less than 15 minutes later when a heavy deflection off a Josh Staunton attempt got the better of Lucas Covolan Cavagnari and doubled the visitors’ tally.
Connor Lemonheigh-Evans burst through the Town defence to put his side on the scoresheet with a valiant solo goal that saw him convert after a skilful run into the penalty area, which served as nothing but a deficit-halving consolation.
United enjoyed a few more chances as they looked to rescue the tie and take it to a replay, but the desperately lashed shots went askew and the Yellows were left ruing their squandered opportunities. It was too little, too late for Gary Johnson’s men.
“We had a real good first half, but didn’t take our half-chances”, Johnson said.
“I think when people get over their disappointment and see the highlights, they will see that we played some good stuff. We have made strides today in terms of giving a better performance.”
Pressure is mounting on the London-born manager, who has led his squad to an appalling ten losses from 13 matches across all competitions.