TORQUAY UNITED 2 - 3 BURTON ALBION
By Ian Hawkins
Burton Albion belied their current injury and suspension worries to recover from two goals down and stun Torquay United with three goals for only their second win in eight games.
Russell Penn, Shaun Harrad and Cleveland Taylor were the men on target as Albion's siege mentality, requested by Paul Peschisolido before the game shone through even in thew wake of them going two goals down inside the first quarter of an hour. At that stage Torquay looked good to end their run of three straight defeats but they reckoned without Albion's fighting spirit
Just eight months ago Albion were in Torquay being crowned champions of the Blue Square Premier despite going down to a 2-1 defeat to Paul Buckle's men. The Brewers were back in town for a League Two clash with virtually a full side missing through injury and suspension.
Kevin Poole made his full Football league debut for the Brewers at the age of 46 and there was also a debut in the centre of defence for loan signing Tom Parkes, drafted in from Leicester City yesterday afternoon. He took the place of O'Neil Thompson who missed out with a toe injury. Another loan signing, Ross Atkins, a goalkeeper from Derby County provided cover on the substitutes bench.
Brewers boss Paul Peschisolido opted for a change of formation as well in an attempt to improve Albion's away record. Shaun Harrad retained his place in atack but as a lone striker. Aaron Webster returned to the left side of midfield with loan signing Cleveland Taylor on the right and a midfield three of Russell Penn, John McGrath and Jacques Maghoma. The back four consisted of Andy Corbett at right back , Parkes became the 30th different player for Albion in the League this season and joined Tony James, making his 100th start for the club at the heart of the defence with Paul Boertien at left back.
Compared to Tuesday night at Port Vale Peschisolido had the 'luxury' of naming five substitutes with Atkins joined by Keith Gilroy, Richard Walker, JamesKnowles and a fit again Marc Goodfellow.
The hosts were able to name influential skipper and midfielder Chris Hargreaves in the side after a proposed move to Oxford United failed to materialise.
Albion immediately looked a threat with winger Cleveland Taylor winning two corners for his side in the opening ninety seconds of the game, Torquay's defence looking a little uncomfortable in dealing with Russ Penn's delivery from the corner flag on both occasions. Penn again gave the hosts a scare in the 6th minute going down under a challenge in the penalty area before getting to his feet and setting up John McGrath for a shot that was deflected wide.
Torquay though soaked up Albion's early pressure and hit them with a sucker punch. Chris Hargreaves played in Chris Zebroski on the right and his perfectly flighted ball to the back post sat up well for Scott RENDELL to head home from close range.
Torquay were close to a second in the 14th minute. Another Zebroski cross flew dangerously into Albion's six yard box but debutant Tom Parkes did well to head away from the onrushing attackers but the hosts were soon able to claim a second goal. A free kick to the back post looked to have been overhit but was recovered by Zebroski. The winger worked a neat ball into Adam Smith. The loanee drove in an angled shot that was diverted into the net by defender Chris ROBERTSON.
Albion tried to respond but with Harrad on his own up front it was looking more likely that Torquay would extend their lead. Kevin Poole made a superb save in the 29th minute as the Gulls looked set to add to their two goals. A corner was only half cleared and Rendell, looking for his second goal headed goalwards and the veteran stopper leapt athletically to his right to clutch the ball. It proved to be a vital stop as Albion got themselves back into the game straight away.
Poole took a free kick inside his own box after Zebroski fouled Tony James and Russell PENN took the ball on his chest, advanced a few steps and then lashed a 25 yard shot past Michael Poke into the net.
It was the spark for Albion to look more lively again and Harrad tried an ambitious volley shortly after that failed to trouble the keeper but it was a sign of renewed confidence amonst the Albion ranks.
Further chances before half time were at a premium with Harrad perhaps unlucky to be dnied a run on goal by an offside flag and in stoppage time Rendell getting his head to Jake Thomson's free kick but diverting it well off target.
HALF-TIME: Torquay United 2-1 Burton Albion
As in the first half it was the Brewers who made the more positive start and Shaun Harrad thought he had beaten the offside flag in the 50th minute only for the assistant to belatedly flag just as the former Notts County man was about to take aim.
The Brewers remained forward thinking and atfer some good passing inside the penalty area between Penn, Harrad and Aaron Webster the latter disappointingly lifted his shot over the bar.
Rendell similarly fired over the bar as play switched to the other end and there was a rushed clearance from inside their own six yard box as Albion defended deep to keep out the Gulls moments later.
The crucial fourth goal of the game came Albion's way in the 56th minute. Paul Boertien's free kick was flicked inside by Aaron Webster to HARRAD. The striker held off his man and fired a superb 22 yard shot inside Poke's near post to level matters. He was also close to putting Albion in front moments later as he tried a subtle flick to try and divert Cleveland Taylor's cross but his effort went wide of the post.
Torquay made their first change with winger Danny Stevens, Albion's nemesis last season, replacing striker Elliot Benyon on the hour mark and Albion made their first change in the 64th minute with Marc Goodfellow replacing the unusually quiet Jacques Maghoma. The substitute was straight into the action forcing a low save from Poke, direct from a free kick after Penn was brought down by Hargreaves who earned a yellow card for his troubles.
Chris Robertson followed his skipper into the book for a challenge on Harrad before Poole again denied the hosts with a fantastic save. Stevens weaved his way into the area before crossing to the far post for fellow substitute Eunan O'Kane. The Irishman, barely on the pitch sixty seconds fired goalwards but Poole got across his goal to scramble the ball clear.
Harrad was again close in the 75th minute racing onto a long clearance from Parkes but Torquay goalkeeper Poke rushed from his area to get there a split second before him. He could only clear as far as Penn on the edge of the centre circle and with the keeper well out of his goal the midfielder tried a long range shot that drifted wide of the post.
Poke looked a little calmer in the 78th minute as he prevented Goodfellow's cross reaching Harrad but he was nearly embarrassed moments later as an errant clearance was almost volleyed back past him by the Albion substitute.
Torquay almost grabbed a third goal for themselves when James was adjudged to have fouled Zebroski on the edge of the box and when O'Kane flighted the ball into the middle, Robertson somehow contrived to put his header back towards the post where Albion managed to clear.
Albion stormed into the lead in the 84th minute through winger Cleveland TAYLOR. The loan midfielder from Brentford picked up the ball fully forty yards from goal. He ran away from Hargreaves and then evaded a challenge from adam Smith before cutting in and smashing an unstoppable shot across Poke from just inside the penalty area on the angle.
TORQUAY: Poke, Robertson (Ellis, 87), Mansell, Benyon (Stevens, 60), Rendell, Wroe, Hargreaves, Smith, Charnock, Zebroski, Thomson (O'Kane, 69). Substitutes: Bevan, Thompson, Carayol, Cox.
ALBION: Poole; Corbett, James, Parkes, Boertien; Taylor, Penn, McGrath (c), Maghoma (Goodfellow, 64), Webster; Harrad. Substitutes: Atkins, Walker, Gilroy, Knowles.
GOALS: TORQUAY - Rendell (8), Robertson (15); ALBION: Penn (31), Harrad (56), Taylor (84)
BOOKINGS: Penn (Albion) - foul on Mansell (35 mins), Hargreaves (Torquay) - foul on Penn (65 mins), Robertson (Torquay) - foul on Harrad (69 mins), Smith - foul on McGrath (88 mins)
Referee: Mr. D.Phillips (West Sussex)
Albion man of the match - Russell Penn - nobody epitomised Albion's grit and determination more than their record signing and his stunning goal set Albion on the road to a marvellous fightback.