Boreham Wood 0 – 1 Torquay United 
Tuesday 28th March 2023
LV BET Stadium Meadow Park, Vanarama National League

THREE ON THE BOUNCE

A spirited second half display wasn’t enough to overcome relegation threatened Torquay United, as a first half Asa Hall header saw the Wood come away empty-handed in a hard-fought encounter under the lights.

Hall gave Torquay the lead on the half-hour mark when he headed Kevin Dawson’s cross past Nathan Ashmore, guiding the ball over the line under pressure from the Wood defence to put Gary Johnson’s side ahead going into the break.

Luke Garrard’s honest comments post-match saw him cite a wrong team for their defeat, hence the double change at half time which sparked an improvement after the restart. They managed to produce a whole host of chances in the second half notably for Danny Newton, Dennon Lewis and George Broadbent, but despite a dominant performance, they were unable to penetrate a resilient Torquay defence who were desperate to pick up their first victory in eight games, and as a result limited the Wood to a third successive game without a goal.

Defeat against the Gulls means the Wood are unable to make the most of their superior position in the league table, and proves a real blow in their pursuit of a play-off place which they will be looking to rectify when they visit bottom-placed Maidstone United on Saturday.

One change to the starting line-up saw Josh Rees return to the XI in place of Zak Brunt, with Garrard looking to alter their forward line in an attempt to return to winning ways after picking up just one point from their last two outings.

Some early warning signs suggested it wouldn’t be all plain sailing for the hosts though, as a golden opportunity fell to the Gulls just a few minutes in. Kieron Evans put pressure on David Agbontohoma and robbed him of possession which sent the Cardiff City loanee through on goal, but he was unable to beat Ashmore who palmed the ball into the path of the onrushing Lewis Collins, but he could only drag the rebound wide with the goal gaping.

The Wood quickly grew into it as they tried to avoid being be caught out again, looking to show why they sat 16 places above their opponents before kick-off as they ensured the visitors’ bright start didn’t come to anything. They found themselves through on goal for the first time when a corner was cleared as far as Broadbent who won the ensuing duel with a sliding challenge that found Lewis in a dangerous area, but the Gulls’ recovered their shape to force him away from goal as he looked to work an opening.

They continued to threaten though and came close to an opener when Jack Payne did excellently to fashion an opportunity on the edge of the box, before firing an effort that was destined for the top corner which needed to be headed over the crossbar by Dean Moxey.

Jack Stobbs then saw a couple of crosses dealt with by the Wood as the Gulls looked to hit back, and they almost forced the ball over the line when a deflected Moxey cross found Aaron Jarvis who flicked a header goalward, but he couldn’t generate enough power on the effort which proved to be comfortable for Ashmore.

The Gulls soon did manage to break the deadlock though as they shocked the play-off hopefuls when Hall headed the visitors in front, as his effort from close range flew through a crowd of bodies and nestled in the back of the net, much to the delight of the 116 fans who made the long trip from Devon.

The Wood’s backline almost combined to cancel out Hall’s opener with a Chris Bush cross creating problems in the Torquay penalty area which was headed back across goal by Jamal Fyfield towards Agbontohoma, but his shot from a tight angle was blocked and put behind for a corner.

This preceded another couple of chances for the visitors with Stobbs once again threatening with a cross that was claimed by Ashmore, before Frank Nouble almost doubled their advantage on the stroke of half time with a powerful strike from a tight angle which required a strong hand from the Wood stopper to keep him at bay.

Four minutes was added on at the end of the half which brought enough time for Collins to test Ashmore again with a bending strike from the edge of the area, before the Wood looked to nick an equaliser before the half was out as Broadbent delivered a ball towards Rees, but he could only poke the ball into the gloves of Mark Halstead to keep United’s lead intact, meaning they trailed at the interval.

HT: Boreham Wood 0-1 Torquay United

A double change at the break signalled plenty of intent from Garrard, throwing on Brunt and Newton for the second half in place of Rees and Lee Ndlovu. His decision was almost proved a masterstroke instantly, as Newton took control of possession before playing in Lewis who looked to return the favour by sending a cross towards the onrushing striker, but Halstead was able to get there first and claim the ball.

Newton was involved again almost immediately after though as he chased down a loose ball and evaded Dawson and Ali Omar to win possession and bear down on goal with a driving run at pace, but his attempted pull-back was cut out by the United defence and sent out for a corner.

There was evidently a change in intensity to the Wood’s play nonetheless, with Lewis this time finding himself through on goal albeit at a slight angle, and he could only produce a tame effort that failed to trouble Halstead in the United goal.

The Wood were in the ascendancy though, with Newton once again picking up the ball in a dangerous area with Halstead needing to block his effort from point blank range, with the subsequent throw-in being cleared as far as Broadbent on the edge of the box who’s effort whistled past the post.

They then came ever so close to finding a leveller when Brunt brilliantly plucked the ball out of the sky to get it under control before delivering a dangerous cross into the area, with Lewis getting in front of his man before seeing his shot nestle in the side netting, only for it to come out on the wrong side as he could only steer his shot just wide.

The hosts were putting on plenty of pressure for the Gulls to soak up, with Femi Ilesanmi seeing a shot deflected away as he tried to take matters into his own hands with a speculative effort from distance. This saw them force a couple of corners in their quest for an equaliser though, which ultimately came to nothing.

Set pieces proved to be a real strength for Garrard’s men though and continued to see them come in abundance when a fiery period saw Torquay commit a handful of poor challenges which saw Nouble and Dawson shown yellow cards as a result, but the Wood were unable to take advantage with Torquay dealing with their deliveries.

A golden opportunity then fell to Broadbent when Halstead miskicked a long ball straight at him, but despite having an open goal to aim at the Sheffield United loanee was forced to play it wide to Lewis when he was rapidly closed down, and the Gulls were able to deal with the resulting strike from the former Watford man.

Broadbent was at the centre of the action and created a chance for himself with a driving run to reach the byline with his shot being deflected away, before later linking up with Bush on the edge of the box where he found space to tee up Brunt who forced Halstead into an outstretched save, with the lurking Lewis unable to pounce on the loose ball in time.

Chances continued to come for the Wood though, and Brunt went close again when he connected cleanly with volley on the edge of the box which was deflected just over the crossbar.

Seven minutes of added time gave the Wood a lifeline as they looked to steal a point from the grasp of their opponents, unsurprisingly bringing a barrage of pressure against a Gulls side who had spent the entire second half camped in their own half. A chance did fall to Lewis after Brunt’s initial effort was blocked, perhaps controversially as the Sheffield United loanee had screamed for a handball, but he could only curl his strike high and wide of the top corner to the disbelief of Brunt as the chance broke down.

Torquay remained ever so organised with 11 men behind the ball as they looked to ease the pressure and secure a crucial three points, and with Cameron Coxe heading over the crossbar at the death, the Wood’s fate was sealed with a third game on the bounce without a win.

FT: Boreham Wood 0-1 Torquay United

Boreham Wood: Ashmore; Agbontohoma, Fyfield, Bush; Coxe, Payne, Broadbent, Ilesanmi; Rees (Brunt 45’); Ndlovu (Newton 45’), Lewis

Subs Not Used: Kelly-Evans, Ricketts, Marsh

Torquay United: Halstead; Donnellan (Omar 48’), Lawrence, Moxey; Stobbs, Hall, Dawson, Evans (Hanson 90+4’), Collins; Jarvis, Nouble (Wyatt 82’)

Subs Not Used: Crowe, Lovett

Goal: Hall 32’

Star Man: Jack Payne

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